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Thursday, 27 April 2017

Telefonica's LTE Nano Small Cell

The popularity of drones and balloons have made it possible to try and come up with innovative solutions for providing connectivity, surveillance and many other use cases. I have talked in detail about the UK operator EE's attempt to use Airmasts (which are now called E.M.M.A. - Emergency Mobile Mast Aid) and connect rural Scotland using Drones and Helikites.


In my Small Cells at MWC report, I talked about how there were many operators, vendors, etc. showing different things they were doing with drones and recently in my posts talked about Verizon's 'flying cell-site' and AT&T's 'Flying COWs'.

I only looked briefly at Telefonica's announcement about the LTE Nano.

From the press release:

This innovation, an evolution of the former project “LTE in a Box” presented at the MWC2015 that brought all the benefits of private critical LTE communications to the corporate world, will allow to bring the same advantages to new scenarios where small scale, low consumption and portability are paramount.  LTE Nano runs on a 40 grams SBC (Single Board Computer), on a Quad Core Cortex™-A53 processor and 2GB of RAM.

For the LTE Nano Project, Telefónica has integrated several components, one of the most essential being the EdgeCentrix virtual Enhanced Packet Core (vEPC) solution from Quortus, one of the most efficient and scalable software implementations of a mobile network functionality, able to run the essential elements of both 4G and 3G networks, including voice and data communications, with minimum HW requirements.

The most eye catching use of LTE Nano is for the rescue teams. An autonomous and portable LTE solution in a backpack, providing critical LTE communications in isolated places with no pre-existing coverage and difficult Access.


A drone with an LTE enabled camera transmitting video.
In addition, LTE Nano could be used to access retail intranets, though apps could do this job much better I think and
private LTE communications for small offices. Here I remain to be convinced that this scenario will not be superseded by WiFi calling, etc.

All these scenarios include the well-known Quality of Service provided by LTE networks in licensed spectrum which guarantee the absence of interferences and the security of communications, typical characteristics of regulated environments.

The presentation on LTE Nano is available here and a video from MWC is below (in Spanish):



Related posts:

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Verizon's Small Cells and the roadmap to 5G

Picture: Stephen Donner

Verizon just disclosed their small cells numbers. Their CEO Lowell McAdam said in Fotune:

McAdam has so far decided that his company will follow a 5G strategy of adding many thousands of small cell sites in major urban areas, instead of relying just on the big cell towers it used in the past, and then connecting them with fiber optic cables. On Tuesday, Verizon announced a new deal to buy at least $1.05 billion of fiber optic cable and related hardware from Corning over the next three years–enough to cover 12.4 million miles, the companies said.

Verizon already has 13,000 small sites deployed, McAdam said, disclosing the total number for the first time, compared to about 60,000 current cell tower sites in its network. But Verizon will be adding in each major city 8,000 to 10,000 more small sites, tiny transmitters that can fit in the palm of a hand and be tacked onto a lamp post or traffic light pole.

Unfortunately, according to McAdam, the fiber networks that cable companies have installed don't have nearly enough capacity to meet Verizon's needs to connect all the small cells in big cities. While a typical fiber cable may have contained 144 separate strands of glass wiring in the past, Verizon's newest installations in Boston have 1,700 separate strands per cable.

Their VP of network, Mike Haberman earlier said in Fierce Wireless: Verizon is increasingly looking to small cells to increase capacity and improve network performance, particularly in urban areas. Small cells are complementary to more traditional macrosites, Haberman said, enabling carriers to fill in small gaps and transmit more data in areas where towers may not be sufficient.

“Think of it this way: The macrocells are sort of the umbrella network, and the small cells are underneath the umbrella network to provide the capacity needed,” he continued. “We’ve been doing this for many years. We’ve been on utility poles, we’ve been on traffic lights, and we’re putting the small cells on those locations.”

In Nebraska, the city of Lincoln inked a 20-year lease agreement with Verizon in December to install more than 100 small cells on light poles.

The deal calls for Verizon to pay a $1,500 permit fee, and $1,995 per pole, per year. The per-pole rent jumps 2.3 percent each year, meaning Verizon will pay more than $3,000 in the final year of the agreement.

According to the Lincoln Electric System’s website, the pole attachment fee is $16 per pole, far less than the $1,995 in the agreement, and applies to “other utilities and certain entities which may occupy public right of way and who attach communication appliances on SYSTEM poles.”

Plans by Verizon Wireless to strengthen and modernize wireless data service in Sioux City took a major step forward Monday, as the City Council granted approval to site plans for 11 small cell poles.

FiberComm LC, a Sioux City telecommunications company with an extensive fiber optic network, will build and maintain a dozen of the 35-foot poles, each of which will be capable of accommodating two cell phone service providers. The 12th tower had previously received the green light from the council during its Feb. 27 meeting.

Pole locations will include strategic spots throughout the city, including near the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, the Tyson Events Center and UnityPoint Health -- St. Luke's hospital. 

"Many of these areas are where there is very poor coverage," Jeff Zyzda, FiberComm's director of operations and engineering, told the council Monday. "Also many of these areas are areas where there are events and high traffic."

Verizon is also demoing 5G in Washington and at the same time lobby for the access to city's poles.

To make that 5G simulation a reality someday will take hundreds of thousands of new, smaller, cell phone antennas all over the urban landscape. And that’s why the Verizon 5G bus came to Washington’s Capitol.

The wireless industry hopes to revive legislation that would preempt local zoning rules in order to fast-track placement of the new network of antennas.

Verizon’s Gordon Cook showed off one of these antennas.

“It’s a box about half the size of a toaster,” he said. “This one’s painted white, that one’s painted green to match the utility pole.”

Cook said Verizon wants to strap 5,000 to 6,000 of these boxes onto street poles in Washington in the next few years. First they’d be used to augment current 4G service. Eventually they would be swapped out with 5G antennas.

“We want to be able to put these up quickly and to serve more folks with them and bring higher quality data services to people,” Cook said.

But Cook said current local zoning rules are an impediment. City officials have fought back saying they want some control over how and where small cell antennas are placed.

In addition to all of the above, Verizon has been testing drone based 'flying cell-site' for emergency or disaster scenario, using small cells to connect indoor DAS and thinking about the possibility of deploying small cells in 3.5GHz CBRS bands.

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Small Cells and Free Wi-Fi for 'City of London'


Most people outside the UK will not realise that there is a 'City of London' which is a city inside London city. Anyone interested in learning more can quickly get up to speed by watching this YouTube video. The City of London is also colloquially known as the 'Square Mile'.

The following is from a press release from City of London Corporation (emphasis mine):

The City of London Corporation has announced a deal that will deliver a free, public access WiFi network, offering internet access anywhere within the Square Mile. The multi million pound project is one of the largest investments in wireless infrastructure ever seen in London.

Cornerstone Telecommunications Infrastructure Ltd (CTIL) has been awarded a major 15-year contract to roll-out and manage the City of London’s new wireless network in conjunction with O2. The new network will deliver wireless services across all mobile networks for City businesses, residents and visitors.

CTIL will build 4G mobile “small cells”, which will be housed on City street furniture such as lampposts, street signs, buildings and CCTV columns to provide enhanced mobile coverage at street level, and ensure that the City is best placed to become an early adopter of 5G which is widely expected to become available in 2020.

CTIL will partner with O2 in building the WiFi network which will be free for the public to use. The project will replace the current service provided by The Cloud and will be fully operational by Autumn 2017.

The network will be more technically advanced than those found in other leading global financial centres, including New York. State-of-the-art equipment will provide speeds and see users able to enjoy high bandwidth services like video-calling and video on demand over free City WiFi following a one-time only registration.

For those who may not know, there are 4 operators in the UK. Vodafone & O2 jointly own CTIL who provides them the passive infrastructure while EE and Three own MBNL for the same purposes.

This is a very ambitious ask by the City of London. Only time will tell how far they will succeed.

Monday, 3 April 2017

Backhauling problems driving up deployment costs?


Going through iDate Digiworld Yearbook 2016, I came across this section on small cells. What caught my attention was the last sentence stating that in Europe, small cells deployments are "being hampered by installation and backhauling problems which are driving up deployment costs".

While this is generally true, there are ways around it when it comes to coverage rather than capacity. When small cells are being used for capacity, there needs to be a high throughput backhaul. Where capacity is the main reason, its generally time and cost which is of essence.

I have talked about how in-band backhaul (IBBH) could be used in case of providing rural coverage and emergency / temporary communications.


I get asked about IBBH many a times. A simple way to explain would be to use the diagram above. If the operator has enough spectrum, the macro layer (frequency f1) can provide backhaul to a small cell that transmits on another frequency (f2). This way there is no interference between macro cells and small cells. In case of in-band backhaul, the small cell would be transmitting at the same frequency (f1). Here, managing interference between macro cell and small cells is the biggest challenge.

Even though I have shown mesh links in the pictures above, its not a must. It just provides flexibility of expanding the coverage further in case the macro connectivity cannot reach other sites.

IBBH is not just a cheap option for backhauling, it also allows very quick deployments. I have seen sites go up within a few hours based on this option. While not perfect, it is a good compromise for extending the coverage.


Related posts and links:

Saturday, 25 March 2017

Turin, first 5G city in Italy


Telecom Italia has issued a press release stating that Turin will be the first 5G city in Italy. The press release says:

Turin will be the first Italian city and one of the first in Europe to have a new 5G mobile network. The project entered the operational stage today thanks to a Memorandum of Understanding signed by TIM and the Municipality of Turin.

By 2018 in Turin, where TIM's innovation and development centre is based, the first 5G technology trial in a metropolitan area will be launched with the aim of driving the development of a new generation mobile network, confirming the company’s commitment to mobile innovation, a role that it also plays at global level contributing to the definition of the 5G standard.

The “Turin 5G” project includes the gradual extension of the new mobile broadband infrastructure to the municipal urban area with the aim of covering the entire city by 2020.

Thanks to this memorandum, TIM plans to install, as early as 2017, more than 100 small cells in the main areas of the city, including Via Roma, Via Po, Via Garibaldi, Via Lagrange and Piazza Vittorio, in the Quadrilatero Romano, and in the areas where the Polytechnic University and University of Turin are located. These small cells will be in addition to the 200 mobile ultrabroadband sites which TIM will use to guarantee the best radio coverage in the city. The new mobile network will be supported by TIM's optic fibre infrastructure which already covers almost the entire city.

With this initiative, Turin will be nominated by TIM as the first Italian 5G city to become the preferred location for the activities envisaged in the 5G Action Plan of the European Commission, which aims to speed up development by launching trials and later public use of the new technology starting with the main metropolitan areas. Turin will therefore become part of the first pan-European network of 5G interconnected cities.

The trial will involve up to a maximum of 3,000 users who will be able to take advantage of very high performances and transmission speeds and experimental services and applications, provided by the city administration and made possible by TIM’s 5G network.

Specifically, TIM will provide the city of Turin with new generation services linked to the Smart City, such as those relating to public security, the management of public transport fleets and the provision of the information services associated with them, as well as remote surveillance solutions in extensive areas of the city, virtual reality to support tourism and, through the introduction of 5G technologies in the production processes used in the manufacturing industry, even new services to develop Industry 4.0 in the Turin area.

TIM (TIM is an Italian brand owned by Telecom Italia.) also announced back in Dec that they are among the first companies in the world on the road towards 5G, experimenting on live network, in collaboration with Altiostar, the Virtual Radio Access Network (vRAN) technology which makes it possible to improve the quality of the current mobile network and increase its efficiency.

The tests conducted in the field have confirmed the maturity of the solution and the benefits expected in terms of improvement in performance and quality of the service offered. For this initiative a virtual server has been installed in Turin, more than 60 kilometres away from the Saluzzo antennas, which has demonstrated its ability to coordinate radio base station even at considerable distances, without affecting connection and performance, thanks to efficient transmission techniques based on Ethernet fronthauling.

The flexibility, the scalability and the possibility of introducing algorithms developed by third parties for the new virtualised architecture enable efficient management of  increasing mobile traffic and its rapid changes through the introduction of new SON (Self Organizing Network) functionalities such as innovative methods of automatic network configuration developed by TIM and tested on the Altiostar solution.

TIM and Ericsson partnered to launch “5G for Italy” program to accelerate Italy's digitalization last year and renewed their partnership again this year.

TIM and Kumu Networks have also tested Full Duplex (In-band Full Duplex - IBFD) last year. These tests were carried out in vicinity of Turin as well. Full Duplex, when available will double the capacity of Mobile Networks as the same frequency could be used for transmission and reception at the same time.

Saturday, 18 March 2017

Small Cells to help connect Australian Outback

Picture Source: William Creek Hotel on Facebook

Optus, the second largest mobile operator in Australia is working hard to provide coverage to blackspots. According to their black spot program:

Under Round 2 of the Program, Optus successfully secured $26.4 million in Federal and State Government funding to build 114 new mobile sites, with Optus co-contributing a further $36.4 million to provide dedicated connectivity to thousands of Australians. Optus’ bid includes funding for 65 mobile base stations as well as the deployment of 49 satellite small cells.

William Creek, a town that is fifteen hours from Adelaide is one such place that recently got a small cell from Optus. One newspaper put it as:

All ten permanent residents of South Australia’s William Creek will get mobile coverage for the first time when Optus switches on its first base station subsidised under the federal government’s mobile blackspot program.

The outback town is famed for having one of the world’s most remote pubs and the only petrol station between mining centres Maree, Coober Pedy, and Oodnadatta.

It is surrounded by the world’s largest cattle station, Anna Creek, which spans some 24,000 square kilometres.

However, it is also frequented by a number of tourists passing through the village as they explore the famous Oodnadatta Track or stop over on their way to Lake Eyre, which is about 1000 km away.

Visitors - as long as they are Optus customers - will now enjoy 3G mobile reception in town rather than having to rely on one of William Creek’s solar powered pay phones.

Optus, which was conspicuously left out of the first $100 million round of the mobile blackspot subsidy program, has installed a satellite small cell in the centre of town, relying on both satellite connectivity and backhaul to deliver 3G mobile reception within a radius of three kilometres of the town.


Optus national planning manager Vince Mullins said William Creek's new technology was the result of an 18-month trial in Oodnadatta.

"Unlike a normal mobile base station, which is quite expensive and large, we've shrunk that down and we're basically able to provide hot spot coverage in these really remote areas," he said.

"To deploy, it's very quick, as opposed to building a massive tower, and it's great because we can use satellite technology to backhaul it rather than having to run microwave or fibre."

Optus, the South Australian and Federal governments have invested $8.5 million to improve mobile coverage across regional and remote areas in the state.

More than a dozen other remote locations will also see similar technology soon.

In a news item in January in Telecom Times, Optus had said:

"Our primary vendor for this project is Gilat," an Optus spokesperson told Telecom Times. "Through our relationship with Gilat we also work with Parallel Wireless, who are providing the mobile related equipment and technology for the rollout, such as small cells and mobile network gateways."

Related Links:

Friday, 10 March 2017

Small Cells at Mobile World Congress 2017 (#MWC17)


Mobile World Congress was big and busy, as always. There were lots of interesting demos, technologies and much more. While I was only able to look at a few demos, here is my summary of the small cells related info that I managed to see or came across on social media.

Ericsson and Philips have been working together for a while so its no surprise they were showing their new connected street lighting model. You can see this from my picture above.

Sprint has already mentioned earlier that they will be rolling out more small cells and they were conveying the same message at MWC. Their rival T-Mobile says that they have 1000 small cells right now but will have 5/6000 by the end of the year.

IP Access had a nice booth and it was good to see that their CEO Malcolm Gordon and CTO Nick Johnson both managed to get their message across that 2017 will probably be a big year for Small Cells.



Vodafone introduced the "CrowdCell" concept last year, this year they continued to build on that story. The CrowdCell uses macro for backhaul. I generally refer to this as In-band backhaul (IBBH) and have written about this here. While they have already shown Indoor CrowdCell and In-car CrowdCell before, this year they were showing the Flying CrowdCell. You can see a video of that here (in Spanish) and a non-flying version here. This is slightly similar to the Airmast concept by EE.


Hidden in a corner at the Vodafone booth was a pre-commercial quad band femto by Parallel Wireless. If you look at the form factor, its no different than a single band femto from couple of years back.


Parallel Wireless also had a presence on many of their partners booths (picture above from KMW booth). TMN magazine has a feature on them and I embed their video below.


China Unicom is deploying 500 Radio Dots from Ericsson in Beijing.

Cellnex was showing how their small cells could be used for Smart Cities and Urban deployments. They have recently signed contract with JCDecaux and expects to deploy between 200,000 and 500,000 small cells 🙃

Acceleran was showing small cells on 3.5GHz CBRS band.

The Indian mobile operator Reliance Jio, which recently set a record for fastest 100 million subscribers (in 170 days), will be deploying Airspan small cells. This should be a massive project for Airspan.


Finally, there were quite a few 5G conceptual demo's. The picture above is from Intel stand. Due to 5G not yet defined, people were either using 28GHz or 60GHz. Regardless of what they were demonstrating, they would claim it to be 5G.

Apologies to other vendors I have missed.


There were also some good presentations at the Small Cell Forum networking area. The link for them is below and I will also be sharing some more of them in the coming weeks.

Related links:

Friday, 3 March 2017

Small Cells in the Bus Stop


Heard JCDecaux speak at MWC about how they provided connectivity at the street level using small cells at the bus stop. In fact the same example was also used by the Ericsson speaker. Due to small cells at street level, the coverage also reaches shops easily which may not necessarily get a good coverage from macros.

Below is a video from Alcatel-Lucent, followed by the the presentation:





Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Flying Small Cells are here...


The UK mobile network operator EE has done a press release on 'Airmast technology for rural mobile coverage and disaster recovery'. The idea of having mobile base stations was first conceived by the previous CEO of EE, Olaf Swantee and then Director of RAN Mansoor Hanif in early 2015.

With the 4G small cells making it to the market in 2015/16, Mansoor brought in the  Ayan Ghosh (a.k.a. "Droneman") to lead the airmast project. While Parallel Wireless (PW) and Nokia had been actively working with EE, innovative solutions require innovative partners. This led to finding some very innovative solution providers, some of them based in the UK. Allsopp Helikites based for example is based in Salisbury who specialise in balloon deployments. Other partners included Voltserver with their smart digital power, Avanti with the satellite, UVue with their drones, Parallel Wireless with the Mesh 4G radio and Nokia with Smallcells were introduced to each other for collaboratively coming up with a solution.

The Helikite and Drone solutions are designed to provide temporary coverage not only in case of emergency but also in case of floods, power failures, fiber breaks, etc. They can also supplement the existing coverage in case of big festivals like Glastonbury, etc. In fact one of the example given by Marc Allera, CEO of EE was that anyone climbing a mountain where there may be a limited coverage can order 'coverage on demand' in future.

As part of the team to convert these innovative ideas into reality, we (Parallel Wireless) focused on small cell on the helikite with with tethered power, in-band backhaul (IBBH) and mesh link. The picture below will clarify what we have achieved.

In our case, the small cells worked in tandem with the HetNet Gateway (HNG) can self-configure and self-optimize the power, coverage, etc.

A more detailed slide from Mansoor Hanif's presentation at the Facebook TIP Summit can be seen below.
In fact to make this a success, there were many different components. Voltserver providing digital power that allows a thin cable to run along with the tether and power the small cell and other equipment on the Helikite. Having power to the helikite ensures that it can stay up for 2 - 4 weeks before being brought down to refill helium. Without this power source, 2 x 24V battery would last maybe an hour or two.

The Helikite itself by Allsopp helikites which are unique in their own way. A whitepaper by Aerostats All Australia (AAA) provides a nice comparison of different Aerostats and shows that Helikite performs better than other types, mainly in windy scenarios.


In addition to the Parallel Wireless solution, Nokia showed drones with and without the power tether and also satellite based backhaul, powered by Avanti.


From EE's press release:

EE’s breakthroughs in developing innovative aerial solutions have been achieved with the support of the most innovative partners from the mobile industry and beyond: Nokia has provided world class, lightweight, compact and portable Flexi Zone small cell basestation solutions; Parallel Wireless has delivered a unique technology with self-configuring and self-optimising basestation, in-band backhaul capability, and network meshing techniques; Avanti has enabled a fast, reliable satellite backhaul connection; VoltServer has provided touch-safe and flexible Digital Electricity power over data cable/tether; uVue has evolved drone designs to meet the specific requirements of providing mobile coverage; and Allsopp Helikites has provided the ‘Helikite’ solution that makes a stable, high altitude service possible.

The press release also notes that "EE’s tethered and powered mobile ‘air mast’ solutions are currently in patent-pending status."

Here is an interesting video from EE on how air masts will work:




My favourite picture is one posted by Mansoor Hanif on Linkedin after the first demo at BT, Madley.



Related links:

*Full Disclosure: I work for Parallel Wireless as a Solutions Architect. This blog is maintained in my personal capacity and expresses my own views, not the views of my employer or anyone else. Anyone who knows me well would know this.

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Saturday, 11 February 2017

Deployment guidelines for Small Cells and Not So Small Cells

This post is collection of an article and presentation from Omar Masry, Senior Analyst at City and County of San Francisco. The presentation is a good quick summary and the article below gives a more detailed explanation of some of the issues



Also read: 10 Key Issues for California Cities & Counties on the Challenges of Small Cells & “Not So Small Cells” by Omar Masry.