Thursday, 7 December 2017

Connecting the remote Alaskan Villages


A very nice article from the recent IEEE Spectrum Magazine here.

The $300 million telecom project will boost speeds or provide service to many areas of Alaska for the first time. TERRA was completed in October after six years of construction when engineers installed its final microwave repeater. The network uses a combination of repeater data links and fiber optics to form a giant, 5,000 kilometer ring around southwest Alaska — a sparsely populated region with few paved roads and wilderness areas larger than West Virginia.

Quoting from the magazine:

With TERRA, Kotzebue residents now pay $59.99 per month for an Internet plan with download speeds of 3 Mb/s, which is not even fast enough to stream a high-definition movie. To be able to do that, they would need to pay at least $149.99 per month for 6 Mb/s. Compare that with New York City, where residents pay an average of $55 per month for 25 Mb/s.

So was it worth $300 million to bring slightly better Internet to approximately 45,000 people in 84 rural villages spread out over an area roughly the size of Germany? For GCI, it was a strategic move. The project was completed as more customers began to watch more content online. Large clients such as hospitals and schools in rural communities also needed better access to the outside world. Partly thanks to TERRA, the company welcomed $12 million in new revenue for Internet service in the first three quarters of 2017, while losing $8 million from its cable-TV division.

Here is a video on how its done and the challenges:



Complete article here.

If you like to learn more about different backhaul types, see our short video tutorial here.

Monday, 4 December 2017

MTN: Connecting Rural & Remote Africa


The annual Telco Infra Project (TIP) Summit took place recently in California. As always, there are some great presentations that have all be shared online here.



The video of the presentation is embedded below but the two images above are the main points of discussion from this presentation. The first image shows the challenges and possible approaches to solve them. The second one highlights the important point that the traditional infrastructure costs are just too high to provide connectivity in rural and remote locations.

A slightly surprising point that the speaker, Navindran Naidoo, Executive, Network Planning & Design, MTN Group brought up was that they are still looking to rollout 3G networks. In an earlier post on 3G4G blog, I talked about how the developing nations will ditch 3G in favour of 2G & 4G so this is a bit of a surprise. Even the OpenCellular project is focusing on 2G & 4G as can be seen below.


Steve Song in his blog post here highlights some good points. He points out that not enough 4G devices have reached African markets, VoLTE has still not matured and also operators have 3G spectrum available today or they can re-farm 900MHz.

Anyway, here is the video from Navindran Naidoo, Executive, Network Planning & Design, MTN Group in TIP Summit 2017.


Thursday, 30 November 2017

Virtua Small Cell Lamppost for IoT & Telematics


Virtua are showing off their rural solar small cell that fits nicely on the lamppost. The lamppost can be taken down to deploy the small cell and can be hoisted back up. Their website says:

The objective was to engineer a more cost effective rural small cell solution that would support applications such as Telematics & IOT.
The solution benefits from a hinged levered pole solution for ease of installation and maintenance. One of the applications uses GSM/Mesh repeater with a bespoke antenna and bracket design keeping the installation simple. This GSM/Mesh repeater radio technology negates the need for immediate backhaul and accelerates the solution into live operation.
A solar powered solution means that the active radio equipment is contained in the bespoke solar housing that sits at the top of the pole. The housing benefits from a lower wind resistant design and slides centrally down the levered pole for ease of install, no external power is required thus no electrical certification is necessary.  Installation is quick and simple with no external cables other than the antenna RF cables at the top of the pole making the speed to deploy cost effective keeping the customer ahead of the competition.
I can see some power issues with 3G/4G small cells, as they are more power hungry. Also, there may be issue in countries that has small winter days and very little sunshine. Nevertheless, its interesting concept.

Interesting video of their installation:

Rural Coverage Small Cells Solution - Installation from Virtua on Vimeo.

Saturday, 25 November 2017

Defining HetNets (Heterogeneous Networks)


Recently added a video/presentation looking at 2 different definitions of Heterogeneous Networks (HetNets). Presentation with video embedded below. If you like to jump to video directly, here is the link.



Related post:

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Connecting a rural Welsh village using 'Mesh Potato'

Came across this BBC program from 2016, 'The Big Fix by Simon Reeve'. There is interesting bit in it about connecting a rural village in Wales by mesh (mash) potato. You can find more about the device here and here.

The program is embedded below. If you are in a hurry, skip to 10 minutes and then skip to 34:50 min mark.


A write-up of this project is also available here.

Monday, 20 November 2017

DAS vs Small Cells for In-building coverage


Small cells vs DAS has been a topic of discussion for a long time. ThinkSmallCell covered this topic back in 2014. I don't think things have changed much.

Recently I came across ClearSky and Opencell. They both have a slightly different approach to providing in-building coverage solutions. Instead of focusing on having neutral host small cells with MOCN or other network sharing approach, they act as neutral host providers responsible for integrating small cells from multiple operators within the building.


ThinkSmallCell has a detailed write-up of Opencell and Clearsky Technologies. What impressed me is the Opencell article saying (emphasis mine):
This isn’t a true neutral host where a single set of small cells is shared by all operators and routed through a central gateway. Each small cell is connected directly to its host operator – there is no shared gateway switch  through which all traffic is concentrated.
Instead they use Enterprise Small Cells to provide in-building cellular service from all four UK networks at a 75% lower price than DAS including basestations. Parallel sets of small cells are installed, one set for each operator. Typically a single dedicated LAN is used with a single separate fibre backhaul through the Internet. Each installation is designed, commissioned and maintained directly by the OpenCell team.
A 24/7 Data Centre with fault and performance monitoring service constantly tracks operation and identifies problems. We can remotely diagnose and fix issues, and will attend next day to fix or replace faulty hardware. We charge an initial setup fee and an ongoing operational support rate. There would also be a callout fee and additional cost for major changes, such as when the building is redeveloped, layout changed or new tenants are introduced.
It can be 75% cheaper to install enterprise small cells from multiple operators rather than install DAS. Again, I am sure there is a point till which it would make sense to do this. After that, it would be cheaper to have a DAS solution.


In couple of weeks, Cambridge Wireless is hosting a seminar on this topic, 'DAS and Enterprise Small Cells - Competition or Collaboration?'. I am hoping to hear more details about this.

In the meantime, if you would like to explore more about this topic, see the links below.

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Vodafone Portugal's “streetlamp”


Vodafone Portugal, in partnership with Drivetel, Omniflow and Amop is deploying its own “streetlamp” to improve coverage and capacity in certain areas while at the same time making sure the antennas blend in with the surroundings.



From Linkedin (via Cliff Velosa):

In Portugal Vodafone is committed on reducing visual impact on outdoor (rural and urban) coverage and made sure that the energy resource consumption is engage to a better and efficient way.

Comba Telecom has played an important role together with Drivetel S.A to the construction of a clean and unique system with a camouflaged Tri-Sector antenna that supports LTE1800 and WCDMA coverage and fits just perfectly to the rest of the environment.


A smart street light 100% self-powered by Wind and Solar energy and supported by a local Portuguese Company called OmniFlow.

It’s a completely integrated solution that blends into the most modern urban Smart Cities and to the wildest landscape. The generated energy with natural resources can contribuite to Vodafone's Pico/Micro/Small cell NB/eNB Base stations energy supply that is environmental friendly and contributes to the local population not only on mobile coverage and services but also served as public lights during the night.

The infrastructure is all underground with only the antennas on the top.

In another Linkedin post (via Cliff Velosa):

One of Portugal’s sea viewpoint – Santa Cruz beach, the local municipality together with Vodafone agreed on a efficient way to supply mobile radio coverage and capacity on Wi-Fi, 3G and 4G with an independent lighting system which produces enough electricity for the lighting system throughout the night by using natural resources (wind and sun), saving extra costs on the municipality, the tax payers will thank them in the long term.

A local Portuguese company did the design of the base bench foundation in concrete that meets the concerns of vandal resistance, life cycle and with reserved space to add all the RF RRU's/BBU's inside a the cabinet and with a spot around the tower to sit and navigate on Vodafone’s high speed broadband. No more ugly towers with massive antennas, Comba's Camouflaged 3 Cluster antenna did just the trick to reduce that impact.

This new “streetlamp” reduces the time to setup the tower and offering radio service to Vodafone's customers in matter of hours knowing that everything is setup by Drivetel in advance before transporting the system to the field.

All picture sources: Cliff Velosa

Further Reading:



Thursday, 2 November 2017

Tutorial: An Introduction to Macrocells & Small Cells


I have been meaning to create a video tutorial on Small Cells for a long time. The problem is that its not as easy as most people may think. To explain small cells concepts, its necessary to explain macrocell, C-RAN & DAS. This is what I have attempted to do in this presentation.

The slides are embedded below and can be downloaded from Slideshare. The video is embedded on slideshare presentation but if you prefer, the direct Youtube link is here.



Please note that this video is for guidance only. Many vendors & operators use their own definition which may not agree to mine. In the end, we are all correct 😉

Saturday, 28 October 2017

Covering Australian Mobile Not-spots


Came across this Quora question recently, "Is Australia much bigger than it appears on the map?". The answer surprised me because Australia is as big as USA or China and is 3.5 times bigger that Greenland but in the map that certainly does not show up. With a population of just 23.2 million, it's definitely bound to have loads of not-spots.


Telstra's 4G small cells are connect Queensland's mobile blackspots, but lack of coverage is still common. The problem with low power small cells sometimes is that the coverage area can be very small. In this particular case its less than 300 metres.

Optus is another operator committed to spend AU$1 billion to in regional and rural Australia to eradicate mobile blackspots, improve overall mobile coverage outside the big cities and help future proof the networks for data-hungry applications like video streaming.

It's the biggest network investment in the company's 25-year history and will fund:

  • 500 new mobile sites across regional and remote Australia (including 114 sites built through the government's Mobile Blackspots Program)
  • Upgrades for more than 1,800 sites to go from 3G to 4G
  • The addition of 4G to more than 200 sites (to increase capacity for peak periods)
  • The continued rollout of satellite small-cell technology (bringing voice and data to the remote outback)

I talked earlier about their 3G Small Cells using Parallel Wireless CWS here. The solution also won Small Cell Forum award in 'Excellence in Commercial Deployment of Rural/Remote Small Cells' category along with Gilat for satellite backhaul.

Here is a video showing how users reacted to one of the sites having just been turned on.


*Full Disclosure: I work for Parallel Wireless as a Senior Director, Strategic Marketing. 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.

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Ericsson's Invisible Sites: Urban Case Studies


Small Cell Forum recently hosted Densification Summit in Mumbai. There were lots of interesting talks which can be seen along with the post-event report on SCF page here.

Anyway, the presentation by Ericsson is embedded below.