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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.



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*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.

Saturday, 21 January 2017

5G Small Cells for Smart Cities

Accenture Strategy highlights Economic and Societal Impact of Investing in 5G Infrastructure in a new Research. A small section is devoted to the role small cells will play in smart cities. quoting from the report:

The key to this new wireless infrastructure is the small cell. Telecom operators are already using 4G small-cell technology in limited deployments today to support increased capacity for new users and Smart City sensors. But the full promise of Smart Cities and 5G requires a robust deployment of small cells.

That is because tomorrow’s wireless networks will require hundreds, or even thousands, of small cells, densely deployed across a city or town, instead of traditional macro cell towers, which are hundreds of feet tall and transmit wireless signals for miles. Complementing the existing macro cell sites, these small cells can be the size of a shoe box and discretely deployed nearly anywhere – from street lamps and utility poles to the sides of buildings.

The approach is similar to the supply-operations concept of distributing dispatch centers across a geographic area to serve customers more efficiently than one main, central warehouse. The approaches have similar benefits:

1 Speed to deliver: Just as numerous small dispatch centers can be located closer to the ultimate destination, and thus provide faster delivery, widely distributed small cells also deliver higher speed, and enable large amounts of data to be more readily delivered to users.

2 Capacity to serve: When a given dispatch center does not have the capacity to serve a certain client within the required timeframe due to the shortage of available resources/products, other nearby centers are able to provide service. Likewise, if a small cell experiences too much traffic demand due to a major event (e.g., an emergency situation in the area), other small cells can help meet demand, preventing the communication interruption that usually occurs with current technology.

3 Specialization and diversification of fulfillment: Just as small niche centers can provide specialized service to a local area, a “small cell” can also provide specialization of service to a large, diversified number of users. With the availability of sufficient numbers of small cells, wireless networks will support both specialized transportation solutions (e.g., vehicle-to-vehicle communication) and specialized public safety solutions (e.g., gunshot detection sensor communication), all while ensuring the best quality of service to other highly critical applications, such as a nearby hospital which requires highly reliable communications (e.g., for remote surgery).

Small cells are already beginning to supplement the operations of existing 4G macro towers, and will initially be the central strategy by which telecom operators deal with this ongoing growth in demand for mobile capacity and coverage ultimately leading to the full-scale 5G deployment that will be required by Smart Cities.

While the benefits of pervasive small-cell 5G technology are highly significant, the real-world logistics of deploying small cells on a large scale must also address the cost, complexity and time involved in deployment...

You can read the complete report here.

Related posts:

Sunday, 15 January 2017

Look back and forecast of Small Cells


Going through 'End of Year Report' by ThinkSmallCell. A good summary of what happened in 2016 and what we can see in 2017. This picture above from the same report is interesting. As you can see that the average speeds of 3G have decreased while that of 4G has increased significantly. I suspect what has happened is that the newer devices with more advanced 3G capabilities now have access to 4G while the older devices with basic HSDPA support have stayed on 3G, decreasing the average speeds.

You can also read the top 5 posts from this blog here.



Coming back to forecasts, another ThinkSmallCell Analyst Spotlight webinar where Caroline Gabriel from Rethink research and Kyung Mun from Mobile experts provide their insight into where small cells are headed in 2017 and beyond.

Personally, I think with VoWiFi becoming common in our devices, the market for residential and enterprise eventually will decrease. I hear you say what about QoS, well see my 3G4G blog post here.

Here are the slides and video from ThinkSmallCell webinar:







Friday, 6 January 2017

Rogue One: When Small Cells interfere with Macro


Came across this interesting case study from Cellcom Israel where femtocells cause interference with the macro to reduce availability and in one case paralyze the whole area. Case study embedded below