Sunday, 18 February 2018

Meshing for BYOC (Bring Your Own Coverage)

Back in November, a Senior Designer from EE did a presentation on LTE-powered Emergency Services Network (ESN). There were some interesting slides in that. One is as shown in the picture above while the other is in the tweet below.

Interestingly this is something I have also looked in an earlier post here.

Meshing functionality has been tried a few times before, it does not work in every case. One of the successful cases is the use of mesh links in backhaul.

Parallel Wireless just put out a small video on Bring Your Own Coverage (BYOC - though BYOC can mean a lot of different things) as follows:

I have also blogged about Parallel Wireless Rural solution that uses mesh links too here.

*Full Disclosure: I work for Parallel Wireless as a Senior Director in 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.

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Friday, 9 February 2018

Verizon's got Balls and Small Cells

Matsing Balls are a first in an NFL Stadium at U.S. Bank Stadium - Source: Verizon

Love the fact that the mobile network operators have become quite open in talking about their infrastructure, data consumption statistics and their future plans. Last week I talked about Sprint's small cell deployments for Super Bowl, this week some info from Verizon.

Verizon has talked in detail in their blog about how its coping with the huge demand in data that has been increasing every year. Here is an extract from a few Verizon blogs.

The permanent new network enhancements will boost performance in U.S. Bank Stadium and areas of anticipated high demand, including Super Bowl LIVE, Super Bowl Experience, popular tourist attractions, airports, hotels, venues and other special event locations throughout the Twin Cities area. 

Verizon’s network enhancements for you include: 
  • 24 new permanent cell sites 
  • 230+ permanent small cell sites 
  • Doubling of network capacity on Nicollet Mall with a new small cell/design solution inside new bus shelters
  • LTE Advanced features added to the 4G LTE network for greater capacity and faster peak data speeds
  • 48 percent more antennas added to Verizon’s Distributed Antenna System (DAS) at the Stadium in 2017
  • A new neutral host DAS system at Mall of America® boosting Verizon’s network capacity by 900 percent
  • A new neutral host DAS system at Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport adding new 4G LTE coverage in tunnels, boosting Verizon’s network capacity throughout the airport by more than 1,000 percent 

Handrail antennas in U.S. Bank Stadium - Source: Verizon

DAS: Verizon built a neutral host state-of-the-art network system when the new tech-advanced U.S. Bank stadium opened in 2016 for the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority and added 48 percent more antennas in 2017 with innovative design solutions exclusively for your connectivity, including drink rail, handrail and under the seat antennas. 

The stadium DAS system Verizon built is one of the largest in the U.S. and Verizon customers will be connected by more than 1,200 antennas distributed over more than 100 coverage zones. A similar outdoor stadium DAS provides coverage at the east entrance, light rail station and west plaza area. In the first indoor use at an NFL stadium, two Matsing Ball antennas (that appear like giant white disco balls) are installed 330 feet above the field on the ridge beam. They provide coverage by dividing the field into sectors, like slices of a pie, for Super Bowl photographers and staff, and for you at popular concerts with floor seating. 

One of Verizon’s small cells outside U.S. Bank stadium enhances wireless data capacity. - Source Verizon

Small Cells: Small cells are designed to blend into the urban landscape, literally “hiding in plain sight” on street lights, traffic signals or utility poles, and provide 4G LTE coverage for a radius of approximately 1,000 feet.  Small cells bring the fiber connections and network “densification” needed to enable Smart Cities technology (like managing traffic flow) and the next generation network, 5G. As part of our Smart Communities work with the city of Minneapolis, we’ve also installed security cameras on street lights with our small cells in the downtown area to help the city ensure the best experience possible for fans and citizens.

On the side, Verizon also deployed a network for Public Safety officials and it tested the limits of 5G.

So what did the statistics look like? Here it is from another blog post:

Game day facts 
  • Verizon’s network was used by 57% of the attendees in the stadium at this year’s Super Bowl, up from 45% the previous year.
  • Verizon fans benefitted from the highest average download speeds at U.S. Bank Stadium according to third-party testing by P3 of all four national carriers during the game. 
  • On Super Bowl game day, Verizon fans used 18.8 TB of data in and around the stadium, the equivalent of a single user binge watching HD video for 435 straight days.
  • The data usage by Verizon fans was 70.9% more than the 11 TB used at Super Bowl 51 – the same as watching HD video for 256 days in a row. At Super Bowl 50, Verizon customers used 7 TB of data – roughly 1/3 of Sunday’s big game.
  • Top wireless uses by Verizon customers were led, in this order, by web browsing, streaming video and using social media and sports apps.  
  • The top three favorite social media apps of Verizon customers were Snapchat, Facebook and Instagram, with Snapchat moving from third at last year’s Super Bowl to first most used.
The biggest spikes of wireless data usage occurred during:
  • The halftime show driven by social media video sharing. 
  • The next biggest usage spikes occurred when the Patriots fumbled the ball late in the fourth quarter, and;
  • At the game kickoff, with fans streaming video and web browsing.
Our Network team of 150 engineers, 3X the size of an NFL team roster, staffed Verizon’s network Command Center 24x7 to ensure a reliable network experience for fans, first responders and public safety teams.

So the headline figure was 'Verizon fans used 18.8 TB of data in and around the stadium'.

To put this in perspective, here is a tweet from EE CEO, Marc Allera:
So you can see how much data was consumed in the Super Bowl match.

Localytics has some more info on the data consumption pattern, apps, etc. during the Super Bowl here.

Looking forward to finding some similar info from T-Mobile and AT&T.

Saturday, 3 February 2018

Sprint's Small Cells in the stadium

Sprint's CTO John Saw posted a few pics of small cells in the stadium. They also posted a few pics about outdoor small cells (see below).

Another tweet from John Saw was about SpeedTests within the stadium.

The question often asked is why are the upload speeds so poor. I answered this question when I talked about High Power UEs (HPUE) in an earlier post. As they use TDD Config 2, they are focusing on downloads rather than uploads. This may be a bit strange scenario for stadiums where people want to upload rather than download but because they want to use HPUE, they have to make sure that only a limited number of uplink slots (less than 50%) are used.

TDD also mandates very tight synchronization requirements thereby making most networks keep the same config throughout their network to avoid interference.

Its nevertheless interesting, would be good to see how the end users react to this approach.

Further reading:

Monday, 29 January 2018

Ultimate Guide to the Telecom Infra Project (TIP)

Some of you may have noticed that I am a big fan of Facebook's Telecom Infra Project (a.k.a. TIP). I blogged about the TIP summit in 2016 here, BT/EE Mansoor Hanif's presentation on Airmasts here and MTN Navindran Naidoo's recent presentation here.

Telecom TV has done an excellent Ultimate Guide to the TIP project here. The video from that is embedded below.

Monday, 15 January 2018

Autonomous Relaying Drones

Came across this post from Prof. David Gesbert about the project ERC PERFUME are involved in. The post says:

Autonomous Flying Cellular Relay Robots

The team of ERC Advanced PERFUME project ( at EURECOM under Prof. David Gesbert recently pioneered autonomous flying base station relays. The aerial robots  use machine learning to self-optimize their position based on suitable radio measurements and provide end-to-end enhanced connectivity to mobile users carrying off-the-shelf commercial terminals.  The communication layer builds on the OpenAirInterface developped at EURECOM's Communications Systems Department.

A first video was just unveiled here:

I have written about drones multiple times in the past (see here, here & here for example). Last week I looked at the relays (or Relay Nodes, RNs) as defined by 3GPP. We could safely assume that this autonomous relaying drone is Layer 3 Type 1a/1b RN.

I have heard multiple operators talking about this kind of approach where a person or group of people can get preferential services via drones in festivals and events. Of course it would make sense that these people are on some VIP package or emergency services workers.

Its an interesting concept but there will be many open questions. It would have to be tried for a long time to identify and iron out all the issues.

Do you agree / disagree?

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Relays (RN) and Donor eNode Bs (DeNB)

Relays a.k.a. Relay Node (RN) in standards has been a part of the standards for a while but I don't hear about them often. The only time recently when I heard about them were with Airspan's MagicBox small cells deployed in Sprint (see news here). In fact the article speculates:

LTE UE Relay was specified within 3GPP’s Release 10. There are different types of Relay and it would seem Sprint’s will be Type 2, which sees the Relay Node (or MagicBox) retransmit on the same code as provided by its macro “donor” cell.

While I don't have any further details about it, I am not too sure about it. Type 2 relays are complex and require change in the existing eNodeB's. I should clarify here that we are talking about Layer 3 relays in this post. An earlier presentation from Airspan mentioned that they use Type 1a/1b relay architecture. See here.

The presentation below has some nice simple explanation of the Relay nodes and its workings

In case of Type 2 relays, there is a much more architecture change involved. This architecture change requires modification of the existing eNB to Donor eNB (DeNB).

Going back to 3GPP TS 36.300: E-UTRA and E-UTRAN Overall description; Stage 2 document:

The DeNB hosts the following functions in addition to the eNB functions:
- S1/X2 proxy functionality for supporting RNs;
- S11 termination and S-GW/P-GW functionality for supporting RNs.

Further on, in section 4.7

E-UTRAN supports relaying by having a Relay Node (RN) wirelessly connect to an eNB serving the RN, called Donor eNB (DeNB), via a modified version of the E-UTRA radio interface, the modified version being called the Un interface.

The RN supports the eNB functionality meaning it terminates the radio protocols of the E-UTRA radio interface, and the S1 and X2 interfaces. From a specification point of view, functionality defined for eNBs, e.g. RNL and TNL, also applies to RNs unless explicitly specified. RNs do not support NNSF.

In addition to the eNB functionality, the RN also supports a subset of the UE functionality, e.g. physical layer, layer-2, RRC, and NAS functionality, in order to wirelessly connect to the DeNB.

The RN terminates the S1, X2 and Un interfaces. The DeNB provides S1 and X2 proxy functionality between the RN and other network nodes (other eNBs, MMEs and S GWs). The S1 and X2 proxy functionality includes passing UE-dedicated S1 and X2 signalling messages as well as GTP data packets between the S1 and X2 interfaces associated with the RN and the S1 and X2 interfaces associated with other network nodes. Due to the proxy functionality, the DeNB appears as an MME (for S1-MME), an eNB (for X2) and an S-GW (for S1-U) to the RN. 

In phase II of RN operation, the DeNB also embeds and provides the S-GW/P-GW-like functions needed for the RN operation. This includes creating a session for the RN and managing EPS bearers for the RN, as well as terminating the S11 interface towards the MME serving the RN.

The RN and DeNB also perform mapping of signalling and data packets onto EPS bearers that are setup for the RN. The mapping is based on existing QoS mechanisms defined for the UE and the P-GW.

In phase II of RN operation, the P-GW functions in the DeNB allocate an IP address for the RN for the O&M which may be different than the S1 IP address of the DeNB.

Based on the complexity and additional changes required for Type 2 relays, I am not surprised that they are not very popular. If you think otherwise, do let me know.

Thanks to Dr. Kit Kilgour for providing insights into this topic.

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

How Small Cells will develop through 4.5G & 5G

Just came across this old article from Radisys (in TMN magazine), written by Renuka Bhalerao. Available on Radisys site here if you want to download.

Some points from the article:
  • Small Cells are good for LTE in unlicensed bands
  • … and LTE in unlicensed is good for small cells
  • Moving to cloud architecture is promising for the RAN – but there’s no one way to do it
  • Mobile Edge Computing and the intelligent edge requires small cells
  • We are seeing the emergence of an “IoT small cell”
  • LTE-A PRO features will tax small cell software systems

Complete article available here.

Thursday, 21 December 2017

CW Seminar on DAS vs Small Cells

I mentioned about the CW seminar in my earlier post here. The event is over so here are a few takeaways from the seminar.

The good news about CW Small Cells events is that David Chambers (ThinkSmallCell) does a very comprehensive summary. For this one, its available here.

For a limited time (for non-members), the presentations from the speakers is available on CW website here.

I wanted to highlight few takeaways and stats that were quoted during the seminar as follows:

  • The 5 challenges of deploying small cells: compelling event, capacity, complexity, coverage, cost
  • 90 operators now offer unlimited service with voice, SMS & Data
  • Due to European roaming charges having been scrapped, there is 300% growth in European roaming traffic since last year.
  • Average consumption is 1.9Gbytes/month forecast to be 15.8Gbytes by 2022. Finish operator Elisa is already running at an average of 18GB/month
  • Modern inbuilding systems are 2T2R with many older installation still using SISO.
  • 40% of the workforce will be freelancers, temps, independent contractors and solopreneurs by 2020 (Not sure if this is UK or worldwide figure)
  • 39% of millenials say they interact more with their smartphones than they do with theur significant others, parents, friends, children or co-workers
  • By the end of 2017, around 14000 co-working spaces will be in operation worldwide
  • 67% of people around the world use a personal device at work to some degree

I have highlighted Opencell's view on DAS vs Small Cells in the earlier post here. This Tweet below also shows the comparison points

Bob Slorach, from Wireless Infrastructure Group (WIG), drew some clear guidelines about building size, pointing to the needs of buildings between about 50000 to 300000 sq. ft. This represents a huge unmet demand of around 2 Billion sq. ft. in the UK alone.

As can be seen in the picture above, picocells can serve smaller venues while a 5 watt small cell (microcell) with distributed RF can satisfy the 100 - 300K sq. ft. venues. For bigger venues, a higher power unit would be required. It would also justify to have a neutral host solution so the costs could be distributed and coverage is available for everyone.

Adis Omeragic, Special Projects Manager at EE, shared his side of the story. While his slides are still not on the site (they are expected to be available), I have emnedded a tweet below.

Some of the points he made were, while passive DAS may no longer be used, active DAS will be around. Only about 5% of DAS deployments in the UK have all four operators connected as of today.

According to Adis, DAS displacement is slow because of lack of roadmap alignment between macros and small cells. Small cells upgrade path is very limited. DAS allows Carrier Aggregation, Multi-technology and multi-band capability, SON features which are more common in macros, etc.

Due to the new features like 4x4 MIMO and even Massive MIMO, things may start going in favour of small cells.

One final point that was discussed in the panel was whether VoWiFi is good enough so there is no longer a need for residential or enterprise femtocells.

While the panelists agreed that VoWifi is good enough for residential, it may not be good enough for enterprises. I disagree. If the enterprise has designed their WiFi networks properly, this may not be much of an issue.

There is other issue of the lack of devices and operators support for VoWiFi. As EE pointed out, they only support it for post-paid customers, on direct contract with them. So pre-paid, MVNO and partner customers wont benefit. Also, its supported in limited number of devices.

Sunday, 17 December 2017

Small Cells Densification for 4G & 5G

The recent Small Cell Forum (SCF) press release mentions that: SCF forecasts that between 2015 and 2025, new non-residential small cell deployments will grow at a compound annual rate of 36%, to reach almost 8.5 million, and by 2025 deployments will be 22 times higher than in 2015.

The research also provides an insight into operator’s densification plans, with 40% of operators expecting to deploy between 100 and 350 small cells per square kilometer (indoors and outdoors) in the areas they densify by 2020. Additionally, in the first 2-3 years of deploying 5G New Radio, 58% expect to focus primarily on small cells. The research also shows that the industry is already seeing acceleration of deployments in the Enterprise, where small cell deployments rose by 98% between 2015 and 2017, and are set to grow by up to 1600% from 2015 to 2025.

In addition, SCF also published Release 10 (not a permanent link though), a collection of documents, presentations and videos that present the organization’s vision for the 5G era. This collection is a response to the requirements the Forum spent the summer collating resulting from regional and partner events in India, North America and Latin America. SCF listened to input from operators, across the various geographies, on their key challenges and created a work program designed specifically to resolve the key issues raised.

I will link some SCF documents at the bottom of this post.

Stephane Daeuble, Nokia also published a blog post on this topic not long back. In that he points out:

Nokia looked at the growth in demand facing one operator in a very busy US city. In 2014, traffic density was around 1 Gbps/km2 and was served by an average 20 macrocell sites per km2.

By 2017, traffic density hit 4 Gbps/km2. The operator simply adds 40 outdoor small cells and 50 indoor small cells per km2 to the network. Deploying relatively few small cells allows the operator to meet quadrupled capacity and coverage demand, both indoors and outdoors.

Let’s project these figures forward. By 2025, the operator will need a very dense network to support a ten-fold increase in traffic density. With no scope for deploying more macrocell sites and upgrades to macrocell base stations unlikely to meet the demand, even this extreme density can be supported with the help of small cells. Now we are looking at 150 outdoor and 500 indoor small cells deployed per km2, keeping to the intial 20 macrocell sites. Over the period covered by the study, the average inter-site distance plunges from 240m to 82m – a figure impossible to achieve without small cells.

The most obvious advantage of small cells is their compact physical size. They can be deployed unobtrusively to meet city regulations, giving the network a rapid, yet low cost boost in performance. Not only do they provide much-needed extra capacity and improve indoor coverage, but small cells can aid network balancing by off-loading traffic from the surrounding macrocells. Deployments have shown that, after deploying small cells, some macrocells stay above 60% average RF usage, indicating there was substantial unserved traffic with the macros alone.

If you prefer in-depth technical papers, this IEEE paper on small cell Ultra Dense Networks (UDN) is an interesting read.

Check out my introduction to macrocells & small cells and HetNets if you are looking for a quick refresher on these topics.

Here is a list of new SCF documents on densification

SCF Release 10 Vision for Densification into 5G Era

Overall Vision and Requirements gathering
[SCF110] Vision for densification into the 5G Era: Release overview
[SCF200] Ten trends SCF has driven and vision for 2027
[SCF201] Partners’ Day: Industry alignment on densification roadmap
[SCF202] Mumbai Densification Summit: Asia Market Requirements

Technologies for Densification
[SCF014] Edge Computing made simple
[SCF197] mmWave-based 5G eMBB 5G

Standards and Interoperability
[SCF085] SCF Plugfests and long term vision
[SCF208] Private ePC PlugFest report
[SCF209] Test cases for the Private ePC PlugFest
[SCF196] TR196 Small cell updates to 3GPP SA5

[SCF203] Operational aspects of densification into the 5G Era
[SCF079] Enterprise deployment process (2017 revision)

Business Models
[SCF204] 5G Era business models and stakeholder engagement
[SCF206] Business case for small cells in healthcare

Market Status and Engagement
[SCF050] Small cells market status report December 2017
[SCF194] SCF operator survey: Deployment plans and business drivers for a dense HetNet
[SCF205] Connectivity in healthcare - an essential service

References of the form [SCFXXX] are linked to their landing page on, where they can be downloaded free of charge.