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Friday, 23 June 2017

Nokia Kuha: Community-run Small Cells


In a recent presentation at Small Cells World Summit, Mansoor Hanif – Director of Converged Networks Research Lab mentioned about Kuha, community run small cells in Isle of Harris. There is very little information on Kuha available online.


The Pitch OPEN website provides the following info: Kuha is the Nokia solution for connecting the unconnected – that means the 30% of the world population living without Mobile Internet. Kuha helps network operators to extend their service to communities that have so far not been connected because of the high cost of base station deployments.


kuha.io has more details on how it works but surprisingly not much mention of Nokia. All it says is "We're a team of 5 entrepreneurs with years of telco experience. We are currently developing the product, studying the market and connecting the world, one internet connection at a time."

Finally, this tweet above has just a little bit more info on this topic.

Saturday, 3 June 2017

Temporary masts for festivals, events, etc.


I really enjoyed watching couple of video's from Peter Clarke of temporary masts that are installed at events like Glastonbury festival and other high profile events.  They are both embedded below:




If you enjoyed, check out more videos like these on his Youtube channel here.

Sunday, 28 May 2017

Small Cell Forum Awards 2017 Winners


The Small Cells Forum (SCF) Awards 2017 were recently held as part of Small Cells World Summit. The Small Cell Industry Awards are a recognized badge of excellence and innovation with a panel of impartial judges – comprised of analysts, journalists and industry experts – ensure the independence and quality of the awards. Its one of the few awards that I really respect for its impartiality.

The award nominees can be viewed here and the winners are here. The photographs are available here. I have covered some of the winners as part of this blog so I am listing those posts below.

Parallel Wireless & Gilat Parallel Wireless and Gilat Connecting the Unconnected in the Outback - I wrote this post 'Small Cells to help connect Australian Outback'. There is a very good video, unfortunately cant be embedded on this news item here.

Parallel Wireless Removing Deployment Constraints of Small Cell vRAN and 5G HetNets - I have not directly covered this topic, but will do soon. This post from last year 'HetNets On The Bus' gives an idea on how the HetNet Gateway (HNG) removes deployment constraints and future proof the network. Interested readers can find more detailed info on Parallel Wireless website here.

Vodafone CrowdCell: Using Macro Radio Network to Backhaul Open-Access Small Cells - I have covered this as part of 'Small Cells at Mobile World Congress 2017' and earlier 'Vehicular CrowdCell or Vehicular Small Cell and the 5G plan'

BT & EE EE Air Mast Using Small Cells - This is my favourite as I was personally involved in this activity. I have two posts on this one. The first one is 'Flying Small Cells are here...' and the second one is 'Connecting Rural Scotland using Airmasts and Droneways'. I have to admit that this is a very ambitious project, especially the second one.

*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.

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Loon powered emergency networks for flood affected Peru


In the past, when earthquake and floods used to take out mobile connectivity, satellite used to be the only way forward. See here for instance for use of satellite connectivity in Nepal and Japan. I really like the Network in a backpack from Vodafone picture in that post.

Having said that, things have moved on in the last few years. In my earlier post I discussed about Telefonica's network in a box that weighs just 40 grams. This can be deployed in conjunction with a drone or a Helikite and you have a self-contained coverage. EE is taking this further and plans to connect Scotland using Airmasts and Droneways.


In the recent floods in Peru, Telefonica worked with Google Loon team to to re-connect the service and re-establish mobile communications, which are particularly crucial in such dire circumstances. According to their blog:
Telef├│nica and Project Loon brought basic Internet connectivity across more than 40,000 Km2, providing over 160 GB worth of data –enough to send and receive roughly 30 million WhatsApp messages, or 2 million emails.
The Google Loon team have their own blog posts on this topic here and here.

The picture on the top is a modified picture from Project Loon that explains how the Loon's work. Fundamentally the working is sort of the same, regardless of the technology you use. As I explained in my other post here, when you use Helikites for example and create a mesh network its similar to the Loon's using laser for connectivity between them. All technologies need backhaul to connect to the outside world and access to connect to the end user.

Further reading:



Friday, 5 May 2017

Sprint's Magic Box


Is Sprint doing Small Cells? That's a question probably asked too many times. Back in January, their COO G├╝nther Ottendorfer said the company’s small cell partners conducted a range of trials last year in order to determine fast and efficient methods to deploy small cells, a situation he said led to some misunderstandings in the market. However, he said those trials are largely behind the carrier and that he expects the carrier’s small cell efforts to expand this year.

“There was a learning process in 2016. We did a lot of trials in the beginning. We had some trials that led to misunderstandings, when you have a lot of boxes there because you were trialing different things, different—for example—transmission methods,” said Ottendorfer, Sprint’s chief operating officer for Technology, in a recent interview with FierceWireless. “But now we have streamlined the concepts and so I’m very confident that with streamlined and very elegant small cell solutions we will have a good rollout this year.”

They again mentioned about their small cells commitment at MWC. Finally this week, they announced the Magic Box.

Sprint has billed it as "World’s First All-Wireless Small Cell". This is a point where I would disagree with them, mainly for two reasons.The first being that for an all-wireless claim, they have to get wireless power to the small cell and secondly, this has already been done for a while. I have explained about In-band backhaul here and have provided examples of how Parallel Wireless has been using this for a while.

The Magic Box is made by Airspan and is 4G/LTE only in band 41 (2500 MHz TD-LTE). One of these units provide an average coverage of 30,000 square feet indoors and can benefit adjacent Sprint customers inside the building. The signal can also extend coverage 100 meters outside a building, benefiting customers in nearby buildings and improving street–level network performance. It does not use the closed subscriber group (CSG) feature hence anyone can camp on it and use it.


Sprint has a large amount of 2.5GHz spectrum available, as a result they are able to use dedicated spectrum for the Magic Box. This ensures that interference is kept to minimum. They also announced the availability of HPUE that will allow this band reach to improve. See my blog post here for details.

“It’s a far cry from just a repeater,” he said, explaining that it improves the efficiency of the network as long as it has a good connection to the macro cell. It will work with any Sprint phones using 2.5 GHz. The backhaul channel uses 2.5 GHz or 1.9 GHz, but ideally it would use 2.5 GHz because that offers a lot more capacity.

The Magic Box includes self-organizing network (SON) capabilities and operates on its own channel in Sprint’s spectrum, allowing it to decrease the noise level and increase the capacity of the overall system, which is the big difference from repeaters, explained Sprint Technology COO Guenther Ottendorfer.

Some of the details I couldn't find but hopefully some of the readers would know and can answer are:
  • Whats the power output of these small cells?
  • I am assuming they will support VoLTE calling for voice - even though generally that feature is transparent to small cells?
  • Does the small cell radiate a single 20MHz channel?
  • Does the backhaul do carrier aggregation?

Further Reading:

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, Telef├│nica 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.