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.

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 馃槈

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.

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Telef贸nica's LTE Nano Takes to the Skies

From Telefonica's Press release today (translated from Spanish to English via Google translate):
Telef贸nica has today presented in a real environment the applications in rescue and supervision of the miniaturization of a 4G mobile network with a portable backpack of less than 3kg. which provides voice and data coverage to a group of people in a specific area. 
This innovation project, called LTE Nano and announced at the 2017 Mobile World Congress , is one of the world's smallest deployments of a 4G standalone network as it runs on hardware weighing just 40 grams. It is also a significant step in the advances that the market is making in the development of portable network products very useful in rescue, emergency, retail, logistics, hospitals or offices, among many others. 
Specifically, Telef贸nica has carried out demonstrations in Real of the application of portable networks 4G in rescue and supervision of critical infrastructures in Buitrago de Lozoya. In both, a LTE Nano backpack has been used that has allowed to deploy in a matter of minutes a network of 4G communications to which a dron has been connected with capacity to transmit video through LTE and several smartphones and tablets with transmission of voice and data. 
In the case of rescue work, the 4G portable backpack has provided coverage of voice and data communications to a rescue group. A dron with an HD camcorder has streamed what was seen during the flight and has transmitted it to the devices of the operations in real time by the 4G provided by the backpack. In this way, for example, the location of a missing person is facilitated and accelerated in places that are not accessible. 
The same service can be provided in the supervision of infrastructures that are difficult to access, both in communications and in any other industrial field, involving tasks of a certain complexity and risk and time consuming. In this case, the use of a 4G dron has been shown for the monitoring of the old satellite communications monitoring antennas of Telef贸nica in Buitrago de Lozoya which, with its 30 meters in diameter and placed more than 40 meters high on a infrastructure of several hundred tons, pose a challenge of supervision because of its complexity and risk when an operator has to perform this task manually. 
The LTE Nano solution has been developed in collaboration with the British company Quortus, which is the technology provider that provides the 4G virtual network software solution capable of operating in such small scale equipment. 
On the other hand, the scenarios of using a dron transmitting video through 4G have been developed in collaboration with Accenture Digital , one of the first companies to collaborate with Telef贸nica in the development of innovative services that operate on 4G portable networks.
Here is a video released alongside with the text above. I wish it had a bit more detail.

See Also:

Thursday, 28 September 2017

Drones, More Drones & Droneway

I have written about Drones and Balloons in the past, mainly to BT/EE. Take for instance this presentation by Mansoor Hanif at TIP Summit and this one on Flying Small Cells. In addition I have also talked about Telefonica's Nano cell, which is a small cell on a drone; Verizon's 'flying cell-site' and AT&T's flying COW.

This week the US operator Sprint announced that they are trialing their Magic boxes on drones. Here is a video on that:

Back in August, IEEE Spectrum ran an article on how Flying Cell Towers Could Aid Search and Rescue. Base stations carried by drones would form an ad hoc network and connect first responders.

Picture Source: IEEE Spectrum

From the IEEE Spectrum article:

An aerial communications system supported by drones could be deployed much faster and operate with minimal interference. In 2013, we started to think about what such a drone-based communications system for public safety agencies might look like. We knew it would need a shared radio-frequency channel for first responders, drone-portable base stations, a power supply, and a digital database for exchanging information. We would also need controllers that would be easy enough for a licensed drone pilot to operate in a crisis.

Our first major challenge was to find a base station small enough for a drone to support. Drones under 25 kilograms—the limit now imposed by U.S. air-safety regulators—can carry a maximum payload of about 2 kg, so we would need a base station that weighed less, even with its battery.

Finally, my search led me to a startup named Virtual Network Communications. This company, based in Chantilly, Va., sells a product called a GreenCell that seemed suitable. It’s a scalable LTE base station, known as a picocell, which is typically used to extend the reach of an existing network but can also generate its own network. The base station contains an E-UTRAN Node B radio with two antennas and a credit-card-size component called a Micro Evolved Packet Core, which uses LTE technology to form an ad hoc network with nearby radios. Then, that local network connects to a nationwide cellular network.

With these components, our GreenCell can support communications for up to 128 users at a time from a distance of up to about 2 kilometers on any LTE frequency. Better yet, it measures just 12.5 by 12.5 centimeters and weighs only 2 kg with its battery, just light enough to be lifted by a drone.

Once we had found a suitable base station, we still needed to find a suitable drone. Ideally, it would be affordable and be capable of flying for 10 to 12 hours before needing a recharge. Unfortunately, no such drone exists today. Most commercial drones can stay aloft for fewer than 45 minutes.

After some research, I found a company named CyPhy Works, which has developed a drone powered through a 150-meter cord that extends up from a grid or generator. Technically, this drone could stay in the air for as long as it had access to a power supply on the ground. But in a disaster scenario, it would have to be tethered to a van loaded with a generator and fuel. That would limit it to serving the same road-accessible places to which mobile units already travel. Another drawback: The drone’s tether restricts its mobility once it’s in the air. We wanted to be able to reconfigure our network in an instant.

We briefly considered using balloons instead of drones, but we discovered through trial and error that balloons are difficult to reposition and hold in place, especially during high winds.

We decided instead to use the AR200 drone from AirRobot, a company based in Arnsberg, Germany. The AR200 has six rotors that allow it to hover more steadily than the usual four. And because the AirRobot drone is battery powered, it can zoom off to any location.

In summer, Qualcomm unveiled [PDF report] the results of a months-long drone trial program, which found LTE networks today already provide the aerial connectivity necessary to support commercial unmanned aerial vehicle deployments. But the tech giant noted some network optimizations will be necessary to take drone deployments to new heights. As per their blog post:

During the field trial, approximately 1,000 flights were performed to collect datasets that were post processed and analyzed. We also performed simulations to complement field trial results by allowing study of performance tradeoffs when the network is serving many mobile devices and LTE-connected drones simultaneously over a wide area. Simulations also enabled rapid testing of parameter and feature changes that are more difficult to study in a commercial network.

The field trial demonstrated that LTE networks can support safe drone operation in real-world environments. Our findings showed that existing commercial cellular networks can provide coverage to drones at low altitudes up to 400 feet AGL. Our test drones also showed seamless handovers between different base stations during flights. Below is a glimpse of these findings.

According to Mobile World Live,

The head of AT&T’s Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) business development team said the operator is working with regulatory authorities and standards organisations to “unlock” the potential of drones.

Speaking with Mobile World Live, Greg Belaus said many tests of drones on cellular networks so far have been conducted at a height of 400 feet. In the US, Belaus explained that airspace is governed by the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Part 107 rules. Belaus said “a lot of work” on drones right now is focused on what needs to be done to open that area for drone services.

There is an interesting AT&T Flying COW presentation on Youtube for anyone interested, here.

Finally, looks like "Droneway" may be becoming a reality soon. As one of the partners involved in the project, I may not be at a liberty to say much but this photo of the article below (click to expand) provides an idea 馃槉

*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.

Sunday, 24 September 2017

Connecting Cambridge University using Wi-Fi

Came across this post from Airheads about the challenges of connecting the 800-year-old Cambridge University with Wi-Fi. I have spent a lot of time in Cambridge working with Cambridge Wireless and attending fantastic events organised by them so I have seen some of these challenges first hand. To quote from the post:
Providing services to such a prestigious institution is a real privilege but can also be daunting.  At Cambridge, the whole City is the campus as University Departments and Colleges span the City. Networking on such a distributed scale is a challenge; we have to take both the narrow and wider view at the same time. 25 years ago, the University had the foresight to begin deploying a pan-city fibre optic network, the Granta Backbone Network, to connect the hundreds of University buildings together. Today this encompasses 60 km of multicore fibre over which we run a core and distribution router network. Therefore, as all our buildings are networked together, you would think that deploying Wi-Fi on the back of that must be easy. That could not be further from the truth, as hinted at already, Cambridge is far from simple.

The most basic thing you do for a wireless deployment is a Wi-Fi survey. Here at Cambridge, we have a myriad of buildings of all shapes, sizes and types. For example, we have buildings that are eight hundred years old right through to modern structures. The construction of these buildings is amazingly diverse, from metre thick stone walls to concrete monoliths right through to simple buildings made up of modern partition walls. The latter sounds simple until you come across that surprise hefty wall with four layers of unexpected insulation or a signal killing chimney hidden in the wall. We also have constructions as varied as residential buildings, (that can also act as hotels out of term), office blocks, state of the art laboratories, lecture theatres and seminar rooms, libraries and warehouses. This means that the University Wireless Team have their work cut out surveying each of these unique environments while trying to get ubiquitous Wi-Fi into all areas. We estimate that if we surveyed each building end to end, it would take more than five years.
You can read the complete post here. Below is a video that shows some of these challenges.

Friday, 22 September 2017

Is small-cell thinking changing the face of remote and rural coverage?

Its been a few months since this Cambridge Wireless (CW) seminar on 'Is small-cell thinking changing the face of remote and rural coverage?'. David Chambers (ThinkSmallCell) has written a post summarising the event here but I thought it would be worth bringing this event to people's attention.

The presentations from this event are available here. There was a talk on how Nokia Kuha are being installed on Isle of Lewis in Scotland. I have written about them earlier here.

IP.Access talked about their rural deployment in Peru. To quote thinksmallcell article:
For the most remote areas, ip.access gave an extreme example from Peru where it took two days just to reach the site. Again the financial figures look small but can still be profitable. Where a macrocell might serve 1000-2000 users, a remote small cell might serve 100. In this example, a village with 300 people attracted 91 users with an ARPU of $11 generating $12,000 per annum. 
This was an EU funded research project called TUCAN3G. There are more details about it on the project website.
Real Wireless talked about the whitepaper they did for Small Cell Forum. It makes an interesting reading.

Finally, Ayan Ghosh from BT talked about Airmasts. I have covered this in detail here.

With regards to the IP.Access Peru story where remote users did generate a lot of revenue for the operator, I know the same applies to UK. From my travels looking at rural coverage I have seen that the users in rural community make full use of whatever capacity is made available to them. I posted an interview that I am posting again below.

Related links: