Tuesday, 11 December 2018

Small Cells in BT Phone Boxes

Picture Source: Andy Sutton

In a news announcement yesterday, Vodafone said that they are planning to install 4G and 5G equipment to the underside of thousands of manhole covers across Britain to boost connection speeds in the busiest urban areas and meet the public’s insatiable demand for mobile data.

According to the report, Vodafone, which has hundreds of thousands of Cable & Wireless-branded manholes as part of its network, has developed the subterranean plan alongside Swedish telecoms equipment group Ericsson. The system is known internally as The Vault.

Attaching antenna equipment to the base of a manhole cover can boost the signal across a 200-metre radius, according to Vodafone, and could be critical in supporting future “smart city” technologies such as connected traffic lights. Installation does not require planning permission, which speeds up network build.

Vodafone and Ericsson have developed two types of system. One attaches equipment to the base of existing Victorian-era cast iron manhole covers. Another is a bespoke reinforced unit the size of a water butt that is sunk into the ground underneath a purpose-built cover.

We have blogged about Small cells infrastructure underground and in manhole covers. The following posts are related to that:
Phone boxes, which are connected to the power supply, are a useful tool to boost demand on high streets and in rural areas. Vodafone has signed a deal with BT’s wholesale division to install 4G antennas in phone boxes, and has kitted out one on Edinburgh’s Princes Street to improve coverage in time for the Hogmanay celebrations on New Year’s Eve.

The picture on the top from Andy Sutton is from Small Cells World Summit back in may. He says, "New life for old kiosks, KX100+ accommodating a 4G LTE small cell for enhancing mobile area capacity density"


ThinkSmallCell has a nice picture of the top of the KX100+ phone booth. In it's report on the Small Cells World Summit 2018, David Chambers says the following:

BT had the largest demo with a full size telephone box equipped with a small cell hidden in the roof space. Although only one Nokia small cell was fitted, the unit could accommodate several from different network operators. Each site is backhaul with either 100Mbps or 1Gbps managed Ethernet and transmits above head height using an omnidirectional antenna. It would seem we will shortly be making phone calls from telephone boxes again, just without realising it.

It would be interesting to see some more of these old phone boxes converted into small cell towers.

See also:
Here is a tweet containing picture of Ericsson's vault radio system for anyone interested:

Monday, 3 December 2018

Turin will be the first European city with a 'drone ready' 5G network


Last year I blogged about how TIM wants Turin to be the first 5G city in Italy. Since then I have also blogged about how TIM has rolled out "commercial" 5G across the whole of San Marino.

Turin (Torino) will be the first European city with a 'drone ready' network, thanks to the use of TIM's 5G technology. Last month measurement activities of the aerial coverage at high altitude was done in Piazza Vittorio Veneto and at the Parco del Valentino and Parco Dora. "The municipality of Turin will use the drones for security and we will experiment with the municipal police remotely piloted aircraft to control some areas most at risk of safety", explains Paola Pisano, councilor for innovation of the municipality of Turin. "Do not call it Big Brother, the goal is to support men in uniform operating on the territory" he continued. via La Repubblica (translated from Italian via Google translate)

The photos above are available on TIM Newsroom Flickr channel here.

According to Mobile World Live:

Telecom Italia and its partners flew remotely piloted aircrafts using 5G to measure mobile coverage in Turin in Italy, which the operator claimed will make the city the first in Europe with a drone-ready network.

The trial was coordinated with the support of the Turin Polytechnic University and enterprise drones solution provider Seikey.

Public safety, critical infrastructure monitoring and land protection are some examples TIM gave of drone applications that will benefit from a high quality connection to send data and videos in real time.

As can be seen in one of the pictures, the equipment used for measurements is PCTEL’s flagship IBflex® scanning receiver for sub-6 GHz bands that was announced at MWC Americas 2018. Here is a tweet from them with embedded video.

If for some reason you can't see the video, the direct link to YouTube video is here.

Wednesday, 7 November 2018

MTN sees future in 3G

I blogged about MTN last year after their presentation at Facebook's TIP Summit. This year again, another MTN Group executive, Babak Fouladi, Technology and Information System (Group CTIO) at MTN delivered an insightful talk. I have my summary below with video embedded at the end.


MTN has 223 million subscribers. Out of that only 72 million are data users, the rest are primarily voice users. The problem with that is their monthly spend is very low.


The typical entry and emerging segment customers in rural areas spend 30% of their incomes on food and often have limited access to reliable basic services. Its very tricky to convert these users to use high amount of data or any data at all in many cases.

5 Challenges known as CHASE need to be overcome to reach the volume segment. These are:

  • Coverage: Data Coverage is insufficient in rural or low income areas and costly
  • Handsets: Limited affordability and access to data enabled devices
  • Affordability: Data services are unaffordable in some markets
  • Service Bundling: Bundling and selling of data are unnecessarily complex and not regionally relevant
  • Education: Lack of digital literacy & awareness of the potential of broadband content

To overcome these challenges, a dual data strategy is needed. Newer technologies, ultra high speed & superior customer experience for high value segment. Ubiquitous low cost data coverage for volume segment.
There are many rural coverage barriers. These practical challenges hinder the rollout. The main being that there is no infrastructure in place, the roads are inaccessible, there is no power, the security is poor, etc.
To solve the challenges due to rural coverage barriers, MTN has defined three solution categories for rural:

  1. Rural Site - 50 to 100 km from urban
  2. Ultra Rural Site - Very low population densities locations
  3. Ultra-ultra Rural Site - Very small remote villages

MTN are already doing field trials with AMN and Huawei. With Huawei, they are using the RuralStar (see earlier post here). Other vendors listed above are working with them in the labs and will be trialed for Ultra and Ultra-ultra rural sites.

Their main motivation for working with Facebook and TIP is to find affordable solutions for Ultra and Ultra-ultra rural locations. There is a large scale trial happening soon in 2 countries, 120 sites in total.
One of the challenges in African market is that the average lifespan of handset is 7 years. What this means is that many people still on 2G today will be migrating to 3G in near future. As a result, 3G will be the most dominant technology in Africa in 2025.

While most operators and vendors are focusing on 4G and 5G, there is still going to be a big market for 2G and 3G in 2025. These users cannot be ignored and the operator that serves them well will eventually be the winner.



Further Reading:

Wednesday, 31 October 2018

BSNL bringing 'Smart Telecom Poles' to India with help of Nokia


BSNL is committed towards driving the connectivity agenda. This is why its selected Nokia for smart pole deployment across India.

According to Nokia press release:

Nokia has been selected by Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) to support the transformation of India's cities through intelligent infrastructure. Nokia will supply, install, commission and maintain the Smart Telecom Poles across India in all of BSNL's telecom circles. Under the contract, Nokia will also integrate the poles with smart LED lighting systems, CCTV cameras, digital billboards and environmental sensors that provide strong revenue generation potential for the operator. The smart pole has been designed for emerging markets and built in India based on Nokia's global services expertise.

The Indian urban landscape is evolving, with government and city administrations gearing up to ensure the safety and security of citizens and provide them a better quality of life. BSNL, in line with the Indian government's Smart Cities Mission, is exploring and taking the lead to digitalize cities.

With its Smart Telecom Pole and services expertise, Nokia will help BSNL provide access to mobile connectivity and smart solutions for citizens while ensuring the poles meet the aesthetic and spatial needs in modern cities. Nokia will optimize the telecom infrastructure to provide a shared, secure and scalable platform that ensures the best use of urban resources and prepares BSNL for the needs of new technologies such as IoT and 5G.

The pole can be adapted to diverse geographical environments and climate conditions. It also houses a custom-designed power backup solution to provide continuity of services during power outages.

Back in June, BSNL issued a tender for supply, implementation and maintenance of smart pole with smart light, environmental sensor, advertisement panel, and surveillance camera for smart city. There is no direct link but can easily be found via search. Here were some of the requirements they were looking for.


Finally, I noticed the following picture being used by some websites (example) along with the announcement.

I am not sure if this is Nokia pole. This looks like the 'Multi Utility Pole' from Vizag (Visakhapatnam) smart city project.
Will share more info when available.

Related posts:

Wednesday, 3 October 2018

Optus 'Satellite Small Cell in a Container' wins another award


Optus has won the Satellite Provider of the Year award at Communications Alliance’s 2018 ACOMM Awards dinner.

Optus received the distinguished award for its Satellite Small Cell in a Container. Optus designed the standalone, autonomously-powered solution to extend the Optus mobile network, using Optus' satellite backhaul service, into remote regional and rural sites where other telecommunications facilities, infrastructure and power are unavailable.

Nick Leake, Acting Head of Satellite Networks, said Optus is committed to decreasing the digital divide in geographically challenging locations.

“We are investing significantly in regional and remote areas across Australia. Our Satellite Small Cell in a Container is a fantastic example of how Optus continues to innovate our satellite solutions to provide resilient mobile connectivity to communities in geographically challenging locations.”

Optus was the first in Australia to deliver satellite small cells, enabling 3G mobile coverage and extending the Optus mobile network into remote, rural and regional locations using Optus’ satellite backhaul service.

Mataranka National Park in the Northern Territory was the first site to benefit from the Satellite Small Cell in a Container, with ten additional sites in the Northern Territory, South Australia and Western Australia currently being built, tested and rolled out.

I blogged about the Australian mobile notspots program earlier here and Parallel Wireless CWS Radios helping Optus connect Australian outback via satellite here. This Optus deployment won Small Cell Forum award in 'Excellence in Commercial Deployment of Rural/Remote Small Cells' category in 2017 along with Parallel Wireless for their CWS & Gilat for satellite backhaul.


Further Reading:

Saturday, 29 September 2018

Vodafone Australia trialing regional coverage hub (small cell) with Nokia


Vodafone Australia has unveiled its new technology for helping improve mobile signal for voice, data, and Internet of Things (IoT) in regional areas, with its Vodafone Regional Coverage Hub. The Hub is a simple, self-install, small cells solution. It relies on ethernet backhaul for connectivity with the operator network.

ZDNet reports that this has been developed in partnership with Nokia. Nokia has a similar solution called Kuha that they have trialed in UK.

Vodafone press release mentions that this hub was able to provide coverage for 8 sq. km., which is roughly 1.5 km radius. Its a low power solution so coverage area would be restricted. The small cell is providing 4G and NB-IoT coverage.

Its interesting to note that as this is 4G only, older 4G devices and devices that do not support VoLTE will not work on this small cell. 

Saturday, 22 September 2018

AT&T's Small Base Stations on Wooden Poles

We blogged about Sprint's outdoor small cells in pictures last month, not we just heard about AT&T's small cells on wooden poles.


Here are some of the pictures courtesy of Michael Marcus:







Related posts:

Sunday, 16 September 2018

Patients to get free Wi-Fi as UK National Health Service (NHS) turns 70


The UK National Health Service (NHS) turned 70 on 5 July 2018. To celebrate this they have also created a dedicated website here.


Back in June, Dean Bubley tweeted about NHS's WiFi Journey from Small Cells World Summit 2018. By December 2018, Full Wi-Fi rollout in secondary care will be completed.

NHS Digital explains the following:

NHS Digital is working to make sure that everyone can access free WiFi in NHS sites in England. NHS WiFi will provide a secure, stable, and reliable WiFi capability, consistent across all NHS settings. It will allow patients and the public to download health apps, browse the internet and access health and care information.

Local Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) and NHS trusts are responsible for choosing a supplier that can provide an NHS WiFi compliant system which suits their needs, and working with them to implement it across their local NHS sites. The chosen system must be based on a set of policies and guidance defined by NHS Digital.

This is the latest update from David Corbett, NHS WiFi Programme Head


Make sure to follow David to keep up to date on this subject.

Sunday, 9 September 2018

Hong Kong gets LAA via SmarTone Small Cells

According to Mobile World Live:

SmarTone, the smallest mobile operator in Hong Kong, said it installed small cells using licensed assisted access (LAA) technology in a number of congested areas in the territory and plans to extend the rollout to additional locations.

The operator, with a 17 per cent market share by subscribers, said its LTE network now makes use of both licensed and unlicensed spectrum as well as five-carrier aggregation to reach theoretical peak download speeds of 1Gb/s.

The LAA small cells were deployed in Central, Causeway Bay, Tsim Sha Tsui, Mong Kok and Shatin districts. By installing LAA small cells in strategic locations, the operator said its network can absorb traffic surges during festive and special events.

In June Hong Kong’s regulator allocated additional spectrum for the provision of public mobile services, a move it said would put the market at the forefront of adoption of advanced technologies including LAA. The Communications Authority officially allocated 580MHz of spectrum in the 5GHz band.

I have written about LAA on the 3G4G blog here. I have also expressed doubts here with increasing densification where Wi-Fi and Mobile signals will have to compete to deliver best end-user experience.

Disruptive Asia mentions that Ericsson is the vendor. Ericsson conducted trials with SmarTone last year, more details available on Ericsson's website here. As per Disruptive Asia:

The Ericsson LAA technology deployed by SmarTone combines licensed and unlicensed LTE carriers with 5CC carrier aggregation, 4×4 MIMO and 256 QAM to enable gigabit level speeds (at least theoretically – real-world speeds are likely to be around half of that, although that’s still way faster than current LTE speeds).

One catch with LAA is that it requires customers to use an LAA-compatible smartphone to take advantage of the faster throughput speeds – and there aren’t very many of those at the moment. According to the latest report from the GSA (July 2018), commercially available handsets supporting LAA include the Samsung Galaxy S8, Note 8 and S9, Sony’s Xperia XZ Premium and Xperia XZ1, HTC’s U11, LG’s V30 and V30+, and ZTE’s Nubia Z17.

One reason there aren’t many handsets is that the LAA ecosystem is still in its infancy, and few operators have commercially launched LAA – in fact, SmarTone is only the fifth cellco in the world to do so. Meanwhile, the GSA counts just 22 LAA trials and deployments in progress.

Test report on Licensed Assisted Access (LAA) using the unlicensed 5 GHz band by SmarTone Mobile Communications Limited is available on Hong Kong's Office of the Communications Authority website. See September 2018 report here and January 2018 report here.

HTCL (Hutchison Telephone Company Limited) also known as Three Hong Kong is also looking at LAA and is doing its own testing. Test report from The Communications Authority website is available here.

Related Posts:



Tuesday, 7 August 2018

Sprint's Outdoor Small Cells - In Pictures


Sprint has been deploying outdoor small cell with more than 15,000 already deployed. This is not as aggressive as T-Mobile that plans to deploy 25,000 just this year but Sprint is also deploying MagicBox, its indoor small cells. According to Sprint newsroom, more than 260,000 magic boxes have been distributed to date. In fact they are so popular that the hospitality edition was released last month.


In this post, I am going to post some tweets with pictures of Sprint's outdoor small cells:










It should be pointed out that in USA, the definition of Small Cells is often fuzzy. While we refer to small cells as complete base stations, out there small cells can also mean small form factor RRH/RRU. Some of these small cells will have BBU hidden away. For more details see our tutorial on small cells and macrocells here.