Thursday, 10 May 2018

Telstra continues Small Cells rollouts as part of Mobile Black Spots Program

Back in February, Telstra announced that they had turned on the 300th site as part of Federal Government’s Mobile Black Spots Program. The announcement said:

With hundreds of new base stations, small cells and site upgrades built over the last 6 months or scheduled around the country during the next 6 months, this financial year (FY18) is shaping up as a big year for expanding mobile coverage for regional Australia.

Then in March, it installed 4G small cells at 50 sites across the Melbourne CBD as part of a national three-year rollout of 1000 cells intended to boost capacity. As per RCR Wireless, Telstra’s small cell program stipulates the deployment of 1,000 small cells in metro and regional locations within the next three years. Some of these areas include Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth.

Finally, another announcement in March indicated that Telstra is trialing small cells on Tasmania’s power poles to fix mobile black spots. As per this announcement:

We have announced we will trial the installation of small cell mobile technology on TasNetworks‘ electricity distribution infrastructure to help fill some of Tasmania’s mobile black spots.

The small cells trial will begin with a single site in the Weldborough area, where a small cell installed on TasNetworks infrastructure will provide new mobile voice and broadband coverage.

With the construction of a standard mobile base station typically costing several hundreds of thousands of dollars, small cells may allow us to deliver mobile coverage and capacity to smaller communities and areas where the construction of a mobile base station would otherwise be uneconomical.

The trial will test the feasibility of using existing TasNetwork power poles to improve mobile coverage in parts of Tasmania.

Related posts:

Sunday, 6 May 2018

Introductory 'Urban Small Cells' Video by Kathrein

Found a nice short introductory video on Urban Small Cells video by Kathrein. Its a topic discussed many times but I know of people asking for more info. Here it is:

Related Posts:

Sunday, 29 April 2018

Ericsson's 5G Radio Dot coming in 2019

One of the top 5 posts on this blog last year was one about Ericsson's Radio Dot so I thought its about time I write one about their 5G Radio Dot systems. If you have seen my tutorial on Macrocells & Small Cells, you will know that I don't necessarily agree that these are small cells but anyway lets leave that aside. Lets start with the slides that Ericsson shared:

While I wasn't allowed into any of the big vendors stands at MWC, it was good to see that all of them had put their MWC videos, demos, etc. online. See here. Good to see that Evan Kirstel managed to get us a nice picture of the Radio Dot.

Ericsson also has a page dedicated to Radio Dot here. The Facebook live video of the product below.

Finally, here is a short and sweet article from TMN magazine on this topic. Here is a short extract:

Ericsson has said that it will have a 5G compatible version of its Radio Dot System by 2019.

The company today “introduced” the 5G Radio Dot – a new line of its DAS-lite small cells. The new access points will be able to offer 2Gbps speeds, and will add band support across the 3-6GHz range that are targeted as a pioneer 5G band.
TMN : When is the expected actual release date (GA) for the 5G Dot?

Ljungberg: In line with general introduction of the 5G technology in the market in 2019.

This sort of gap between launch announcement and actual availability mirrors the original launch of the Radio Dot, which saw a 14 month gap between introduction and availability.

We will see it being rolled out next year.

Saturday, 14 April 2018

NTT Docomo's Underground LTE Small Cells with possibility to deploy 5G in future

NTT Docomo has announced that they have developed a prototype of manhole type base station for the first time in Japan. They will be used in locations where there is no other infrastructure available in vicinity to host base stations. The antenna is installed at a depth of 10 cm under the ground, with a fiber connection to the radio equipment and the power supply are drawn from the ground by the underground buried piping. The service area is about 90 m radius. 

Based on this, I am not sure if this is a complete small cell or just a remote radio head. I am inclined to think that this is a complete base station as its a standard LTE base station as per the specifications.

Manhole type base station specification (Sapporo verification station)
frequency1.5 GHz band (BAND 21)
Bandwidth15 MHz
MIMO compatible2 × 2 MIMO
Downlink modulation scheme256 QAM
Maximum ThroughputDL: 150 Mbps / UL: 37.5 Mbps
Size (buried part)70 cm × 70 cm × 70 cm
Device sizeAbout 29 cm × about 17 cm × about 7.5 cm
weightApproximately 15 kg
Specification of manhole cover (Sapporo Verification Bureau)
sizeDiameter 64.8 cm · thickness 5 cm
weightApproximately 27 kg
Load bearing capacity25 tons

The output power is not specified but base stations can easily fit within 15 kgs.

I have written about underground small cell here and here, which was about Swisscom, Ericsson & Kathrein trying it in Switzerland. I have also written about how the Japanese operator KDDI is trying to cover similar locations using lamp posts here. Its good to see Docomo trying something new.

As per the announcement, DoCoMo will work to improve the communication environment to areas where it was difficult to establish a base station, aiming for full-scale operation within the year 2018, and will continue to consider the application of future technologies to 5G in parallel.

From what I have heard, some antenna manufacturers are working on trying to convert the manhole cover in to an antenna. Its going to be a big challenge though.

Related Posts:

Sunday, 8 April 2018

Satellite Broadband for connecting Africa?

Came across this presentation by Avanti as part of iDate Digiworld Institute breakfast briefing. It again highlights the importance of satellite broadband as it can provide high speed connectivity regardless of the location.

This video on Project iMlango below shows what is being mentioned in the slides above

If interested, download the slides from techUK page here.

Tuesday, 20 March 2018

CrowdCell heads for TIP

Recently I wrote about Facebook's Telecom Infra Project (TIP) here. The following is from a recent announcement coinciding with MWC:

In our existing project groups, there are numerous TIP technologies that are moving from the lab stage to field and production trials. Each trial has operator sponsorship and includes key members of our technology ecosystem. Together, these TIP teams are working to validate technologies, share learnings, and accelerate toward commercialization at scale. Simultaneously, TIP members are contributing designs and specifications for new technologies and building new network tools.

Our TIP community is also growing and expanding in scope to address new challenges. Over the last month, TIP has added three new project groups and subgroups: Crowd Cell, Power and Connectivity, and Disaggregated Cell Site Gateways. At MWC, we are also announcing a new TIP community lab near BT’s Adastral Park campus in the UK and more than €100 million in venture capital funding available for infrastructure-focused startups participating in the TIP Ecosystem Acceleration Center (TEAC) in Germany.

In addition, we are excited to welcome some of TIP’s newest members: China Unicom, Sprint, and Telenor. They join more than 500 companies around the world that are active within TIP.

Crowd Cell is a new project group led by Vodafone. Crowd Cell is a concept based on relay architecture to help extend the range of existing cellular networks. Due to its plug-and-play design, Crowd Cell can be a rapid and low-cost small cell solution for traditional 4G networks. This project will focus on creating a Crowd Cell by leveraging generic hardware and open source designs for software to minimize costs through this “one design” flexible platform.

I blogged about the CrowdCell concept back in 2016 here. Then there were updates on the CrowdCell at MWC 2017 which I blogged here. This year, as the TIP announcement says, Vodafone is taking the CrowdCell to Telecom Infra Project. The following is from Vodafone's announcement:

Vodafone is developing new technologies designed to enable the cost-effective deployment of base stations in currently unconnected areas of Africa and India. The deployment will be supported by Vodafone’s new Open RAN technology and Facebook’s OpenCellular wireless access platform, which were developed within the Telecom Infra Project (TIP).

Open RAN technology significantly reduces the costs of rolling out networks in rural areas, fundamentally improving the economics of providing data and voice services to millions of unconnected people.  This new approach is expected to reduce the cost of radio network equipment by up to a third.

Vodafone also believes Open RAN technology will jump-start the establishment of an end-to-end industry of software and hardware vendors and integrators that will drive innovation, which is critical for achieving such a complex endeavour.

Picture Source: Michael Thelen

Vodafone has already conducted successful trials in India with two new vendors that have developed bespoke high-power base stations using software-defined radio and general purpose hardware based on Vodafone’s specifications and support. Wider scale trials are planned for later in 2018 where up to 200 sites will be equipped with the new technology. Tests are also currently ongoing in South Africa with TIP´s OpenCellular platform for 2G and 4G services.

This OpenCellular technology is being showcased at Vodafone’s booth at Mobile World Congress 2018.

Vodafone joined the TIP board in November 2017 and is a founding member and co-chair of TIP’s Open RAN project group, which aims to develop fully programmable RAN solutions based on general purpose processing hardware and disaggregated software. TIP is an engineering-focused initiative driven by operators, suppliers, integrators and startups to disaggregate the traditional network deployment approach.

The acceleration and expansion of this collaborative trend – embodied by TIP – will lead to significant change in the telecom industry and provide the ability to connect millions of people in rural communities for the first time.

Other TIP initiatives in which Vodafone is playing a major role include:
  • Vodafone is leading a TIP working group to develop a new, open version of CrowdCell. The award-winning CrowdCell technology – developed by Vodafone’s Networks Centre of Excellence in Madrid – makes networks more “localised” to deliver faster download speeds and enhance the network’s reliability. For more information:
  • Beyond radio, Vodafone and TIP are working together with Cumulus, Zeetta Networks and the University of Bristol’s High Performance Networks Group on evolving Voyager, the industry’s first white-box transponder and routing solution. Vodafone will demonstrate Voyager’s capabilities in a trial in April.
  • Vodafone is also founding a new TIP sub-group within the Open Optical & Packet Transport project group focused on transport on disaggregated cell site gateways. Similar to the gateways in radio, these would reduce the current vendor lock-in that operators face in transport networks. Cell site gateways will be also based on off-the-shelf hardware, open software and interfaces on a technology agnostic platform.

Here is a slide deck that I prepared and shared on 3G4G blog here. The part embedded below starts from Vodafone section.

Happy to hear your views on TIP or Vodafone's CrowdCell announcement. Please add them as comments.

Saturday, 10 March 2018

Some pictures of Small Cells from California (USA)

I came across them on various LinkedIn/Twitter posts

Two Small Cells on adjacent light poles in SF (signs used to somewhat shroud mRRU) - Source: Omar Masry

The comment mentions that One is Verizon. Other is likely ATT
I would argue that if this is an RRU (Remote Radio Unit) then its probably not a small cell but let's leave that one for another day.

Small Cell. Financial District. San Francisco - Source: Omar Masry

Comment mentions: Either T-Mobile or Verizon.  Likely done by Modus. Might be worth checking out this earlier post here too.

The next one is from Steve Blum's Blog of T-Mobile Small cell in Gage Canal, Riverside, California

The final one is from Santa Rosa, California. From a PressDemocrat article titled 'New Verizon antennas generate unwelcome buzz in Santa Rosa'

From the article (more pictures of this installation in the article):
A city-sanctioned bid to improve wireless connectivity for internet and cellphone users in Santa Rosa has run into opposition from some residents and generated concern among city officials after the first round of “small-cell” antennas went up on utility poles in recent weeks. 
The equipment — including large metal in-ground utility boxes about 5 feet tall — varies greatly in design from anything the city was previously shown by Verizon, the wireless provider installing the antennas, said Eric McHenry, director of Santa Rosa’s Information Technology Department. 
While the city had no role in the equipment design, Santa Rosa officials went through a significant amount of back-and-forth with representatives of the wireless carrier on what the units would look like on city-owned streetlights, McHenry said. Officials took pains to make sure the antennas would be as unobtrusive as possible, he said. 
“We frankly as a city were also surprised by what these first ones looked like,” he said, referring to the units Verizon is installing on utility poles. “They look nothing like what we had discussed with Verizon for our city streetlights or even the pictures that we shared with the council (of the installations) on wooden poles.”
Definitely a scope for improvement out there.

Related Article:

Sunday, 4 March 2018

Small Cells Market Update from February 2018

Small Cell Forum recently released the updated 'Small cells market status report February 2018'. It contains the latest SCF market status update, which is based on operator surveys, modelling and forecasts, completed between November 2017 and February 2018. A total of 105 operators’ deployment plans were surveyed or modelled. The forecasts now include the first phases of 5G small cell deployment. SCF members can access the full data set associated with this report from the Resources folder on the member website.

The report confirms the continuing growth of small cells in non-residential scenarios – notably urban and enterprise sectors – and sees 5G, virtualization and densification playing a strong role in that growth. It also highlights the significance of ensuring simple, scalable and repeatable deployment processes. SCF is working with regulators globally to make this happen.

Key findings include:
  • The installed base of small cells to reach 70.2m in 2025.
  • Densification initially led by APAC and North America, with Europe lagging as it works to address commercial, technical and regulatory barriers.
  • Massive annual growth (36%) in the rate of new non-residential deployments of small cells, led by urban and enterprise small cells, between 2015 and 2025
  • 5G cell deployments overtaking 4G by 2024. The total installed base of 5G or multimode small cells in 2025 is predicted to be 13.1m, over one-third of the total in use.
  • A stronger emphasis on virtualization, notably for 5G and multimode 4G/5G small cells. Virtualized systems will grow at a CAGR of 52% to reach 57% of the total in 2025.
  • The vast majority of new deployments to be in dense or hyperdense environments by 2025.
  • C-Band and high frequency bands to be the most important bands for 5G small cells. 
  • Strong support from operators for the deployment of 5G small cells as their 5G capacity layer where LTE remains the coverage layer.

Here is a small video from SCF in the recently concluded Mobile World Congress (MWC18)

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.

MEET ME AT MWC 2018 - Click here to schedule a visit to booth or to meet me there.

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.