Friday, 11 January 2019

Dense Air: The Neutral Host Small Cell Wholesale Network Operator


Dense Air was launched at MWC 2018 as a new wholesale network operator, that “enhances and extends” the coverage and capacity of existing Mobile Networks as a “Carrier of Carriers” operator, typically on a neutral host basis.

According to the announcement:

Dense Air uses Airspan’s comprehensive portfolio set of 4G and 5G small cells to offer services to Mobile Operators in licensed spectrum dedicated to small cells for densification/extension deployments.

According to Paul Senior, Acting CEO of Dense Air, “By adding small cells, running in dedicated licensed spectrum to Macro networks at cell edge either outdoors or indoors, we can dramatically improve the service experience to end users, increase speeds and network capacity. Importantly, Dense Air does not and will not offer retail mobile services and does not compete in any way with mobile service providers.”

“The economics of both 4G and 5G small cell deployments can be dramatically improved when deployed using a neutral host solution, i.e. when a single network of small cells can host multiple operators. Our mission is to help MNOs and MVNOs improve their networks by densification without the need to spend CAPEX”.

Interested readers can refer to earlier posts about Airspan's Magic Box and their deployment in Reliance Jio.

According to the website, Dense Air now has spectrum in following countries:
  • Dense Air Ireland: Operating in 3.6GHz (Band 42 & 43)
  • Dense Air Belgium: Operating in 2.6GHz (Band 38)
  • Dense Air Portugal: Operating in 3.6GHz (Band 42 & 43)
  • Dense Air New Zealand: Operating in 2.6GHz (Band 7 & 41)
  • Dense Air Australia: Operating in 3.6GHz (3GPP Band n77 & n78)

Their most recent win has been the spectrum win in the six largest Australian cities, by participating in the ACMA 5G Spectrum Auction. The acquired spectrum supports 5G operation in 3GPP bands n77/n78.

So what exactly is Dense Air and what do they do? As per their launch press release:

Dense Air is an optimised network densification and network extension service.
  • Solution delivered using Indoor and Outdoor Small Cells
  • Service operates in licensed, dedicated spectrum
  • Dense Air small cells provide services on a “Neutral Host” basis
  • We support 4G LTE and LTE Pro networks and later 5G NR
  • Dense Air fills coverage holes and capacity weak spots in Macro Networks
  • Services are offered on a wholesale “Carrier of Carriers” basis to Mobile Network Operators
  • We DO NOT compete with Mobile Operators or other Service Providers
  • Our services are delivered in Urban, Suburban or Rural areas
  • The focus is on mobile use cases, including eMBB, IoT, Public Safety
  • We also enable Private LTE Networks for Large Enterprises and Governments

A presentation by Paul Senior at UK Spectrum Policy Forum meeting last year is embedded below and can be downloaded from techUK website here:




Saturday, 22 December 2018

ETRI working on Small Cell Base Station in a Backpack and 5G Indoor Femtocells


Came across this slightly old news in March issue of ETRI Webzine:

Following the development of the LTE small-cell base station SW in 2016, ETRI announced on February 7 that it successfully developed a SW supporting LTE-TDD dual connectivity.

These technologies are evaluated as core technologies for future 5G communication through upgrading of conventional SW technologies, since they may be applied to buildings, stadiums, and homes.

The technologies are suitable for the locations where the traffic is rapidly increased, such as stadiums, department stores, disaster-stricken areas, and military camps. The small cells may be attached, like a wireless LAN AP, to walls inside and outside buildings, utility poles, and communication antennas, or may be carried in the form of a backpack. The research team explained that the size of the small-cell was minimized as the size of a wireless LAN AP for indoor purposes and as the size of a shoe box for outdoor purposes. The small-cell backpack weighs about 10 kg.

These accomplishments will remove the communication shadows and blind spots between cells, and will help to develop independent technologies by replacing the conventional products from other countries.

In a more recent news on this topic (September 2018):

Following the successful localization of software for LTE Small Cell, which is used in the same manner as wireless access points operating within tens of meters to 1 km, while serving as a small base station, ETRI researchers began research to localize small cell equipment essential to establishing 5G infrastructure going forward. The focus of the research is on the development of technology capable of increasing the maximum transmission speed (eMBB), which is one of the most critical criteria for 5G technology, and especially the perceived transmission speed on the user side.


According to Yonhap News (translated by Google translate):

SK Telecom will be participating in 'Intelligent 5G Small Cell Technology Development Task' together with Korea Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute (ETRI), domestic wireless communication equipment company Teltel and U Cast. The project is sponsored by the Ministry of Science, Technology and Information and is organized by ETRI.

In this project, SK Telecom sets up requirements for small cell system development. In addition, ETRI and equipment companies provide a test environment for small cell equipment verification. ETRI develops software, and Contela and Yu Cast develop hardware.

SK Telecom and other collaborative research groups plan to open API (application programming interface) to small cell. This reduces the burden of SMEs and start-ups to develop their own interfaces.

SK Telecom and ETRI are planning to develop international standard technology and secure original patents in the small cell field based on research results.

SK Telecom announced on February 23 that it will participate in 'Intelligent 5G Small Cell Technology Development Task' together with Korea Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute (ETRI), Kontela and U Cast of domestic wireless communication equipment. A joint research team is taking a commemorative photo in front of the first workshop at Daejeon ETRI fusion technology research and production center. 2018.8.23

SK Telecom Park Jong-kwan, director of Network Technology, said, "In the 5G era, 80% of total traffic will occur indoors." "We will take the lead in 5G technology development so that customers can fully enjoy virtual reality and hologram services."

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: