Wednesday, 17 April 2019

Vodafone UK improving coverage with Phone Boxes, Mini-masts & Manhole Covers


Scott Petty, CTO of Vodafone UK wrote a post about how 'our cunningly imaginative network team has devised some ingenious ways of boosting mobile reception.' While readers of this blog will have already seen most of these innovations from around the world on our blog, it's nevertheless an important step to bring connectivity to users in rural and remote areas that suffer digital exclusion.

Late last year, Vodafone talked about how their mini masts (picture on top) are making huge differences to JCB Staffordshire quarries. Around half the height of a standard mast, the mini masts can be painted to fit in with the local surroundings. The masts also require less power and electronic equipment.  This means they are ideally suited to providing a mobile signal in hard-to-reach rural business locations, such as the two JCB sites, near its World Headquarters. The mini mast is developed in partnership with infrastructure technology company Commscope according to the PR.

Continuing from the original PR:


4G networks can easily become congested in densely populated cities. This is especially true for urban areas regularly visited by waves of tourists, such as London’s Covent Garden. Fitting a mini-mast to the underside of a manhole cover to increase mobile coverage may sound bizarre, but it makes perfect sense. Our incredibly fast fibre optic network runs beneath the streets of Covent Garden and provides the bandwidth muscle behind our manhole cover mini-masts. Each mini-mast isn’t designed to boost coverage for all of London or even the West End, but for specific stretches of Covent Garden where overwhelming demand for a strong and stable 4G signal would otherwise go unmet.

But manhole cover mini-masts won’t be appropriate or possible in every locality. For some places, such as Edinburgh’s historic Princes Street, mini-masts built into phone boxes make more sense. These converted phone boxes not only provide a boost to mobile reception on this bustling thoroughfare, but help preserve a much-loved icon of our national urban heritage.

In a post back in December, I wrote about Small Cells in Phone Boxes here.

In another press release yesterday, Vodafone said:

Picture source: ThinkSmallCell

Visitors to the popular seaside resorts of Polzeath and Sennen Cove in Cornwall this Easter can now receive fast mobile Internet and great voice reception along the beach after Vodafone installed the latest 4G technology in beachfront phone boxes.

Mobile coverage can often be difficult to provide in remote areas and coastal locations due to the local topography and the lack of power and fibre cables needed to link up masts. Vodafone is continually looking at new ways of providing customers with great coverage, including by installing 4G technology into traditional phone boxes, returning them to their roots.

Beach-goers will not only be able to use their smartphones on Vodafone’s ‘4G from a phone box’ service within approximately a 200-metre radius. They can also make use of Vodafone’s range of connected devices, including the V-Pet Tracker to help you pinpoint a dog that has wandered off.

Vodafone is working on a number of initiatives to help support the Government’s ambition of extending mobile coverage to 95% of UK landmass by 2022. In addition to drawing up industry-wide proposals to create a single rural network to cover not spots and partial not spots, last year, Vodafone achieved an industry first by installing the UK’s first mini mobile mast at Porthcurno in Cornwall.



The Cornish 4G-enabled phone boxes are equipped to cope with the increase in mobile usage over the Easter break and over the summer months. During the heatwave in 2018, our network in Cornwall carried nearly 90% more mobile Internet traffic than the previous year.

Vodafone is also testing 4G in phone boxes in busy shopping areas in Edinburgh, Oxford and soon in London. At its technology headquarters in Newbury, Berkshire, Vodafone is trialling housing 4G on the underside of manhole covers.

All pictures, unless mentioned are from Vodafone.

Related posts:



Saturday, 13 April 2019

China Telecom's PON based Small Cells backhaul to reduce CapEX and OpEX


GSMA has a network economics case study from China Telecom on their future networks website. This case study focuses on the challenges of CapEX and OpEX of small cell backhaul. For coverage and/or capacity enhancement purpose, small cells will be deployed widely in the future. As the number of small cells deployed increases, larger bandwidth and higher flexibility are required for the backhaul transportation, which consequentially leads to higher CapEX and OpEX. Therefore an economic and practical approach has to be put forwarded and verified.

China Telecommunications (CT) is one of the largest state-owned telecommunication companies in China. With the world’s largest broadband Internet network, Frequency Division Duplex – Long Term Evolution (FDD – LTE) mobile network, China Telecom is capable of providing cross-region, fully integrated information services to global customers through its sound customer service channel system.

In this case study, CT proposes a small cell backhaul based on Passive Optical Network (PON) system, which can reduce at least 80% of the trunk fibre and 50% of associated fibre. As a result making facility room and air-conditioning unnecessary. Therefore the CapEX and OpEx of small cell deployment could be reduced effectively and remarkably.

As networks evolve through 4.5G to 5G with more complexity, network densification and intelligence at the edge, the need will be even greater to optimise transport network architecture within mobile Radio Access Network (RAN) to resolve the challenges of backhaul/fronthaul demand and the corresponding increase in costs (CapEX and OpEX).

Key highlights of the case study:
  • Small cell backhaul based on Passive Optical Network (PON) system is proposed, which can reduce at least 80% of the trunk fibre and 50% of associated fibre and facility room and airconditioner are no longer required.
  • China Telecom has conducted laboratory and field test in Hubei City and Shanghai with Huawei and ZTE. The test results proved the feasibility with equipment and performance KPI’s satisfied.
  • Backhaul based PON could be one of the preferred choices for small cell backhaul transport. 
CT selected seven outdoor sites and one indoor site in Hubei, and eight outdoor sites in Shanghai. All the small cells were linked to EPON (Ethernet Passive Optical Network) equipment, which had been updated (software and hardware) to support frequency and time synchronisation. Detailed information about CBUs (Cellular Backhaul Units) and small cells in CT laboratory can be seen in the picture above and more details are provided in the case study.

The case study is available here.


Chengliang Zhang, Vice President of China Telecom Beijing Research Institute, China talked about "Optical Networking in the Cloud and 5G Era" which is embedded below.


Friday, 22 March 2019

Huawei SkySite: Drone with 5G base station & '5G Book' RRU

One of the announcements from Huawei that seem to have missed most of the articles, magazines & analysts is their SkySite Drone with a 5G Base Station and a RRU called '5G Book'. 

Picture Source: Various, see references at the bottom

While Huawei calls SkySite as a drone with integrated 5G base station, I am assuming that the BBU (or CU in 5G) is located on the ground. The tethering is used for providing power as well as fiber for communication between the CU/DU on the ground as the '5G Book' RRU on the drone.

EE was the pioneer of these tethered drones (called Airmasts initially and E.M.M.A. later) as you can see from this video by ThinkSmallCell here.

The drone is designed for emergency coverage after a site failure due to technical issues or natural disasters like earthquakes or floods. The drone weighs just 7 kgs. Tethering allows the drone to be up for a few days. From my past experience, the limiting factor was the motors on the drone getting hot. It can still remain in air between 2-4 days.


According to Developing Telecoms:

In his introduction, President of Carrier Business Group Ryan Ding focused on the vendor’s growing role as a provider of humanitarian communications solutions by unveiling the new Huawei 5G Skysite. Using a new ‘Book’ radio unit weighing only 7 kilos, 5G Skysite is 40% lighter than the outgoing 4G Skysite. The 5G Skysite antenna is supported 100 meters above ground by a drone and the entire base station can be set up in five minutes, to give between 30-40 square kilometres signal coverage.


References:

Related Posts:

Monday, 4 March 2019

T-Mobile USA: Anatomy of A Mobile Wireless Network


T-Mobile has a nice educational video on what makes a network looking at backhaul, small cells, etc. I have posted about T-Mo small cells here and here before. I have also pointed out that the definition of Small cells varies from country to country and USA is no exception. In the USA, RRH's are often referred to as small cells due to their small form factor but I disagree. You can see this earlier post on Macrocells, Small Cells & Hetnets Tutorial.

Here is the video on the anatomy of a mobile wireless network.

Wireless: Anatomy of A Network from T-Mobile National Development on Vimeo.

Monday, 18 February 2019

Turkcell Marks a 'First in the World in 5G' with Domestic Drone Technology

Press release from Turkcell (translated from Turkish to English by Google translate):

Turkcell continues to undertake firsts in the scope of its 5G works. Huawei Turkey and Aviation Lapis Technologies R & D engineers working with Turkcell team has now spent on a different solution in drone technology life. In this work, which is a first in the world, Turkcell successfully completed the trial flights of the domestic drone, which is controlled by 5G and capable of transferring 360 degree 4K images to live virtual reality glasses.

Carrying one step further studies in 5G Turkcell, Huawei Turkey R & D center and domestic drone manufacturers Lapis Aviation Technology, in cooperation with Turkey's first experienced live virtual reality experience through 5G technology has scored the indigenous drones. The drone, which successfully completed the test flights, is controlled by 5G. Thanks to this innovative application, which provides real-time high-speed data transfer over 5G technology, Turkcell became the first operator in the world to implement this solution in line with 3GPP standards. This solution, developed by Turkcell with its business partners, eliminates the distance between pilot and drone thanks to low delay connection and 5G coverage.

Turkey's first 3.5 GHz frequency band can be controlled through the 5G technology provided through Turkcell 5G Drone, 360 4K camera in live images still virtual reality to the viewers in different locations through 5G (VR) offers the opportunity to watch the spectacle. Thanks to this solution, which brings a new dimension to drone applications, it is possible to control the oil and gas pipelines in the industrial area and to carry out operations such as the control of the fields in the agricultural sector in a safer, faster and economic way. In addition, thanks to the 360-degree 4K image-forwarding capability, new experiences can be offered to the entertainment industry by providing concerts or other shows to be transmitted to virtual reality glasses.
...


Today, because the drones are controlled via Wi-Fi, the communication distance between the drone and the pilot can be reduced to 500 meters, especially in crowded cities. Thanks to the 5G technology that enables low-delay connection and high-speed data transmission, the Turkcell 5G Drone can be controlled with a high-resolution 4K image without a distance limit. In addition, increasing the number of commercial drones flying at low altitude is also a very important need to manage air traffic. With this technology, which will contribute to the management of air traffic, commercial UAVs and drones will increase their use in many sectors such as transportation, logistics, security, monitoring and media.

Last year we blogged about South Korean operator KT and separately, Japanese operator KDDI doing something similar. See here.

Related Posts:



Tuesday, 5 February 2019

Sprint's Trebl: Magic Box + Alexa + HiFi Speakers


Sprint's award winning MagicBox that we have written about multiple times in this blog has launched a new product called Trebl that contains indoor Magic Box small cell, integrated Amazon Alexa voice capabilities and Harman Kardon sound quality.

According to Electronics 360:

The TREBL with Magic Box, introduced this week at CES 2019, won a CES Innovation Award in the Smart Home product category. TREBL is a wireless small cell that accelerates LTE data coverage and speed while controlling smart home devices using Amazon Alexa. The small cell can also play music with Harman Kardon audio through two 8 W speakers, an embedded amplifier, three built-in far-field microphones, Bluetooth, and noise and echo cancellation.

The TREBL with Magic Box is water-resistant, making it suitable for both indoor and outdoor use, and it is lightweight for portability.

And it has been nominated for MWC 2019 Glomo award too



While we love the style, we are not exactly sure why someone would need this combination of Magic Box and Alexa. We will wait and see if it succeeds. In the meantime we wish Sprint the best of luck for Glomo awards.

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: