Tuesday, 14 May 2019

T-Mobile USA's Indoor CellSpot (a.k.a. Femtocells)

Sometime back I saw this tweet by T-Mobile CTO Neville Ray


I started wondering if T-Mo had femtocells and voila!

Pic Source: Dane Powell

According to the T-Mobile website, there are 4 types of devices:

  1. 4G LTE CellSpot V1 
  2. 4G LTE CellSpot V2 
  3. 4G LTE Signal Booster 
  4. 4G LTE Signal Booster Duo
The product comparison chart can be seen below
Now let's look at the Functionality comparison chart
As you can see, the cellspots require an ethernet connection as they create a small coverage bubble while the Signal boosters are just repeaters.

You can get detailed specifications here on 4G LTE CellSpot V1 and 4G LTE CellSpot V2.

Detailed specifications here on 4G LTE Signal Booster and 4G LTE Signal Booster Duo.

In Addition, T-Mobile also supports Wi-Fi calling and also sells T-Mobile 'Wi-Fi CellSpot AC1900 Gigabit Router'

Sunday, 12 May 2019

Impact of Small Cells on Key Enterprise Markets


I missed the last CW (Cambridge Wireless) Small Cells event 'Are small cells ready for private LTE primetime in the lead-up to 5G?'.


From the CW website:

The limited progress towards excellent in-building cellular coverage is well-attested, and in many enterprise and industrial sectors, this is not just frustrating, but has a tangible impact on productivity and agility. In a wide range of industries, from transport to logistics to healthcare, there is pent-up demand for highly reliable, highly secure cellular connectivity, which often needs linking with localised applications and data.

That demand is only growing even more with the advent of IoT applications and edge computing. This is a huge opportunity for small cells, even before 5G, but these sectors cannot all be served by one generic network. Each has its own particular requirements, which need to be well understood by suppliers and partners, so that the deployment can be carefully aligned to business and performance objectives.

Excellent mobile connectivity indoors and out is the baseline requirement – each sector has its own additional needs, which will help to make the business case add up. For some, low latency may be important, for others, massive device density or enhanced security. All of these can be delivered optimally by small cells, but the design of the network, and the business model to deploy it – e.g. neutral host or private network – must be tailored to the enterprise, if users and suppliers are both to achieve the best ROI.

This event focuses on the real-world issues needed for the success of small cells in the emerging private LTE market.

The presentations are available for a limited time for non-CW members here.

The following presentations are available:

  • 'Is private LTE disruptive' by Ian Taylor, Quortus [PDF]
  • 'Small cells in private networks: An Overview' by Caroline Gabriel, Rethink Technology Research [PDF]
  • 'Bringing connectivity to a mechanical test centre' by Peter Stoker, AutoAir [PDF]
  • 'Private Networks for Critical Comms & IoT' by Tadhg Kenny, Druid Software Ltd [PDF]
  • 'Business ready applications, not the connectivity solution, will be the driver for private networks' by David Rose, Veea Systems Ltd [PDF]


Related Posts:

Saturday, 11 May 2019

AMN's Ultra-low cost sites


From an slightly old tweet by Erik Hersman: "AMN has started rolling out ultra-low cost small 10m towers to work in rural villages in Zambia, Cameroon and a couple other countries. Communities value them so much that they build their own fences and security."

Rural connectivity in the developing world is a big issue and this tweet just illustrates the point that when connectivity is available, people value it and make sure nobody takes it away.


In a earlier blog post on 3G4G, we saw the 10 key challenges listed by AMN for bringing connectivity to rural areas.

In a recent news, Vanu announced the expansion of its ongoing agreement with Africa Mobile Networks (AMN) to supply mobile network infrastructure in support of AMN’s mission to serve rural communities in sub-Saharan Africa. With orders exceeding 2,500 systems this year, AMN has now placed orders for more than 3,000 Vanu systems over the last two years

“AMN and Vanu both view small-cell network architectures powered by solar energy to be the best way to extend service to the unconnected. We are privileged to be a technology supplier for AMN’s networks in Africa and we see a significant opportunity for our organizations to positively affect more communities in more countries in the months ahead.”

To efficiently cover villages, Vanu uses a combination of specialized equipment, tools and services, including low TCO (total cost of ownership) cell sites, mapping tools and network planning tools (to ensure sites are built in optimal locations), as well as monitoring, optimization and support services (to ensure maintenance resources are used efficiently).

Vanu’s equipment, tools and services enable MNOs and partners, such as AMN, to provide off-grid coverage profitably. In addition, Vanu’s unique high-resolution coverage mapping tool, VanuMaps, provide MNOs, their partners and potential investors with the high-resolution coverage and population data needed to more accurately and efficiently identify the return on investment afforded by serving previously uncovered villages.

The mission of AMN is to build mobile network base stations serving rural communities in sub-Saharan Africa which have no existing service, providing existing licensed mobile network operators with a capex-free route to add new subscribers and new revenues and with incremental costs which deliver guaranteed operating profits – and with sufficient population to deliver positive operating profits and cash flows for its shareholders.

More details are not available but will be added when available.

Sunday, 28 April 2019

Altaeros’ Autonomous Tethered Aerial Cell Tower, SuperTower ST200

Couple of months back, Altaeros announced "world’s first commercial aerial cell tower". This is a contentious point as the UK MNO, EE has already claimed "World’s first commercial use of Helikite ‘air mast’ technology showcased with 360° live stream over 4G" back in 2017. While we can argue that EE's aerostat was a Helikite while this is something different, they are both aerial cell towers.

Their press release says:

The SuperTower uses a proven aerostat platform, combined with innovative automation and control software, to deploy radios and antennas over four times higher than traditional cell towers allowing carriers to efficiently cover substantially more area than traditional towers. The ST200 was tested with six high capacity Ericsson 4G LTE radios and three highgain Matsing lens antennas. During initial testing users were able to stream high-definition video at distances well beyond the reach of a typical cell site, even in the hills and forests of New England. Altaeros is initially deploying SuperTowers in partnership with carriers in the US, with plans to quickly expand internationally.

The website specifiesThe Altaeros SuperTower is designed to meet this challenge. Each SuperTower deploys radios and antennas over 800 feet above ground level. Greater height and flexibility mean a single SuperTower replaces fifteen regular cell towers at 60% lower cost, shifting the rural networks from a loss-making endeavor to a growth engine for carriers.

Mobile World Live provides some more details about it's trials:

Ben Glass, CEO and CTO of the company, told Mobile World Live (MWL) the company is testing the system with “some of the big carriers that are household names”, with a view to deploying it in the latter part of 2019 and early 2020.

The executive did not confirm which operators are testing the technology. However, applications filed with the Federal Communications Commission show it conducted FDD-LTE tests in PCS spectrum and more recently trialled TD-LTE at 2.5GHz.

A Sprint representative told MWL it allowed Altaeros to use some of its 2.5GHz spectrum for the latter testing, but did not confirm whether it is evaluating the technology for itself.

Verizon flat denied it is involved: AT&T and T-Mobile US had not responded at the time of publishing.

Here is their video providing more details:


The website specifies potential applications for Altaeros’ technology include:

  • Cellular Networks
  • Industrial/Agricultural IOT
  • Fixed Wireless
  • Environmental Monitoring and Agribusiness
  • Disaster Recovery
  • Public Safety

Couple of important points from the FAQ's

What if a tether breaks loose?

The Altaeros SuperTower has three load-bearing tethers. If one of the tethers breaks loose, the remaining tethers will reel in the shell. In the very unlikely scenario that all three tethers break loose, an automatic vent will begin to release helium to allow the SuperTower to slowly descend to the ground. Similar safety features have been reliably demonstrated on hundreds of existing aerostats.

How fast can the SuperTower be deployed?

Once on site, the Altaeros SuperTower can be inflated and deployed in a few days. Our system does not require a crane or cement foundation for its installation.

In disaster recovery kinds of use case, air masts like these may need to be deployed for a few days to weeks. It is essential that they can reach their destination quickly. Having reached their destination, they also need to be deployed in a few hours. On the other hand there are many other scenarios where these kinds of air masts, as long as they can stay up for months, be useful for something or other. We look forward to hearing more about them in future.

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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.

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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:

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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.

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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: