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Friday, 11 February 2022

THOR - Verizon's Disaster Response COW

When we wrote about how Verizon uses satellite connectivity to restore services after hurricanes, someone made us aware of THOR, the Verizon disaster response vehicle in a league of its own.

The Verizon Response Team (VRT) has a collection of different types of field equipment, which they refer to as 'The Barnyard'. This includes COWs (Cell On Wheels), COLTs (Cell On Light Trucks), CROWs (Cellular Repeater On Wheels) and GOATs (Generator On A Trailer). The latest addition to this is THOR (Tactical Humanitarian Operations Response).

The press release points out:

THOR is National Incident Management System — or NIMS-1 — compliant and offers full radio interoperability and onboard Joint Operations Center services. It provides a multitude of connectivity options, spanning private 5G, commercial 4G LTE, Land Mobile Radio and tactical radio, wireless networking, microwave, mesh and more. Other components include 4G/5G radios, a rear command center, a camera, a six-seat cabin and an exterior touch screen display.

It also comes equipped with a tethered drone to capture an aerial view that can be fed over the network to devices on the ground and the command center below, potentially helping those in public safety or the military with risk and damage assessment, situational awareness or search and rescue operations.

As a prototype, there are currently no plans to build a second THOR, as designs for future 5G-enabled response vehicles continue to evolve.

Here is a video with more details of THOR.

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Monday, 31 January 2022

Crown Castle bringing more Small Cells to the USA

Crown Castle owns, operates and leases more than 40,000 cell towers and approximately 80,000 route miles of fiber supporting small cells and fiber solutions across every major U.S. market.

Earlier this month, T-Mobile US, Inc. and Crown Castle announced that the companies have signed a new 12-year agreement to support the continued build-out of T-Mobile's nationwide 5G network with increased access to Crown Castle's towers and small cell locations. The agreement enables the Un-carrier to further expand and deepen the reach of its industry-leading 5G network to serve consumers across the U.S. while also realizing financial synergies following its merger. The agreement also helps Crown Castle generate long-term tower and small cell revenue growth.

An RCR Wireless News article said:

Crown Castle secured commitments for over 50,000 new small cell nodes during the last twelve months, which equates to approximately 70% of the total small cells the booked in its history prior to 2021, the company’s CEO Jay Brown said in a release.

“As a result, we now have approximately 55,000 small cell nodes on-air and more than 60,000 committed or under construction in our backlog. Our customers are already planning for the next phase of the 5G buildout that will require small cells at scale, and this inflection in our small cells business reflects how well-positioned we are to support their wireless network needs for years to come, with our more than 80,000 route miles of fiber concentrated in the top U.S. markets,” the executive said.

“I believe 2022 will be an important transition year for our small cells and fiber business, as we prepare to accelerate our deployment of small cells from approximately 5,000 this year to what we expect will be more than 10,000 per year starting in 2023,” Brown added.

A Light Reading article from last year talked about a new report from Altman Solon. 

Altman Solon said it derived its findings from a database it constructed of small cells across more than 70 US markets. "Leveraging analysis of this database and augmenting with other primary and secondary research and our deep experience and knowledge base in the space for all small cell ecosystem players, Altman Solon has developed preliminary critical insights about the competitive landscape in the US small cell market," the firm boasted.

Among its findings:

  • "Small cell growth has been much slower historically than what industry reports have projected due to the regulatory climate, lack of neutral hosts, and limited backhaul," the firm wrote
  • Roughly 70% of the small cells it identified are located in dense urban and urban areas.
  • Crown Castle operates about 50% of all small cells identified, while mobile network operators like Verizon account for around 35%. Crown Castle operates about 50,000 commercially available small cells today, with another 30,000 on order. ExteNet Systems operates roughly 32,000 small cells across the country, while Mobilitie – recently acquired by Canada's BAI Communications – counts around 10,000 small cells.
  • Altman Solon identified very few neutral host small cells, which are small cells that transmit signals for more than one network operator. Such devices are considered critical to the growth of the industry considering neutral host small cells can generate significant revenues for the companies that operate them.

Here is a short video from Crown Castle explaining their view of small cells

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Friday, 21 January 2022

Telefónica Deutschland Activates Germany's First Open RAN Small Cells with Airspan Networks

O2 / Telefónica is a technological pioneer in the use of Open RAN. Since December 2020, it has successfully integrated four base stations in Landsberg am Lech into its mobile network. At present, they are testing the technology, gaining experience and planning further expansion at other locations once all tests have been successfully completed. 

In an announcement this week, it said that it is the first German mobile network operator to have activated the first mini-radio cells with innovative Open RAN technology (ORAN) in Munich. They are intended to provide all O2 Germany customers with even more capacity and higher bandwidths at busy locations in the future. 

While the press release doesn't mention the vendor, Airspan Networks Tweeted that the ORAN Small Cell is supplied by them

Selected extract from the press release as follows:

With the compact, flexibly deployable latest-generation mini mobile cells, the company is able to increase 5G/4G capacities in the O2 network at high-traffic locations in urban areas faster than before. The mini-radio cells, attached to a building facade on Klenzestraße in Munich's Gärtnerplatz district, supplement the 4G/5G mobile network installed on rooftops in the city center, but do not replace it.

Small Cells directly enhance the network experience for local customers. The new technology, which is not much bigger than a shoebox, provides customers in very close proximity with 4G and bandwidths of up to 100 Mbps. In the near future, O2 / Telefónica will also use the small cells for targeted, selective 5G coverage. Here, too, the focus will primarily be on particularly busy locations in German city centers, such as very busy squares, shopping streets or public transport stops.

In addition to a power supply, the small cells required a connection via fiber optics. In Munich, this is provided by the fiber optic infrastructure of Stadtwerke München and the local telecommunications provider M-net.

In the coming weeks, further installations will follow in Munich's city center: First, two 4G radio cells at Gärtnerplatz and later this year, O2 / Telefónica will also install pure 5G Open RAN mini radio cells ("5G Standalone") for the first time in the area of Kaufinger Straße in the Bavarian capital. In the course of these expansions, it is also conceivable to use existing infrastructures of Stadtwerke München - such as bus stops or power distributors.

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Friday, 14 January 2022

Building the telco edge with or without hyperscalers!

Ever wondered how are operators building their Telco Edge Networks? Is it different in Asian countries as compared to the rest of the world? Some of these questions have been answered in STL Partners webinar they hosted last year. The narrative says:

2021 is seeing growth in telco edge, with some operators in the region having already launched their edge offerings in 2020. In parallel, hyperscale cloud providers are growing their cloud business in Asia and will build new data centres in the next 1-2 years. ​

For telcos, they need to best determine how to build their edge and to what extent they should work with hyperscalers. ​

This webinar draws on data from over 150 surveyed telecoms operators to answer key questions, such as:​

  • How are operators in Asia building the edge?​
  • How much of their edge infrastructure will be provided by a hyperscaler?​
  • Which use cases should Asia operators focus on?​

The webinar video is embedded below:

The slides and Q&A can be downloaded from the webinar page here.

STL Partners have a huge archive of webinars, do check it out here.

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Friday, 7 January 2022

5G for Defence and Autonomous Military Solutions

Integrated Modular Unmanned Ground Systems (iMUGS) consortium is a 13-party collaboration focused on standardising a European-wide ecosystem for aerial and ground platforms, command, control and communication equipment, sensors, payloads, and algorithms. The parties involved in the iMUGS project are Milrem Robotics, Latvijas Mobilais Telefons (LMT), Talgen Cybersecurity, Safran Electronics & Defense, NEXTER Systems, Krauss-Maffei Wegmann, Diehl Defence, Bittium, Insta DefSec, sol.one, dotOcean, GMV Aerospace and Defence, and Royal Military Academy of Belgium.

Within the iMUGS project, the Latvian MNO LMT is conducting a study on the potential use of 5G in autonomous military solutions. Back in September, the future role of 5G in autonomous military solutions was demonstrated by LMT in collaboration with the iMUGS Consortium. 

A press release said:

The demonstration, during which various scenarios were played out in battlefield-like conditions while showcasing specific use cases, took place today, on September 23rd, at the Ādaži military base in Latvia.

This was the second of a total of six demonstrations with the aim of showcasing the results of the iMUGS (Integrated Modular Unmanned Ground System) project – one of Europe’s leading defence industry development projects. The demonstration was organised by LMT, one of the members of the iMUGS consortium, with the support of the Latvian National Armed Forces and the project coordinator Milrem Robotics.

During the demonstration, the troops played out close-to-reality military scenarios in operational environments and relevant climatic conditions. Milrem Robotics’ unmanned ground vehicle THeMIS, was used, along with a number of other cutting-edge military technologies, such as:

  • LMT’s battle Information Management System for displaying the data of the payloads and as a command system for scenario execution
  • LMT’s Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance (IRS) system for performing aggressive fire detection and source recognition
  • The ISR system ‘Skudra’ for performing the signal intelligence mission
  • A highly protected wheeled vehicle DINGO 2 as a command post from which the mission was led

Alternative communication networks were used by the troop and an unmanned ground vehicle, in scenarios that included switching from a tactical network, provided by Bittium in collaboration with LMT, to 4G and 5G networks.

Some videos shared by LMT are embedded below:

At the 5G Techritory 2021, Armands Meirāns, Innovation Leader for Defence & Public Safety at LMT gave a presentation on 5G for Defense, as showcased by iMUGS Consortium. His talk is embedded below:

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Thursday, 30 December 2021

Top 5 Posts for 2021

Here are the top 5 posts on this blog this year:

1. Three UK's Gigabit 5G Poles Explained, June 2021

2. Small Cells World Summit Open RAN Webinar, February 2021

3. Open RAN (O-RAN) RRU (O-RU) and DU (O-DU) Design, February 2021

4. Multi-sectorised sites and Small Cells help O2 UK handle Capacity in Busy Areas, October 2021

5. Vodafone UK's 5G Infrastructure, June 2021

The following blog posts were in the top 5 most popular posts but were posted before 2021:

A. Passive and Active Infrastructure Sharing, May 2020

B. Temporary masts for festivals, events, etc., June 2017

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Friday, 24 December 2021

Nokia back in 5G Game and Vying for Open RAN & 6G Success

Nokia announced their 5G progress at Global Analyst Forum 2021. In a blog post, Tommi Uitto, President of Mobile Networks at Nokia wrote:

“We bet on the right horse choosing Nokia” a customer shared his feedback in a recent meeting after my update on Nokia’s 5G portfolio. We’ve received similar recognition from other customers too: “Congratulations on the catch-up in 5G,” “We of course monitor our customers’ experience and in Nokia-supplied networks it has been excellent,” “Nokia is back in 5G.”

The new 5G portfolio we’ve launched this year continues our promise to deliver and further improve the performance of our networks:

  • We’ve launched our new AirScale radios, including the industry’s lightest high-power, 400MHz 32TRX Massive MIMO. These radios contribute to our 50 percent reduction in power consumption of Massive MIMO radios from 2019 to 2023.
  • Our AirScale baseband is the industry benchmark for flexibility and capacity. It also comes with significantly improved energy efficiency, reducing the baseband power consumption by up to 75 percent. This also contributes to our commitment to halve base station power consumption by 2023.
  • We’re on track to power our full portfolio with latest ReefShark System-on-Chips by the end of 2022.
  • And this year, we brought together our software to a common development trunk, meaning updates to software from 2G to 5G in a single release, bringing our customers the speed and quality they need.

Where we are now is the result of hard, focused execution on our strategic priority to build 5G technology leadership and improve our portfolio competitiveness over the past three years. Coupled with industry-leading SON and network management, as well as digitalized services boosting the speed and quality of deployments, we have a good racehorse now.

Here is a short video from Tommi:

One of the other interesting area that he covered was on Open RAN, or O-RAN as Nokia prefers to use  it. Quoting from the blog post:

Preparing for the future opportunities starts now. Undoubtedly, one key focus area continues to be Open RAN. Nokia is the leading contributor in the O-RAN Alliance and our new AirScale portfolio is already O-RAN ready, supporting our efforts to develop cloud-based, open approaches to building networks. This is all happening in tight cooperation with our customers like NTT Docomo, or Deutsche Telecom with whom we just announced opening a new open lab "i14y" to accelerate network disaggregation and Open RAN. There are many steps to build the O-RAN ecosystem, and we expect this to develop over the coming years but would not expect real commercial deployments before 2023 (perhaps earlier for some trials).

And of course, no discussion is complete nowadays without mentioning 6G:

Network efficiency and optimization utilizing 4G/5G slicing, AI/ML and continuously improving energy efficiency are also key focus areas as we continue to enhance our offering, on the runway to 5G Advanced and ultimately 6G towards the end of the decade. Although it’s early stages on the 6G journey, we envision it to bring massively more capacity, adaptive AI interfaces and deep learning techniques. But when the time of 6G comes, we should not assume we’ll get to start from a “clean slate”. Our customers will want to ensure a seamless evolution of architectures, chipsets, software and 5G/6G platforms. It’s going to be an exciting evolution from 5G to 6G.

The slides from the Analyst Forum is 6 Packs 40ct Ice Breakers Cubes Snow Cone Gum Limited Edition Su.

Matthew Baker, Head of Radio Physical Layer and Co-existence Standardisation at Nokia recently spoke about Nokia's vision of 5G-Advanced. Here is his talk:

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Friday, 17 December 2021

Demos from Ericsson's Radio Tech Day 2021

Ericsson's Radio Tech Day is a cyclical meeting intended for the telecommunications industry and technical staff of operators in Poland. Engineers share projects, describe best practices and learn from each other's experience. During the conference, the latest solutions in the field of radio and core technology, both in the field of software and hardware, as well as the achievements of start-ups cooperating with the company, are presented.

The following video is from the recent event held last month:

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Friday, 10 December 2021

Telefonica on the Impact of 5G so far

Enrique Blanco, Global CTIO, Telefónica presented a Keynote at Telecoms Europe 5G 2021 virtual event on 9 Nov 2021. The title of his presentation was What’s the impact of 5G so far? and it discussed how the unprecedented speed is just the start of how 5G is changing the face of connectivity. What has been the impact so far on how people live, work, and play, all over the world? 

The video of his talk is embedded below.

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Monday, 29 November 2021

Huawei MetaAAU Promises Improvement in 5G Network Performance and Energy Efficiency

Huawei's latest Active Antenna Unit, MetaAAU is billed as having loads of improvement and potential. A sponsored article on Light Reading says:

Speaking at the recent Mobile Broadband Forum event in Dubai, Yang Chaobin, president of Huawei Wireless Solution, flagged numerous technology innovations and advances that take the traditional AAU (active antenna unit) found in Massive MIMO onto another level.

MetaAAU, developed by Huawei, incorporates ELAA (extreme large antenna array) technology supporting 384 antenna elements. It’s double the number of a traditional AAU.

“By introducing 384 antennas in the AAU, coverage can be improved by 3dB on both the downlink and the uplink, and the user experience can also be improved by 30%,” said Chaobin, “Energy savings of 30% can also be achieved.”

The Official Huawei press release points out: 

Released in October this year, Huawei's 64T64R MetaAAU is the ideal solution to improve both network performance and energy efficiency using innovative hardware and software. For hardware, MetaAAU introduces the extremely large antenna array (ELAA) which enables 384 antenna elements, double that of a conventional AAU (192). ELAA is combined with ultra-light integrated array and signal direct injection feeding (SDIF) to improve both coverage and integration. For software, MetaAAU utilizes the Adaptive High Resolution (AHR) Turbo algorithm to enable precise, dynamic, and targeted beamforming, significantly improving user experience and cell capacity. This hardware/software combo marks a new breakthrough in Massive MIMO coverage and energy efficiency.

In comparison with conventional 64T64R AAU and 32T32R AAU, MetaAAU improves coverage by 3 dB and 6 dB and user experience metrics by 30% and 60%, respectively. For example, in one of its flagship projects — 5G Capital that brings 5G to every corner of Beijing — China Unicom Beijing is using MetaAAU to add 30% in both uplink and downlink coverage along with 25% better experience among cell edge users.

MetaAAU is also a powerful energy-saving tool. It allows base stations to achieve the same level of coverage for cell edge users but with a lower transmit power, reducing energy consumption by approximately 30% over conventional AAUs. This has also been tested in the 5G Capital project.

With its advantages in energy efficiency and coverage, MetaAAU is slated for success. Going green is now a global objective — for example, 26 CEOs of European ICT companies have committed to combat climate change with the European Green Digital Coalition (EGDC). At the same time, 5G network coverage requirements will only continue to grow, rolling out 5G in rural and urban, outdoor and indoor contexts. Leading next-gen ICTs will be key in delivering on both demands; and Huawei's MetaAAU stands to be part of the innovation portfolio.

Going back to the Light Reading article:

If traditional materials found in antenna dipoles were applied to ELAA, for example, the weight would drastically increase, making it more difficult and expensive to install on cell sites.

Moreover, without miniaturized filters, ELAA dimensions necessarily become much bulkier compared with traditional massive MIMO antenna. Cell-site space is already constrained and operators don’t want to go through the lengthy process of gaining permission to occupy more tower space, which, in turn, increases maintenance costs.

Another challenge is that antenna elements in a traditional RF feeding network architecture are normally connected by cables, which are an inefficient way to transfer signals. If the antenna array doubles to 384 elements, the length of cable – along with the extent of inefficiencies – increases.

Through a series of hardware innovations, however, MetaAAU makes the transition to ELAA feasible and attractive. Using ultra-lite metamaterials, MetaAAU is around the same weight as the original 64T64R massive MIMO AAU. Adoption of Huawei’s compact wave filter also means MetaAAU dimensions do not require more space.

To address hardware energy inefficiencies, Huawei has adopted SDIF (signal direct injection feeding) technology. SDIF replaces cables with a more energy-efficient metal-type structure.

Aside from hardware innovation, MetaAAU introduces an adaptive high-resolution beamforming algorithm, dubbed AHR (Adaptive High Resolution) Turbo. It has various features, which, when combined, not only reduces wasted radiation energy but also cuts down on ‘noise’ that can degrade network performance.

Among the benefits of AHR Turbo is that it enables MetaAAU to generate extremely narrow beams that can precisely latch onto user equipment, as well as boost air-interface efficiencies by allowing beams to dynamically adapt to radio channel

Here is an official video of MetaAAU

Mobile World Live also has an infographic, which is the source for the image on the top. It's available here.

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