Meeting the indoor coverage challenge

DAS and small cells for indoor coverage was a big theme at MWC, along with how to meet the LTE backhaul challenge

Meeting the indoor coverage challenge

How best to provide better indoor cellular coverage for the enterprise space (and add value so as to monetise it effectively) was a big theme to emerge from this year’s MWC.

On the wireless access side, vendors were showcasing indoor coverage solutions using cellular small cells and DAS. Under discussion were new go-to-market models for indoor coverage (and who pays for what) along with the emergence of indoor coverage as a managed service concept.

Ericsson was certainly looking to exploit both. President and CEO Hans Vestberg (pictured) extolled the virtues of its Radio Dot indoor cell (launched in September 2013, but not yet commercially available), which features ‘a revolutionary antenna element’, or ‘Dot’, which delivers mobile broadband access to users.

The company also launched its ‘small cells as a service’, which involves using low-powered, short-range radio access nodes to supplement existing telecom networks and increase capacity in traffic hot spots. The resulting densified network is owned by either Ericsson or a partner, and could serve multiple operators.

NSN was touting its extended range of small cells, which it claims provide the same capacity and features as macro-cellular base stations, offering 30% lower costs than conventional units. The units can support up to 400 simultaneous users and come with optional Wi-Fi, and provide significant performance gain over femto, DAS and hybrid DAS. The base station can use a building’s existing shared Ethernet cabling for backhaul, eliminating the cost of new wiring typically needed for DAS and hybrid DAS systems.

Huawei announced the launch of its crowd-sourcing small cell solution, which is designed to help operators achieve rapid and large scale small cell deployment. The company argued that traditional small cell solutions are not capable of meeting the site acquisition and backhaul issues. The single revenue mode also slows down the small cell build-out pace. Huawei’s crowd-sourcing small cell solution aims to address these challenges by making facilities owners, building proprietors, network integrators and enterprises partner in the small cell construction and operation. It says this will create a new business model to generate revenue.

The company’s small cell product solutions include the multiband multimode AtomCell and LampSite. These small cell solutions provide one-stop solution for crowd-sourcing partners to solve multi-mode wireless access requirements for technologies such as UMTS, LTE and Wi-Fi.

SpiderCloud also believes that new go-to-market approaches are required if indoor cellular coverage is to take off with the Wi-Fi model providing an option. The company’s E-RAN small cell solution, which uses existing enterprise Ethernet/VLAN, has been available for two years now and recently received a major boost following adoption as a service offering by Vodafone in the UK and Netherlands.

NEC, which also markets SpiderCloud’s indoor small cell products, launched its outdoor iPASOLINK EX, E-band radio unit and the outdoor iPASOLINK iX, a 6-42GHz radio communications system. It also unveiled its ‘New Last Mile’ one-stop-shop solution to help network operators deploy the next layer of LTE capacity and coverage in a rapid, economical and integrated way – it offers this as a managed service.


Small cells for backhaul

Vendors offering wireless backhaul solutions are increasing, however, there is a diversity of opinion between those favouring sub-6GHz solutions and those offering microwave bands above that. With spectrum growing increasingly scarce below 6GHz, some feel it should be reserved for radio access and not wasted on backhaul.

Among the sub-6GHz category Fastback has taken the unusual step of offering a product that uses the 5GHz unlicensed band. Its intelligent backhaul radio supports both multi-point-to-point and point-to-point architectures and delivers fibre equivalent services in both line of sight (LoS) and completely non-line of sight (NLoS) conditions.

Tarana Wireless launched its AbsoluteAir 2 (AA 2) product line, which operates in the sub-6GHz bands. AA 2 extends Tarana’s concentrated multipoint topology with support for up to six dedicated 250Mbps NLoS links and an aggregate capacity of 1.5 Gbps.

Cambridge Broadband Networks unveiled its new VectaStar Gigabit and VectaStar Metro point to multipoint microwave wideband products, designed to double platform capacity to 600Mb/s. It says the products will provide the performance and quick time to market that operators demand, along with total cost of ownership savings of up to 50% over alternative forms of backhaul.

Microwave backhaul provider, Cambridge Communications Systems showcased a product that it claims is the only multipoint to multipoint solution – each node can connect with up to 16 others to form self-organising and self-healing links to maximise end-to-end system performance and individual node-to-node link performance.

Among the millimetre wave backhaul providers, Sub10 unveiled its Liberator-E1000e product, which offers Gigabit full-duplex over distances up to 4km using the 70-80GHz band. It joins the company’s existing Liberator-V1000, which operates in the 60GHz band providing data rates of 1,000Mbps for distances up to 800m.

Siklu had its range of 70-80GHz E-band and 60GHz millimetre wave EtherHaul products on show, which are targeted at LTE macro and small cell backhaul, fibre extension and business service delivery. Its vision is to control the whole supply chain to reduce the product cost. It invests heavily in silicon integration and produces its own modem baseband chips and antennas.

Finally, Bluwan released its second generation point-to-multipoint LinkFusion microwave (42GHz band) equipment. Shayan Sanyal, chief commercial officer, said: ‘The key difference is that we’ve added SDN features into the system, making it more flexible. For example, we can adjust the uplink and downlink to meet the traffic usage, but it will always peak to 125Mb.

‘We can also bond channels in real time to densify the channel. We are the only ones who can deliver this because of the capacity we hold and the dynamic management ability we provide. Others have fixed channels, so everything has to go through that channel. But we are still delivering 2.5GHz per sector spec wise, which means we are a capacity provider, not just a wireless backhaul provider.’

Sanyal added: ‘The innovation in sub-6GHz is: how do I do more with less? In millimetre wave it is: how do I do more than backhaul and fixed wire access?’


Distributed Antenna Systems... and beyond

Axell Wireless launched its in-building coverage idDAS (intelligent digital DAS) solution, which allows mobile operators to allocate capacity to locations only where and when it is needed. Ian Brown, CEO, Axell Wireless, says idDAS is the biggest innovation in DAS for decades: ‘It brings intelligence into the DAS allowing operators to get the right size and optimise base station resources in a way they haven’t been able to before.’

With traditional DAS solutions, individual base station sectors are effectively ‘hard-wired’ to specific areas of a facility, depending on the peak traffic expected from that location. However mobile traffic is both ‘bursty’ and ‘sporadic’ meaning that maximum capacity is not required at all times. So, in many in-building deployments expensive BTS resource can be left idle for significant periods of time.

Axell’s idDAS solution provides mobile operators with a revolutionary new approach to handling the challenges and current limitations of in-building coverage systems. IdDAS allows mobile operators to dynamically allocate capacity around a facility and, in effect, provide a DAS system that can ‘breathe’ and react to user demands.

IdDAS operates with every major wireless technology including GSM, UMTS, WCDMA and LTE, and supports all major frequency bands used by operators across the world from 700MHz to 2600MHz. It is completely cable agnostic, includes full and easy support of MIMO and also includes an embedded 1GB IP backhaul per remote.

CommScope, known for its DAS and antenna products, launched its ION-E unified wireless infrastructure platform at MWC 2014 – extending the company’s product portfolio into the small cell indoor market for enterprises.

The company describes ION-E as a completely new architecture for in-building wireless systems. It brings together licensed wireless and power plus Gigabit Ethernet for Wi-Fi into one unified wireless network that can scale to building size and is technology and spectrum adaptive.

It features multi-band (380MHz-2700MHz), multi-operator and multi-technology capabilities and uses the standard IT structured cabling infrastructure common to most commercial buildings.

‘Overstating the impact of the ION-E will be hard because this system solves so many challenges at once,’ said Morgan Kurk, senior vice president, Wireless, CommScope. ‘It combines the capability and flexibility of cloud RAN, while making DAS simple and unifying the local area and wide area networks. This intelligent transport system can fulfil the promise of small cells.

‘Bottom line: the ION-E is not just another DAS – it is unified wireless infrastructure, a whole new category that addresses the needs of both the enterprise building owner and the wireless operator,’ added Kurk.

Zinwave’s President International Colin Abrey was quick to point out that his company offers the ‘only true wideband Active DAS on the market globally’ in that it supports all frequencies and services between 150MHz and 2700 MHZ from a single hardware layer. ‘We can add any new frequency without having to upgrade the hardware,’ he said. Looking ahead to 5G, he added: ‘There is nothing out there that stops us being future proof.’

Zinwave unveiled plans to speed up its research into next-generation photonics to maximise data through-puts over of advanced LTE networks at MWC Barcelona, following its acquisition by McWane Inc, a privately held diverse manufacturing company based in the US. Zinwave is planning to expand its geographical presence and infrastructure for markets in which it operates and to double its head count within 12 months.

TE Connectivity (TE) displayed a range of distributed antenna systems (DAS) and optical infrastructure solutions at MWC designed to make deploying small cell networks easier and more cost-effective. Among the innovations showcased were the TE powered fibre cable system, which aims to slash the cost and time of small cell deployments and a CPRI interface to TE’s FlexWave digital DAS products.

It also displayed an InterReach Fusion DAS with MIMO capabilities, the new active integration panel (AIP) that ‘significantly reduces the space, power and costs of DAS head-end deployment’, as well as the latest TE low power Ethernet cable-based DAS solutions.

‘These new solutions represent the latest thinking in how to make mobile networks more flexible, cost-effective, and easy to maintain,’ said Peter Wraight, vice president and general manager of TE Wireless.


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