Setting the small cell agenda at MWC 2015

Distributed antenna systems (DAS), distributed radio systems (DRS), small cells, Wi-Fi and wireless backhaul solutions all featured heavily at MWC 2015. James Atkinson takes a look at the key developments on show

Setting the small cell agenda at MWC 2015

In-building coverage solutions
Leaving aside the residential in-building femtocell market, the most advanced ‘small cell’ market is indoor coverage solutions for enterprises and large buildings such as stadia, malls, transport hubs and the like.
Of the major DAS providers, TE Connectivity showcased its distributed small cell solution, which was unveiled last year, where the carrier baseband unit is integrated into a TE distributed small cell system via the CPRI interface. TE says the solution ‘eliminates racks of radio-frequency and attenuation panels in a head-end deployment, slashing head-end space, power and costs’.

It also showed its FlexWave Prism high-power DAS, which is capable of supporting up to eight frequency bands or 300MHz of spectrum, for multi-operator service in buildings.

Zinwave demonstrated its UNItivity unified connectivity platform, which enables high-density venues to run multiple wireless, public safety and IP data services on a single converged infrastructure, providing ‘large Capex and Opex savings and lower TCO’.

UNItivity integrates Zinwave’s wideband DAS technology with IP capabilities able to support any mix of wireless services between 150MHz and 2700MHz, regardless of protocol or modulation scheme on a one-layer network. It can support a range of IP services such as
IP cameras, VoIP, RFID, femtocells, Wi-Fi and location-based services.

Axell Wireless is now Cobham Wireless (along with test and measurement firm Aeroflex) – a move due to reach fruition in July. The firm showcased its idDAS solution, launched in 2014, which enables capacity to be moved around a building to meet changing demand patterns.

Newly appointed SVP Ian Langley told Wireless: ‘With Cobham as a wealthy backer we can explore adjacent markets, develop new products and most importantly propel idDAS into new channels and fund an ongoing road map of developments to augment our offerings.

‘idDAS will become more than an in-building coverage solution,’ he predicted. ‘It will be an in-building capacity management solution helping to drive the connections we all demand going forward.’

Huawei released LampSite 2.0, the latest version of its indoor mobile broadband coverage solution, which is essentially a distributed radio head system. New features include support for on-demand concurrence of triple frequencies, software-based bands and dynamic capacity provisioning through node level cell splitting and distributed MIMO.
Ericsson’s not dissimilar Radio Dot System has seen interest from a number of mobile network operators (MNOs) including SingTel, Vodafone, Verizon and Saudi operator STC.

It also announced that Vodafone Netherlands will be the first operator to deploy its RBS 6402 second-generation indoor picocell base station, which is aimed at smaller venues than those suited to the Radio Dot System. The RBS 6402 supports multi-standard, multi-band and Wi-Fi capabilities and can deliver 300Mbps LTE speeds with carrier aggregation.

Cisco and SpiderCloud Wireless pulled off a surprise with the announcement that the two are to collaborate, aiming to meet customer demand for a more scalable and integrated approach to enterprise small cells.

The global agreement will see Cisco reselling SpiderCloud’s entire small cell portfolio under the USC 8000 Series brand. More than that, SpiderCloud will provide radio nodes that can clip into Cisco’s Wi-Fi access points.

Off its own bat, SpiderCloud introduced its latest small cell solutions including new dual-band radio nodes designed to offer simultaneous 3G/LTE service or dual-carrier LTE service. These are software upgradable to support carrier aggregation with peak rates of up to 300Mbps.

It has also introduced nodes with integrated Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) beacons to improve installation, inventory management and post-installation maintenance.

Another independent small cell provider, ip.access, showed off its range of 2G, 3G and 4G small cells. It announced its biggest coup just ahead of MWC with the news that Vodafone is to launch consumer-based presence services using ip.access’ presenceCell (which is a kind of beacon rather than a small cell) following a successful deployment of ip.access’ presenceCell across multiple locations in Turkey.

Airvana showcased its OneCell, the company’s LTE Cloud RAN small cell system for enterprises and public venues, which consists of a baseband controller and multiple radio points. OneCell was awarded Best Mobile Technology Breakthrough, and Outstanding Overall Mobile Technology – the CTO’s Choice, at the Global Mobile Awards 2015 at MWC. Also on show was Airvana’s new device management system.

Outdoor urban
The big OEMs have a range of small cell solutions for urban deployment. Recent developments have been tailored towards supporting multi-mode small cells in one unit by combining 3G and 4G, and increasingly Wi-Fi – now seen by MNOs as an important part of future connectivity options.

One way for the Tier 1 OEMs to quickly integrate Wi-Fi technology into their cellular offers is to simply partner with established Wi-Fi providers. Nokia Networks has done just that by teaming up with Ruckus Wireless. Ruckus 802.11ac Wi-Fi technology is being integrated into Nokia’s Flexi Zone indoor and outdoor solutions. Commercial availability is expected in the first half of 2015.

Nokia also announced LTE-Advanced enhancements across all dimensions, with carrier aggregation launches for TDD-FDD, small cells and between sites.

Rural and Remote
The Small Cell Forum chose MWC 2015 to launch its latest commercial and technical small cell guide – Release Five: Rural and Remote. The SCF says this will open up a market of 650 million users worth an estimated US$163 billion.

Alan Law, Chair of Small Cell Forum, said: ‘With Release Five we have shown that there is an incredible range of ways that small cells can benefit those in rural and remote areas, from delivering 3G or 4G coverage to towns and villages, helping in the aftermath of a natural disaster, or providing coverage in some of the most challenging environments imaginable.’

The wireless backhaul scene has plenty of innovative players, but the market for their products has not really taken off yet in any volume. That said, Cambridge Communication Systems (CCS) announced just ahead of MWC that it had received the first volume production delivery of its self-organising (multipoint-to- multipoint) small cell microwave backhaul system from Taiwanese manufacturer MTI.

CEO and co-founder Steve Greaves, said: ‘Taking delivery of our first volume production marks a very significant milestone for CCS as a commercial organisation.’

Siklu, which provides millimetre wave radio equipment operating in the 60 and 80GHz bands, announced that its products have been integrated into Alcatel-Lucent’s microwave small cells backhaul portfolio.

Siklu radios will now supplement Alcatel-Lucent’s 9500 MPR family by introducing the support of millimetre waves and providing a solution for short-range, high-capacity small cell backhaul in very dense environments.

The company’s EtherHaul-600T was recently selected to provide wireless backhaul links for the City of Baltimore WiFi project for the Inner Harbor, as fibre connections were unable to reach the access points.

DragonWave announced entry into Nokia’s newly formed MicroWave Backhaul EcoSystem – a more formal continuation of a four-year partnership Nokia.

The partnership includes microwave and millimetre wave backhaul, joint development and technology collaboration, network management collaboration and sales, services, R&D, and legacy maintenance. The two companies have more than 50 active customers.

A little after MWC, RADWIN, the provider of non line of sight sub-6GHz broadband wireless solutions, launched the RADWIN 5000 JET point-to-multi-point (PtMP) solution. The company claims the ‘JET platform sets a new performance bar in the industry, delivering highest capacity and longer range than any other point-to-multipoint system in the industry’.

One other intriguing launch came from InterDigital, imec and Peraso Technologies, which demonstrated what they claim is the world’s first WiGig-based millimetre wave mesh backhaul system.

The system developed by the InterDigital Labs team includes imec’s 60GHz PHARA4 radio and phased array antenna with fast electrical beam steering in azimuth and elevation, and Peraso’s integrated PRS4000 WiGig baseband chip, operating at multi-Gbps data rates.

InterDigital’s software provides self-configuration and data routing for the multi-hop mesh backhaul. The architecture uses off-the-shelf radio and baseband components to reduce cost, while multi-sector rapid beam steering enables many links to be supported with the same equipment for added cost-reduction, reliability and simple network scaling with additional nodes.

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