The US firm Parallel Wireless was relatively unheralded in Europe until it startled everyone by popping up in an EE rural small cell trial in the UK last year. At Small Cells World Summit 2016 in London (9-12 May), the company explained how it has attempted to reimagine the architecture of the cellular RAN to make the deployment and maintenance of any GSM network, including it says, 5G HetNets, easier and cheaper.
There are two key elements that make up its solution. First, there is its Converged Wireless System (CWS) comprising a range of software-defined, multi-mode, multi-band base stations capable of supporting 3G, 4G and Wi-Fi.
What is different here is that the CWS integrates baseband, radio, filter and switch into a single, very compact, device. More than that, it also integrates flexible backhaul capabilities – Ethernet, fibre and satellite, into the same form factor. That, Eugina Jordan, Director, Marketing Communications, Parallel Wireless, tells Wireless, not only reduces the site footprint, but reduces the Capex.
Backhaul can be further enhanced with wireless mesh by connecting a wireless mesh backhaul module via an Ethernet cable. Multiple CWSs can also connect to each other to create a mesh cluster, eliminating the need for other types of backhaul, as connectivity can be wirelessly extended for miles via multiple hops.
The second, part of the solution is the HetNet Gateway (HNG) – a carrier-grade NFV/SDN-based RAN orchestrator that can connect any technology (3G, 4G, Wi-Fi) and any vendor RAN and presents it as one common interface to the network core. HGN sits between the RAN and core and abstracts RAN on COTS hardware. It enables the RAN, or Parallel Wireless’s own CWS units to self-configure, self-optimise and self-heal.
The HGN greatly simplifies things by virtualising the RAN interface to manage all RAN configurations in real-time, while abstracting RAN changes from the packet core network and packet core network changes form the RAN. It uses standard backhaul and orchestrates a resilient mesh across the various backhaul elements.
Jordan said: ‘The HNG can address a lot of different use cases and manage a wide variety of cells. It can connect any-G to any AP/node to any core. It absorbs the various RAN interfaces and virtualised network functions (X2 Gateway, MOCN, SON, IoT enabler, MBMS enabler, etc) into the gateway.
‘The software on the backend can orchestrate any type of hardware, ours or from other vendors, as it is fully compliant with 3GPP. We provide the RAN elements, but have partners for the EPC or gateways to link with radio standards like P25,’ said Jordan.
The HNG also virtualises C-RAN and SON on the same platform to create a coordinated system that provides centralised and elastic scheduling over the standard X2 (the interface between LTE eNodeBs) interface.
Jordan noted: ‘We have found that different vendors deploy different interpretations of the X2 interface, but it doesn’t matter as our gateway can learn all the interfaces and handle them back to the core.’
The company argues its solutions are highly scalable for when dense deployments of small cells are required, where traditional architectures may not be able to handle so many small cells.
Parallel Wireless has developed product to meet a number of sectors including its vRAN for enterprise indoor solution and its rural solution. The small cells for rural include the CWS-1000 (2x5w) – a small form factor product suitable for mounting on street furniture and poles; and the CWS-2000 (2x20w) – a high capacity, multi-mode, multi-carrier small cell.
The company has also developed a public safety LTE solution including the CWS-3000 (2x40w), which weigh under 18lbs, and the CWS-210 – a ruggedized in-vehicle eNodeB/Wi-Fi access point with integrated flexible backhaul to provide a ‘bring your own coverage’ solution for emergency services.
The CWS-210 can be deployed without any specialist RF expertise and when combined with the HetNet Gateway it can auto-configure and optimise coverage within minutes, as well as mitigating interference when other CWS-210s turn up on the scene.
‘So, if you are a police officer and loads of cars appear with our CWS-210 aboard, they will jam. But our HNG sits between the RAN and core and it is able to orchestrate real time SON for cell synchronisation,’ said Jordan. ‘The HNG can also handle prioritisation.’
She added that the company has undertaken trials with a number of public safety organisations, but cannot reveal which ones yet (although there have been FirstNet trials in the US), but expect some announcements in the near future.
Parallel’s solutions have been deployed by Singapore operator M1 for use by public safety and transit organisations; the bus network is using its solutions for LTE and Wi-Fi access, for example.
Summing up, Rajesh Mishra, president and CTO, said: ‘Our solution builds on the base band unit and GPS, so synchronisation is internal – everything is in there. We are a small cell company with in-vehicle, indoor, outdoor solutions. We want to make cellular small cell deployments as easy and cost effective as Wi-Fi.
‘We see ourselves as more like Google with Android, where it produce phones but does so really to set a standard that others will then try and match – thereby boosting the Android ecosystem, which is what Google is really about. We are also trying to raise the bar. If someone has better hardware than us, then great, we’ll use our HetNet Gateway with that,’ said Mishra.