LTE uptake by wireless operators in the past few years has been massive. The Global mobile Suppliers Association reported this month (February 2014) that there are already 268 LTE networks commercially live in 100 countries worldwide.
CommScope, which supplies distributed antenna systems (DAS) and a range of antenna related products among other products, has been heavily involved in the LTE roll out. Speaking to Wireless, Phil Sorsky, VP Europe, says: ‘I guess it was in 2012 and 2013 when the US leapt ahead in terms of LTE deployment. The first half of 2013 continued to be good globally, but there was no great uptake in LTE investment overall.
‘In the US, the LTE momentum had already built up and was continuing, as it still is, but Europe was lagging behind thanks to a combination of spectrum auctions, licensing and the poor economy. In that respect, the US downturn seemed less negative than the Euro crisis, which held back European telco investment.’
He continues: ‘We noticed a turnaround in late June/July 2013 when European LTE investment started to take off. We were seeing more outside LTE product business such as antennas, cabling, multiplexers and so on, taking off in the second half of last year. That momentum has continued into Q1 2014, but at much higher levels.
“Northern and Western Europe led the way, but now it is pan-regional. Even the Mediterranean countries and Eastern Europe and Russia have seen the arrival of the LTE wave finally arriving. The current signs are that this will continue. We are much busier in the first three weeks of this year than we were in same period 2013.
‘We’ve also found it wasn’t confined to just macro outdoor antenna sites; the indoor business was on fire from July; we include the inside of trains market in that, which has been particular good, except in the UK. Train manufacturers like Bombardier are now designing in DAS from the start, where you can have three to five operators all using the same system,’ says Sorsky.
Colin Bryce, Director, Business Development, Network Solutions, adds: “The dynamic is how these multi-operators will push down into the enterprises. A single solution for one operator when everyone has a company phone is fine, but with the advent of BYOD multi-operator solutions are going to be needed.’
Sorsky observes that mobile operators are looking to roll out as many sites and antennas as soon as possible without getting it wrong and incurring costly re-visits to sites to make corrections. This is putting pressure on the OEMs like Ericsson, NSN, Alcatel-Lucent and Huawei and therefore CommScope.
This is what has inspired CommScope’s recent pre-fabricated site installation solutions, which aim to make site installation twice as fast (see links to stories below for more details).
CommScope has been helping operators navigate the often challenging LTE network deployments and technology evolutions. Based on its experience, Philip Sorrells, vice president, Site Solutions at CommScope, has outlined the following must-knows for all operators transitioning to LTE.
Adopt the remote radio unit/fibre to the antenna architecture
Some operators might be hesitant to deploy active electronics at the top of cell towers in the form of remote radio units (RRU). However, we have seen that to reach the network speed benchmarks that subscribers expect with LTE, you simply have to place the radio as close to the antenna as possible.
The RRU architecture maximises downlink power and minimises noise in the network. How you implement fibre to the antenna (FTTA) as part of this upgrade is another key success factor. As a new cabling and powering approach, operators should take steps to simplify the installation.
Standardise your co-siting deployment strategy
The majority of LTE deployments are co-locations with 2G and 3G networks. Operators need to protect their existing investments while upgrading to LTE. We have found that there are methods to standardising LTE deployments across their many sites that lead to greater success.
Standardisation techniques include pre-assembly of complete RF path solutions, as well as collaborating with network designers, installers and suppliers. Considering alternative implementation strategies on the front-end can result in greater deployment success later.
Be careful with antenna selection
Like in 3G networks, LTE involves the use and re-use of channels and frequencies across multiple cell sectors. Unlike those previous networks, however, LTE works better when signal overlap between sectors is minimised.
The important metrics here are sector power ratio and on-horizon suppression, which measure how much power is contained in the desired sector. High performing antennas improve these metrics and overall LTE network performance. This reasoning also applies to antenna selection for metro cell and mini-macro sites.
Limit interference, especially passive intermodulation (PIM)
More than earlier wireless generations, LTE network performance is sensitive to noise and interference. Optimising the signal to noise ratio of the network is critical. Preventing and reducing PIM levels starts with decreasing non-linearities in the RF path.
Non-linearity in an RF circuit typically occurs at the junction points in the system, where cables, connectors and other equipment meet. Resolving non-linearity typically means fixing connections throughout the RF path.
“CommScope is committed to helping operators meet the LTE deployment challenge and shorten the learning curve on the way. We have plenty of LTE experience in the field to share. We continue to talk with customers about these issues, and CommScope subject matter experts will write more about these areas critical to successful LTE deployment in blog posts throughout the year. Deploying LTE the right way is an ongoing mission for all of us in the wireless industry,” said Sorrells.
CommScope will be at Mobile World Congress 2104 in Hall 2–Stand 2146 and Hall 6–Stand 6106 from 24-27 February 2014.
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