Massively densified networks -- Why we need them and how we can build them
White Paper /
Today's networks have an atomic, discrete architecture, but as technology develops and more users and devices become a part of the equation, they are evolving into more user-centric and pervasive networks. Senza Fili and RCR Wireless come together to present this white paper on why densifying networks is a growing need and how we can optimize them to accommodate major traffic growth.
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Massively densified networks
Why we need them and how we can build them
Monica Paolini, Senza Fili
We thank these companies for sponsoring this report:
In collaboration with
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Table of contents
I. Report: Moving to dense, pervasive networks 3
1. Densification is more than small cells or DAS or C-RAN. From
atomic to pervasive networks 4
2. The emerging RAN taxonomy. Antenna coverage and baseband
3. The big question: Indoor / Outdoor 10
4. Drivers: Coverage / Capacity 11
5. Performance: Capacity / Latency 12
6. Architecture: Small cells / DAS 13
8. Network: Distributed / Centralized 15
9. Technology: Cellular / Wi-Fi 17
10. Unlicensed spectrum: LTE / Wi-Fi 18
11. Spectrum: Sub-6 GHz / Millimeter wave 20
12. Interference: Co-channel / Separate channel 21
13. Backhaul: Fiber / Wireless 22
14. Fronthaul: CPRI / Xhaul 23
15. Access point density: High / Low 25
16. Business model: Single operator / Shared deployment 26
17. Concluding thoughts. The role of operators in a densified,
pervasive network 28
II. Vendor profiles and interviews 29
Ascom Network Testing 37
Rohde & Schwarz 66
Samsung Networks 74
SpiderCloud Wireless 88
III. Operators? interviews 95
DOCOMO Innovations 104
Carolina Panthers 110
Enterprise, anonymous 116
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I. Report: Moving to dense,
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1. Densification is more than small cells or DAS or C-RAN.
From atomic to pervasive networks
We often equate densification with the small-cell deployments, usually in
conjunction with Wi-Fi and DAS, that increase wireless network capacity to
accommodate traffic growth. While small-cell deployments are certainly a central
element in the densification process, densification itself is becoming the catalyst for
a much deeper evolution in wireless networks, which is not limited to small-cell
deployments, and which is enabled by demand drivers and new technologies but
goes beyond the contribution that each of them separately brings.
Today?s networks have an atomic, discrete architecture in which cells are the edge
access elements and are all connected to a distinct, common core. In the initial
stages of densification, operators increase the number and density of these
elements with a surgically precise addition of small cells, DAS or carrier Wi-Fi
elements, but the architecture remains fundamentally the same. As this process
intensifies, these atomic networks start to change into what we call pervasive
networks in this report. Others (notably among them, I Chih-Lin at China Mobile)
have called them user-centric networks, as opposed to the traditional network-
Pervasive networks are distributed. Edge elements of the network, such as small cells
or DAS, get closer to users and devices. And devices themselves can become part of
the access network itself, with device-to-device connectivity.
With C-RAN and, more generally, virtualization, the cell as the fundamental self-
contained element in the RAN ceases to exist. It is replaced by a multi-layer, multi-
band set of antennas connected to a remote baseband. Devices within this model
can connect to more than one antenna and, in a mobility scenario, switch from one
antenna to the next without having to do a handoff, because the cell ID remains the
same. This is the evolution model put forward by China Mobile?s no-more-cells
approach and DOCOMO?s phantom cells.
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Demand is the main driver to densification. Traffic growth on wireless networks
continues unabated as subscribers conduct more activities and a wider variety of
them, over more mobile devices, and as IoT spreads. In turn, the increased coverage
and capacity of densified wireless networks facilitate subscriber and IoT device
access, and this drives a further increase in demand. Increasing network capacity to
meet demand has become financially unsustainable in today?s atomic networks.
Pervasive networks allow a more efficient use of network resources that will enable
operators to provide the capacity and performance needed cost-efficiently.
Outdoor small cells were the first solution to address the need for densification as a
complement to Wi-Fi offload. Small cells can be deployed in both 3G and 4G
networks, and can be combined with Wi-Fi, sharing spectrum with the macro layer.
As operators started to test small cells and plan for deployments, though, they
realized that moving to large-scale deployments of small cells required substantial
operational and financial effort.
Over the last few years, the entire wireless ecosystem has been working to find
business models and technological solutions that meet the operators? performance
and cost requirements. The rest of the report will discuss the advancements in this
area and how they relate to pervasive networks in detail. For now, we can call out 5G
and virtualization as the crucial technology enablers in the transition to pervasive
networks. The two technologies combine the performance improvement, the cost
effectiveness, and the flexibility that operators need to meet the growth in demand
in their networks.
The transition from atomic to pervasive networks has a major impact on wireless
networks ? from technology, performance, usage model, and financial perspectives,
as described in the table below. The evolution is not confined to wireless technology
or network architecture. It affects the entire ecosystem, including subscribers,
enterprise, and third-party players, as well as business, ownership, and operational
Densification is necessary for wireless networks to meet demand, but many changes,
are necessary to achieve the capacity and performance goals, and they will
eventually transform today?s atomic networks into pervasive networks.
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Atomic networks Pervasive networks
Network model Network-centric: subscriber adapts to the network (e.g., goes to the
window to make a phone call).
User-centric: network adapts to subscriber demand (e.g., ultra-dense
wireless infrastructure in stadiums).
RAN Discrete elements: cells (antenna and baseband). No-more-cells, phantom-cells approach, with antennas as access
points in a multi-layer topology, connected to a remote baseband.
UE-RAN connection One-to-one connection from the UE to the cell.
Handoffs required for the UE to move association from one cell to
UEs can connect to multiple antennas, use multiple bands.
Flexible modes of connectivity coexist: dual connectivity, device-to-
device connectivity, Wi-Fi offload.
Subscriber can establish multiple concurrent connections: multiple
devices (including non-SIM and IoT devices) on the same plan.
Distinction between RAN elements and devices is less sharp because
devices connect to each other and act as access points to the RAN.
User and control
User and data planes allocated to each access channel (e.g., sector). Control plane can manage traffic for multiple access channels, so
some access channels do not require a separate control plane (e.g.,
LTE in unlicensed bands, LWA, mmW).
Short-range mobility can be managed without handoffs.
Densification targets Coverage in the wide area, capacity in high-traffic areas, with most of
the RAN infrastructure in outdoor locations and large venues (e.g.,
Vertical capacity increase and coverage extension driven by location-
specific traffic or service requirements (e.g., service tied to a venue;
Layers Single macro-layer, possibly with limited small-cell hotspot
deployments, and with Wi-Fi offload.
Multi-layer networks, with extensive indoor and outdoor coverage
with small cells, DAS or femto cells.
Spectrum Cellular frequencies below 3 GHz. Wider range of higher-frequency bands (3.5 GHz, 5 GHz, mmW), with
the inclusion of unlicensed spectrum.
Core/RAN Separate location and equipment, with RAN equipment located at
the edge and core equipment in centralized locations.
Boundaries less strict, with RAN becoming virtualized and
centralized, and some wireless core functionality moving to the edge
(e.g., MEC, CORD).
Location of function (distributed versus centralized architectures) is a
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Atomic networks Pervasive networks
Testing and monitoring based on network KPIs and historical data.
Limited optimization functionality.
QoE metrics based on performance of UEs are tied to network KPIs
to test, monitor and optimize networks in real time.
Performance yardstick Capacity per RAN element. Capacity density (e.g., per sq km) and latency.
Traffic management Maximize throughput.
Capacity determines service availability.
Real-time traffic management, at the application or service level.
Network slicing used to extract more value from network resources.
Telecom assets (e.g., macro-cellular towers, building rooftops),
mostly in outdoor locations.
RAN equipment gets closer to subscribers and devices ? closer to the
ground and indoors.
Network ownership Operator owns network, often leasing space on cell tower or other
assets. Limited network sharing.
Venue owners increasingly pay for infrastructure, even though they
do not (and choose not to) operate the network.
Multi-operator, neutral-host model, in which some network
elements (e.g., backhaul) are shared among operators.
Control Operators control end-to-end network. Operators retain control of the RAN, but other players ? venue
owners, residential users, neutral hosts and system integrator ? get
more visibility into the networks and have a stronger role in
determining how the network resources they paid for are being
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2. The emerging RAN taxonomy.
Antenna coverage and baseband separation
Densification dictates an evolution of the RAN that involves all its elements. For
operators, densification for capacity purposes starts with the macro networks. When
operators need more capacity in an area, they typically first densify the macro
network where possible, by adding cell sites, splitting sectors or adding new channels
or bands. At some point this becomes financially too expensive or difficult (e.g., in
environments where antenna density is already high, or where it is difficult to find
new cell sites), and operators move densification to sub-layers ? micro cells, small
cells or femto cells. DAS deployments typically run in parallel, to address high-density
venues such as stadiums or enterprises.
Distinguishing among different RAN elements, from macro cells to femto cells,
including DAS, has become increasingly difficult. Many solutions are available to
address specific environments, and do not neatly fit into any of the traditional RAN
element groups. Rather, there is a continuum of solutions that are needed jointly, to
address the varying requirements of different environments. This is a welcome
evolution that testifies to the increased awareness of the multitude of environments
where we need further densification, and the specific challenges that each presents.
At the same time, the trend toward C-RAN and, more generally, toward the
virtualization of the RAN creates a second dimension by which to define RAN
elements. The first dimension is the antenna coverage area, which decreases in the
move from macro to femto cells, but without well-defined borders among the
different element types. The new, second dimension is the location of the baseband.
In a distributed, traditional RAN, the baseband is at the cell site at the edge. In a
centralized network, the baseband is located remotely. There are different types of
baseband separation, depending on the type of fronthaul used ? and the type of
functional split that defines different types of xhaul.
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Like macro cells, small cells can be distributed or centralized. Small cells and C-RAN
are often presented as alternatives to each other, and small cells are seen as
competing with DAS. However, within the frame of the densification process, small
cells and DAS converge to a set of solutions with varying degrees of centralization ?
with DAS being always centralized, and small cells being either centralized or
distributed. As a result, we end up with a continuum of solutions on both axes. This
helps operators find a solution that is well-tailored to their needs and helps vendors
create differentiation in the marketplace ? but it also increases the complexity of the
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3. The big question:
Indoor / Outdoor
Mobile phones were initially developed to provide the wide-area connectivity that
wireline phones could not provide. The first mobile phones used satellites for access
and were car phones, and there was widespread doubt that mobile phones could be
of any use in areas like Manhattan?s urban canyons or for more than short calls.
Today the situation is reversed. Most traffic ? 80% or more in most markets ? comes
from indoor locations, and over 90% is data. Yet most of the RAN infrastructure, if
we exclude Wi-Fi, is located outdoors; as a result, indoor coverage and capacity are
more limited than outdoor. As wireless has become the default communication
interface, the ability to provide the same level of service indoors and outdoors
becomes a high-priority requirement for mobile operators ? and one that, in most
locations, cannot be met cost-effectively with only outdoor RAN infrastructure taking
an outside-in approach.
Wi-Fi has been a boon for mobile operators: it transports the bulk of traffic from
mobile devices, and most of that traffic is from indoor locations ? public venues,
enterprise locations, homes. While Wi-Fi continues to complement cellular access,
mobile operators want to improve indoor cellular coverage, both to meet the
demand from indoor subscribers and to relieve pressure on the macro network.
Indoor traffic typically is more expensive to carry than outdoor traffic, because it uses
less efficient modulation schemes and hence uses more network resources.
As a result, in recent years, operators have expanded their indoor coverage efforts.
With the exception of some Asian countries, particularly Japan and Korea, mobile
operators have been cautious about in-building networks, with the exception of
large venues such as stadiums. Indoor coverage presents its own challenges, which
are markedly different from those in outdoor deployments. The technology, the
solutions and the business models are different, and they are evolving along with the
relationship among venue owners, operators, and third-parties.
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Coverage / Capacity
The narrative of wireless network deployments is in many ways all about
densification. Mobile network performance and capacity have improved
tremendously, thanks to technological innovation and greater spectrum availability,
and densification has been a key part of that improvement. Initially densification was
used to address coverage holes, or establish more consistent coverage. With the
growth in data usage, capacity requirements have become a major driver to
densification ? and densification has become a top priority for operators.
Increasingly, however, coverage and capacity have intertwined. Just being able to
receive a signal at a given location is no longer sufficient for coverage there.
Depending on the market, location and operator, the capacity required for adequate
coverage varies, and it is becoming meaningless to define coverage without
reference to minimum capacity requirements. As a result, a location that was
deemed to have coverage in the past may no longer have basic coverage, and it
becomes a new densification target in order to achieve sufficient capacity.
At the same time, boosting capacity in a hotspot may improve coverage in the
surrounding area. An example is indoor infrastructure that addresses the demand
created by indoor user offloads from the macro network serving the location;
boosting that hotspot?s capacity also increases the capacity and coverage area of the
macro network. In this case, the small cells or DAS in the indoor deployment not only
increase the capacity density within their footprint, they also improve performance
and coverage in the wider area.
The co-dependency of RAN elements within the same footprint in determining both
capacity and coverage demonstrate the need ? and benefits ? of looking at
densification efforts within all the layers of the RAN environment rather than on the
RAN elements ? e.g., small cells or DAS ? that are directly involved.
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Capacity / Latency
Capacity and coverage are the drivers to densification: they make it possible for
operators to support the services that subscribers pay for. But capacity and coverage
are no longer sufficient to make these subscribers happy. QoE, the quintessential ? if
somewhat elusive and difficult to quantify ? measure of subscriber happiness, is
increasingly determined not just by service availability (enabled by coverage and
capacity), but by latency, as well as other transmission metrics such as jitter and
Latency?s rise to prominence is due to the increased use of real-time data
applications: streaming video and audio (such as YouTube, Spotify), voice (including
VoLTE, OTT voice), entertainment and gaming (e.g., Pok?mon). Some IoT
applications ? e.g., connected cars, safety, monitoring, medical, financial ? have tight
latency requirements, too.
With real-time applications, poor coverage, congestion and high latency affect QoE
in comparable ways: they create a poor subscriber experience, with subscribers
giving up on the application they want to use, or with application becoming
unavailable. Common effects of high latency include delays on voice calls and games,
and, with video, frozen streams, dropped frames, pixelization or long startup times.
As operators plan to increase coverage and capacity via densification, the ability to
use low- and, as we move to 5G, ultra-low latency becomes a determinant when
choosing the end-to-end network topology. The RAN plays a crucial role in latency,
but so do backhaul/fronthaul, transport, core functionality, application and content
processing and availability; they all need to be factored into network deployment
and optimization for densified networks.
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Small cells / DAS
Small cells and DAS are frequently considered to be competing solutions taking
opposed approaches to densification. Historically they have developed to address
different requirements: small cells mostly for capacity, DAS mostly for coverage.
They generally serve different environments, as well: small cells in outdoor and
small-venue / residential locations, DAS for indoor environments and large outdoor
venues (although DAS can also be deployed in other outdoor locations).
But DAS and small cells are quickly converging in a varied set of solutions that
address the varied needs of venue owners and operators, and that combine features
of both small cells and DAS. Both small cell and DAS vendors have increasingly
expanded their portfolio to include both solutions or hybrid solutions (e.g.,
CommScope?s OneCell, Ericssons?s Dot and Huawei?s LampSite).
RAN virtualization pushes small cells even closer to DAS. Furthermore, DAS is a
precursor of C-RAN. This is especially true of active DAS topologies that allow a
higher level of control over the management of network resources.
An additional push for the convergence comes from the need to address medium-
size venues ? sometimes referred as the middleprise. Most in-building deployments
target large venues because of those locations? prominence and the dense demand
there. Wireless performance during the Super Bowl, for instance, is tracked at an
unparalleled depth. Locations like stadiums attract much attention and investment
from venue owners and operators.
Smaller venues are a much larger market (e.g., in terms of footage), but are much
more challenging to cover profitably, because that market is fragmented and, with
some exceptions, smaller venues do not have high capacity requirements or high
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revenue opportunities. Hybrid solutions and variations on the established DAS and
small cell solutions ? especially when coupled with some degree of virtualization ?
are necessary to address mid-size venues. At the same time, the ability to cover mid-
size venues is crucial to the transition to massively densified networks, because of
the amount of traffic generated by subscribers at these locations.
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Distributed / Centralized
One of the main decisions operators have to make as they densify their networks is
how distributed or centralized the RAN and core functions should be to maximize
spectrum and resource utilization, optimize performance, and keep costs down.
The dominant approach to RAN densification in today?s atomic networks ? with the
exception of DAS ? starts with a phase in which densification is distributed: small and
femto cells that include all eNB functionality ? radio and baseband ? are deployed at
the edge of the network, often in places where the macro network has insufficient
coverage or none at all. This approach makes small and femto cells fast and easy to
deploy, because no central location is needed to host baseband functionality.
Backhaul requirements can be easily managed because of the lower capacity and
latency requirements of a centralized environment.
Centralized architectures, such as DAS, C-RAN and vRAN, present multiple
advantages over distributed topologies. Cost benefits that accrue from concentrating
baseband processing in a remote location apply to all RAN elements, from macro to
small cells. Femto cells may benefit from some level of centralization, but typically
the approach to virtualization is different because femto cells do not have cost-
effective access to fronthaul. Cost is a key consideration in driving RAN centralization
and virtualization of the macro infrastructure in the short term, but the performance
and flexibility advantages are going to have a stronger impact in the mid to long
term, especially in HetNet multi-layer environments. Cost savings are less for small-
cell than for macro-cell deployments, because centralized topologies require
fronthaul instead of backhaul to meet latency and capacity requirements, and
fronthaul is typically expensive and accounts for a larger percentage of the capex and
opex in a small-cell network than in a macro-cell network.
First among the benefits of a centralized architecture is the ability to manage
transmission across multiple layers to minimize the effect of interference in co-
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channel environments. Especially in outdoor environments where macro and small
cells overlap in coverage and use the same spectrum channel, interference severely
cuts into the capacity benefits of small cells; interference reduces the capacity not
only of the small cells, but of the macro cells, which are more expensive and valuable
on a per-bit basis.
Indoor small cells and DAS deployments suffer less from interference. The reduced
coverage from the macro network, which is what drives in-building deployments,
means interference is also more limited. New building codes that shield buildings
from macro transmissions further reduce indoor coverage and interference, and
indirectly foster a stronger commitment from mobile operators and the enterprise
toward indoor deployments. In this environment, a centralized architecture is often
beneficial, because it helps manage intra-layer interference, and it makes equipment
installation and operation easier.
Centralized deployments also enable ? but do not require ? new ways to manage
traffic in dense environments. Cell IDs can encompass multiple antennas and
multiple RATs can be tightly integrated, such as in China Mobile?s no-more-cells
model and in DOCOMO?s phantom cells. A centralized, virtualized RAN is better
suited to load balancing traffic across antennas and wireless interfaces, and to
managing network-sliced traffic, because all the processing is done in a single
location where there is full visibility across the real-time load and availability of the
locally available network resources.
Finally, a centralized architecture increases the efficiency of instruments like MEC
that shift the core functionality to the edge ? for instance, to lower latency (e.g., for
video streaming), or to support venue-specific applications (e.g., local breakout for
enterprise or IoT applications). In this case, deploying MEC in a C-RAN is less
expensive and more efficient than in a distributed RAN, because less equipment is
needed and better coordination can be achieved. For instance, content caching is
more efficient in a centralized environment, where it is available to multiple access
locations, than in a distributed RAN in which the caching is done at each access
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Cellular / Wi-Fi
By far the most successful densification strategy to date has been Wi-Fi offload. It is
Wi-Fi that has replaced wireline with wireless as the default access technology, not
cellular. It was Wi-Fi that showed us what mobile broadband could do. When the
iPhone came out, 3G networks did not have sufficient capacity to reliably support
bandwidth-intensive services like video streaming, but Wi-Fi did, and it provided
many subscribers the motivation to buy the new device.
According to Cisco VNI, Wi-Fi carries 43% of the IP traffic today, and VNI forecasts
this percentage to grow to 50% by 2020. By comparison, cellular traffic accounts for
5% today, and that is forecast to be 16% in 2020. This means the dominant access
technology for mobile devices is mostly outside operators? control. Despite the
growth in carrier Wi-Fi and, more generally, the increased push for Wi-Fi offload ? for
data, but also for voice with Wi-Fi Calling ? it is the active choice of subscribers that
has made Wi-Fi access prevalent, enabled by the wide availability of Wi-Fi
infrastructure in residential and enterprise environments.
Wi-Fi is set to continue to play a crucial role as wireless networks densify, but at the
same time the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz spectrums it uses are getting congested ? and the
congestion will increase with the introduction of LTE access in the 5 GHz band (see
below). Wi-Fi will expand to the 60 GHz band, but the dominant use cases there are
for services in which the devices are in close proximity to the access point and
As a result, Wi-Fi is likely to become the technology that, instead of providing offload,
will need offload itself. An expansion in the allocation of unlicensed spectrum that
Wi-Fi may use will bring relief, but we will also need greater availability, higher
spectral efficiency and more intensive utilization of cellular bands. Densification can
no longer be primarily entrusted to Wi-Fi; it will instead require the integration of
multiple access technologies to provide the seamless connectivity that users expect.
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10. Unlicensed spectrum:
LTE / Wi-Fi
Wi-Fi?s success in winning the hearts of wireless users and in using spectrum with
unprecedented efficiency, mostly because of dense deployments, has piqued the
interest of vendors and operators that have seen an opportunity to use unlicensed
spectrum for LTE.
The advantages to mobile operators are clear: operators gain opportunistic ? i.e., not
guaranteed, contingent on availability ? access to unlicensed spectrum, using the
same technology and network infrastructure they use for LTE, maintaining control
over traffic and integrating it with their cellular RAN and core. In addition, LTE?s
spectral efficiency is higher than Wi-Fi?s because of more efficient modulation. With
the exception of MulteFire (see below), LTE in unlicensed bands is deployed
alongside licensed LTE, and, as a result, the marginal cost of adding LTE unlicensed is
low in greenfield small-cell deployments.
There are, however, disadvantages to using LTE instead of Wi-Fi in unlicensed bands
as well. Wi-Fi is already installed in virtually all mobile-broadband devices. The
infrastructure is widely available, and in most cases free to access ? both to
operators and to subscribers. In contrast, LTE in unlicensed spectrum requires new
devices and new infrastructure that has to be deployed ? and paid for, in most cases
? by the operator. Besides, in order to use LTE in unlicensed bands without unduly
affecting Wi-Fi performance, LTE has to use LBT mechanisms that reduce its
performance advantages over Wi-Fi. Finally, deployments of LTE unlicensed require
the consent of venue owners where they have control over the location of the LTE
unlicensed antennas. Those owners might not grant permission to install, because
LTE unlicensed ? even when it uses LBT ? competes with the local Wi-Fi for network
resources, which venue owners consider theirs and want to continue to control.
It is still unclear how widely LAA, the version of LTE unlicensed that is designed to
guarantee nice coexistence with Wi-Fi and which is deployable worldwide,
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worldwiwill be adopted in the face of the competition from Wi-Fi and the
tradeoffs it requires.
A further uncertainty is due to two promising ? and to some extent
complementary ? alternatives: MulteFire and LWA.
MulteFire allows for the use of LTE as the air interface in the 5 GHz band,
without needing to use a licensed band for the control plane. So venue
owners or operators that do not have an LTE network in licensed bands can
deploy MulteFire and, if they choose, offer LTE unlicensed access on a
neutral-host basis to mobile operators. This approach enables operators to
improve capacity and/or coverage in venues where they may not have
access or where they do not want to deploy licensed LTE.
LWA allows mobile operators to use unlicensed spectrum but operates in
the opposite direction of LAA. It uses the Wi-Fi air interface, but it fully
integrates the Wi-Fi traffic within the LTE network. This approach removes
the controversial coexistence of LTE and Wi-Fi in the unlicensed 5 GHz band,
but it also removes the LTE performance advantage.
As long as devices can support LAA, MulteFire and LWA (and they likely will),
mobile operators will have multiple ways to use unlicensed spectrum in
addition to Wi-Fi ? as long as they get access to the venues they want to
cover. We expect operators to select one or more of these solutions, as
soon as they deploy small cells, because using unlicensed spectrum not only
augments capacity, it significantly improves the business case for small cells,
which to date has been a difficult one.
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Sub-6 GHz / Millimeter wave
Massive densification requires new spectrum to manage the increase in traffic
loads and meet performance requirements efficiently and cost effectively. By
packing the infrastructure closer and using multiple layers (e.g., small cells and
macro cells), operators can reuse a frequency channel more intensely. But at some
point they face a diminishing return: the marginal investment to increase capacity
becomes too high for the increase in performance it brings.
Many operators face this situation in the macro RAN. They increase the density of
base stations, added MIMO and CA, and split sectors, and they reach a plateau.
The next step is to add small cells in the same band, but that introduces
interference ? especially if the small cells are located outdoors in areas covered by
the macro layer. In some environments the interference can be managed
effectively, but it adds a cost in terms of effort and lost spectral efficiency.
Using multiple bands to cover the same location enables operators to lower the
impact of interference and minimize costs. Low-frequency bands are still valuable
for improving coverage in low-density areas and for some IoT applications. In high-
density environments, higher-frequency bands are more effective in reducing the
interference and increasing spectrum utilization, because of the more limited
coverage range. This is a major limitation in a macro network, and for this reason
mobile operators have been reluctant to use spectrum above 2.5 GHz to date.
Increasingly, however, mobile operators have become keen to use higher
frequencies for lower layers. Candidates range from the 3.5 GHz band to the
unlicensed 5 GHz band, and all the way to mmW. The 3.5 GHz band is an excellent
candidate for small-cell deployments, because its shorter range strikes a good
coverage/capacity balance. However, the amount of spectrum available is limited,
and in some countries there are regulatory restrictions or spectrum allocation
issues that have been slowing down the plans to use the 3.5 GHz band.
Millimeter-wave bands are the other hot prospect for spectrum expansion. The
amount of spectrum available is huge and, because of the high reuse that high
frequency makes possible, the potential increase in capacity is astounding.
Spectrum in these bands is going to be much less expensive, or even usable on an
unlicensed or lightly licensed basis, and current 5G standardization efforts cover
mmW bands both for fixed wireless links (e.g., backhaul or possibly fronthaul) and
for access in areas of very high density (e.g., where even small cells or DAS are not
sufficient, the extremely hot spots). MmW supports densification on two fronts ?
xhaul to small cells, and access from UEs ? which can be combined when using in-
Using mmW for access requires more than new antennas or distributed small cells.
Because of the small coverage radius, mmW access can generate large numbers of
handoffs, as users will cross the cell-edge border frequently and move from mmW
to sub-6 GHz cellular coverage from macro or small cells. Frequent handoffs create
high levels of overhead that affects the anchor sub-6 GHz network.
A solution to this problem is to implement a phantom-cell architecture, in which
coexisting elements ? e.g., sub-6 GHz and mmW ? become part of the same cell ID
and the control plane is managed for both bands from the sub-6 GHz bands, which
have wider and more consistent coverage. Load balancing across bands enables
operators to direct traffic to the band that can accommodate it more efficiently.
Further densification and more intensive spectrum utilization may come from
device-to-device communications ? either subscribers or IoT devices. Device-to-
device communications can establish an ad hoc, mesh-like network that expands
the reach and capacity of the rest of the network. This possibility calls into
question the sharp boundary between network and device that is prevalent in
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Co-channel / Separate channel
Initial densification efforts with small cells and DAS have used a co-channel model
in which they share spectrum with the macro layer, but generate different levels
of interference. Femtocells, the first incarnation of small cells, were largely
deployed indoors, at very low power and in places where macro coverage was
weak or absent, and so interference was not a big issue.
Outdoor small cells were initially deployed in many cases to address areas
without coverage. Interference was, by definition, not an issue. When small-cell
deployments moved to dense areas where operators had macro coverage but
insufficient capacity, interference became a major issue that slowed the rollout of
small cells. It also pushed operators to spend more money on increasing macro
capacity, and to move to small-cell deployments as a last resort after all the
macro enhancements had been used. Initially, techniques like CoMP or eICIC
were not sufficiently mature or widely deployed, making interference
management less efficient. But more fundamentally, interference between small
and macro layers in co-channel deployments reduces the capacity of the macro
layer, and that is highly undesirable and expensive for mobile operators. Even if
the cost of installing a small cell is lower on a per-bit basis than a macro cell, the
cost savings could easily dissipate if the small-cell installation results in a
reduction of the macro-layer capacity.
Of course, an effective way to minimize interference is to move away from co-
channel deployments and use a separate channel. Operators largely resist this,
because typically cellular spectrum is too expensive to use only in the small-cell
layer. In most environments, a co-channel deployment supports a more efficient
use of spectrum, in terms of capacity density (bits per sq km), than a deployment
in which small cells use a channel different from that used by the macro layer. But
the reduction of capacity from interference makes the business case for small
cells less palatable, because it increases the overall network per-bit cost. As a
result, operators have been reluctant to deploy small cells widely, and have
focused on areas where the need for additional capacity makes them less
sensitive to cost.
Two ways to cope with the interference issues have emerged and are likely to
accelerate massive densification. The first of these involves spectrum bands that
are not traditionally used for mobile and that, therefore, are less expensive and in
higher-frequency bands ? such as the 3.5 GHz, the unlicensed 5 GHz band and
mmW bands. Operators can use these bands in addition to co-channel spectrum
within the same small-cell enclosure, or they can deploy a sublayer in these bands
and let the macro layer retain control of cellular spectrum. In both cases, the cost
per bit decreases. In the first case the low incremental cost of adding these bands,
coupled with the increase in capacity, reduces the per-bit capex and opex. In the
second case the business case is strengthened by preserving capacity in the
macro layer by avoiding interference.
A second way of coping with interference is to move the lower-layer
infrastructure indoors. In locations where per-small-cell deployment and
operating costs are comparable or lower than in an outdoor environment, indoor
networks can help reducing the per-bit capex and opex. The reduced impact from
interference lowers the per-bit cost in indoor deployments. However, in-building
infrastructure faces business model, ownership, and control challenges that are
different from outdoor infrastructure, and access to indoor locations may not be
available or affordable to mobile operators. The move to in-building
infrastructure will undoubtedly intensify and accelerate the densification process,
but it will not eliminate the need for outdoor infrastructure, which will still be
used to meet demand from outdoor subscribers and in places where operators
cannot deploy indoor infrastructure.
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Fiber / Wireless
A vexed question in the small-cell ecosystem is whether backhaul should be wireline
(and, if so, whether it has to be fiber) or could be wireless (and, if so, in which bands).
The debate does not regard indoor deployments, where wireline backhaul is typically
used within the building. In outdoor environments, however, both wireline and
wireless solutions present benefits and limitations ? and approaching backhaul as a
combination of fiber and wireless links may help reduce the drawbacks of both
Fiber is the ideal backhaul for outdoor small cells, but it is not always available, and
even when available, it is not always cost effective. In most environments, fiber is
available in the vicinity of the small cells, but bringing it to the small cell is often too
expensive, not to mention time consuming.
Wireless backhaul is the alternative, as long as small cells do not use a C-RAN or
virtualized architecture. With remote baseband, fronthaul requirements are tighter
and wireless fronthaul is possible, but it requires specialized solutions. Solutions that
work for backhaul typically do not have enough capacity or a low enough latency to
support fronthaul. The limitation of wireless backhaul is that to provide sufficient
latency, line of sight from the small cell to the aggregation point is required. As the
link length grows, the likelihood of having a reliable line of sight and reliable
performance decreases. Multi-hop wireless backhaul can compensate for the lack of
line of sight, but increases costs and latency.
In outdoor environments, fiber and wireless are not mutually exclusive, but rather
two components defining the backhaul. In fact, a mix of fiber and wireless backhaul
is the dominant solution, with the choice between the two dictated by cost and
availability tradeoffs. The backhaul for every small cell terminates into fiber; what
changes is the length of the wireless backhaul, which can be zero for a small cell with
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CPRI / Xhaul
Another concept that pervasive networks challenge is the dichotomy of backhaul
and fronthaul in terms of requirements and what technologies could meet them,
and in terms of what type of signal the fronthaul carries.
Within mobile networks, fronthaul is the link from the RRH to the BBU, and backhaul
the link from the BBU to the core network. If the RRH and BBU are co-located, there
is no need for fronthaul. Because the fronthaul carries the analog signal, the
bandwidth and latency requirements are much higher than those for backhaul. As a
result, some technologies and solutions may be suitable only for backhaul. Others
may be well-suited for fronthaul, but too expensive for backhaul.
First off, with the move to extra-low latency and high capacity (e.g., when using
mmW for access), the 5G backhaul requirements may approach those for fronthaul
today. But this also means that fronthaul requirements, if using CPRI, will also grow
to alarming levels. This creates the possibility that the fronthaul may become the
bottleneck, and the risk that RAN capacity may have to be capped if the BBUs are
remote. (Another possibility is that RAN virtualization will slow down because
fronthaul requirements are too onerous.)
Because it is difficult to meet current and future fronthaul requirements with CPRI,
especially in small-cell deployments where dark fiber is too expensive or not
available, there is considerable ongoing work to define alternative interfaces ? e.g.,
compressed CPRI or Ethernet ? and functional splits, in which some of the baseband
functionality stays at the edge, co-located with the RRH.
With functional splits, the fronthaul requirements decrease, but so do the benefits of
virtualization. Multiple options are available, and operators need to decide what
level of functional split works best in each location in their networks. It is not yet
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clear whether there will be a dominating functional split or which splits will be best
suited to which environments.
Importantly, functional splits call into question a clear-cut distinction between
fronthaul and backhaul, and instead suggest a continuum of functional splits
between RRH and BBU, which recently has been referred to as the xhaul. Then,
depending on the type of xhaul ? i.e., the selected functional split ? and the RAN
requirements, different interfaces and solutions become appropriate. The xhaul
approach recognizes operators? need for flexibility as they densify their infrastructure
and use a wide range of RAN solutions to strike the right balance between costs and
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15. Access point density:
High / Low
When planning for densification, operators need to select not only technologies,
solutions, spectrum bands and locations, but also the topology of the densification.
There, access point density is a choice that is becoming more prominent, although it
is rarely discussed as a stand-alone dimension of the densification strategy. As a
wider range of solutions, spectrum bands and business models become available,
operators can choose among options that vary in power, coverage, cost, equipment
size, and ability to fit into multi-operator, neutral-host models.
Given a target capacity they aim to have in a given location, operators can choose to
have a high number of low-power, reduced-coverage, low-capacity access points, or
a smaller number of high-capacity access points. When using mmW for access, or
multiple bands in the same access point, operators can create super hotspots where
they have a very high concentration of traffic.
The primary consideration in selecting the appropriate access-point density is the
distribution of traffic. Subscribers and the traffic they generate are distributed very
unevenly, so it is crucial to place the access points as close as possible to subscribers.
If the distribution is uneven and highly clustered, access points will be placed more
densely in high-usage locations. If the distribution is more even, access points with
larger coverage areas may be preferred.
In addition to traffic distribution across locations, operators need to consider
backhaul availability, deployment costs, spectrum availability (including traffic load in
unlicensed bands), business model (e.g., whether there is infrastructure sharing
among operators or a neutral-host model) and RF propagation in the environment.
For instance, if deploying access points is inexpensive, backhaul is easily available, or
spectrum availability is limited, an operator may opt for a denser network of access
points with limited coverage and capacity. Fewer but more powerful access points
may be better suited in locations where installation and backhaul are expensive.
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16. Business model:
Single operator / Shared deployment
Densification demands that the wireless infrastructure move closer to
subscribers, vehicles, and IoT sensors and other devices ? and this means
beyond the cell-tower model, which continues to be used for the macro layer
but needs new indoor and outdoor models as complements.
In a macro environment, the operator has full control over network planning,
deployment and operations, using telco assets such as cell towers. The
operator owns the end-to-end infrastructure and manages traffic and
interference. Cell towers are usually owned by third parties, but operators lease
space on them and retain control of the telecom equipment. This model, well
understood by every player in the ecosystem, ensures that deployments
In a sublayer deployment, this model no longer works. The access
infrastructure has to be mounted on non-telecom assets, such as lampposts,
exterior or interior building walls, ceilings, advertisement displays, and public
transportation vehicles, or even below street level. This creates constraints on
where operators can deploy the equipment; it also creates the need to
establish direct or indirect relationships with the owners of these assets ? cities
and public entities, enterprises, educational institutions and other venue
owners. In some cases, these entities expect to extract rent from mobile
operators or third parties working on their behalf. In other cases, the asset
owner may pay for the infrastructure or encourage rent-free installation and
operation, but may require visibility or some level of control over the local
Negotiating deals with the new asset owners has proven to be one of the
biggest challenges ? and causes of delay in deployments ? that operators face.
Asset owners are eager to host the telecom infrastructure, either to extract
revenues or to get better mobile service or both, but they do not know how to
structure deals with operators because it is uncharted territory. The same is
true for mobile operators. As a result, we see trials, negotiations and even legal
challenges ? but little in the way of the expected large deployments. The
urgency of densification is increasingly felt by both parties as bad wireless
service affects operators and venue owners or administrators, and so deals are
starting to come together. They will undoubtedly evolve through time as we
understand the deployment models better from technical and business
perspectives, but these early deals are the necessary first step to get beyond ad
hoc densification to large-scale densification.
More interestingly, the need for mobile operators and asset owners to work
together ? directly, or indirectly through third parties such as service providers,
fiber providers or cell-tower companies ? is also accelerating the development
of closer relationships with cities, enterprises and other venue owners and
institutions. These relationships can lead to better performance and to the
creation of services that mobile operators can develop or support. In a
densified, pervasive network, it is not just the equipment that moves closer to
subscribers ? it is the relationship among subscribers, venue
owners/administrators, and operators that becomes tighter and deeper.
The need to negotiate deals with asset owners coupled with the need to find
cost-effective ways to deploy small cells drives new business (and deployment)
models. The initial small-cell business model assumed each operator would
deploy its equipment independently of other operators or service providers,
striking deals with asset owners. But that is too expensive, time consuming and
inefficient to scale beyond prime locations (e.g., some parts of Manhattan,
downtown San Francisco, central London) to areas with less concentrated, but
still high, traffic.
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Especially in indoor venues, the trend is toward shared deployments, in which
one operator or, more commonly, a neutral host acts as the interface between
the asset owner and the operators that wish to participate in the local network.
This is very similar to the DAS neutral-host model, in which multiple operators
can share the DAS, but each controls its own transmissions. This model enables
operators to reduce costs by sharing some of the infrastructure, and it
streamlines deployment and operations, because the neutral host manages all
the relationships with venue owners on one end, and with multiple operators
on the other end. There is a widespread belief that the DAS neutral-host model
does not work in small-cell deployments because it requires operators to share
the RAN ? an option that nearly all operators consider unacceptable if it
involves their licensed spectrum. But the neutral-host model can equally allow
operators to deploy their own radios, retain control of the use of the spectrum
and manage traffic, without having to negotiate a separate deal with the asset
owners, and without having to directly deploy and manage the RAN
This model does not exclude opportunities for the operators and venue owners
to negotiate specific arrangements about network performance, coverage or
functionality, or to provide additional services (e.g., enterprise services, or IoT
services to city agencies). These arrangements will encourage the venue
owners to participate more actively in the densification process ? in part by
funding deployments, and in part by requesting services ? and to see the
wireless infrastructure as an integral component of the venue, comparable to
the in-building electrical network.
In this context, the availability of the 3.5 GHz band in the US and of other sub-6
GHz bands in other countries will push the shared deployment business model
further, because it allows neutral-host players to install a small-cell network in a
venue, using spectrum bands that are not allocated to a specific operator. The
venue owner or the neutral host can deploy the network and allow access to
operators on a wholesale basis. A benefit of this approach is that the neutral
host or venue owner can deploy a single network that can be shared, and this
results in more-efficient spectrum utilization and in lower costs.
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17. Concluding thoughts.
The role of operators in a densified, pervasive network
Many mobile operators worldwide question their future relevance ? and worry
about their ability to extract the revenues they deserve from their networks.
Typically, these concerns are rooted in the risk they perceive that they will become a
dumb pipe that can transmit an increasing amount of data to their subscribers and
do so more reliably than in the past, only to see subscribers value the networks less
than the OTT apps they use on those networks.
The transition to massively densified, pervasive networks can change this. The role of
the mobile operator is transformed by the increased complexity of wireless networks
that have to optimize and integrate multiple spectrum bands, technologies, services,
device types and topologies. Mobile operators can no longer focus only on pushing
as many bit/s as their infrastructure supports; they also need to manage traffic,
applications and network resources in a much smarter way than they are
accustomed to. Increasingly, they do not look like a utility ? they look instead more
like orchestra conductors, coordinating transmission in a multi-layer network ? a
network in which they have the flexibility to set strategy in ways that differentiate
their network from that of their competitors.
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II. Vendor profiles and interviews
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Founded over 120 years ago, Anritsu Corporation
is a global provider of communications test and
Anritsu?s measuring instruments support multiple
? Mobile wireless communications, RF and
microwave: base station analyzer, Bluetooth and
WLAN tester, cable and antenna analyzer,
conformance test system, interference hunt,
PIM analyzer, peripheral equipment, power
meters and sensors, signal analyzer, spectrum
analyzer, signal generator, signaling tester,
shield box, trace management, vector network
analyzer, handheld vector network analyzer
? Digital broadcast: Digital broadcast analyzer
? Devices and components test: Bit-error-rate
testing, eye pattern analyzer, vector network
analyzer, signal generator, optical spectrum
analyzer, peripheral equipment
? Transport: IP/Ethernet testers, SDH/SONET/OTN
analyzers, PDH/DSn analyzers, multi-layer
network test platform
? Optical: OTDRs, multi-layer network test
platform, optical loss test set / light source /
optical spectrum analyzer, video inspection
In addition, Anritsu has recently introduced
SkyBridge Tools? to manage cloud data. SkyBridge
Tools helps mobile operators with documentation
and reports, real-time analytics, automated
assessment of RF sweeps and PIM test results.
The ability to automate and scale testing and
monitoring in wireless networks is crucial for
operators moving to multi-layer, multi-RAT
networks and with DAS; the number of tests
needed to assess performance rapidly increases
with complexity and makes manual field testing
time consuming and expensive in terms of staff
Anritsu solutions also help operators with
densified networks to identify the different
sources of interference that affect macro-cell and
small-cell networks and to manage interference, if
necessary, in real time.
The portfolio of Anritsu measuring instruments is
well suited for indoor densified networks. It
consists of solutions for both the wireless and
optical segments; they can test and monitor both
the access and backhaul/fronthaul portions of
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in densified networks
A conversation with Tom Elliott,
Sr. Product Manager,
Monica Paolini: In this conversation with Tom
Elliott, a Senior Product Manager at Anritsu in the
United States, we discuss how testing evolves as
operators densify their networks with DAS, small
cells and other solutions.
Tom, could you give us an introduction on the
approach to densification at Anritsu and what your
role is within the company?
Tom Elliott: As far as personal work on
densification, I?ve been heavily involved with
redefining what field testing means for DAS. The
idea of a test as being a return loss, or a distance-
to-fault really isn?t working too well for the DAS
We?ve also had a focus on received signal quality. I
and others have been heavily focused on the idea
of spectrum assurance, the idea that you can have
a variety of ways to make sure that your uplink is
With LTE in particular, a clean uplink really helps
capacity, and capacity is what densification is all
Monica: You?re personally more involved in the
DAS testing, but at Anritsu, you cover other areas
with respect to densification, too.
Tom: Personally, I?ve been involved in DAS testing
and interference. Others in Anritsu are involved in
the full range of tests that we do, as well as
Monica: What is different about DAS testing? The
end result is to make sure that the QoE is good for
Tom: In a tower installation test, you have cables
going up the tower. You have antennas, maybe
some splitters, and other passive RF components.
A typical tower test would have 25, 50, 100,
maybe even 150 sweeps of some nature. We?re
talking about return loss, distance-to-fault, cable
loss, PIM, and maybe some fiber test. That can be
handled by the existing processes.
When you move to a DAS system, especially a
neutral-host DAS system, where you need to test
three or four frequency bands on every cable,
those tests multiply, and they multiply
A medium-sized DAS install could have several
thousand tests. A football stadium, for instance,
may have as many as 15,000 tests. It?s the sheer
scale that becomes a problem. You?re talking
about months, man-months, spent dealing with
Monica: Is automation going to help this?
Networks are becoming more complex, not less
complex. How is testing going to evolve with the
increase in complexity?
Tom: Automation can help this. In manufacturing,
for many years, there?s been a piece of software
called a test executive. It sets up tests, it
automates the tests, it runs the tests, it collects the
results, and generates statistics.
We need something similar to that for the field,
something to automate the field tests, and DAS is
a perfect setup to do this. At the same time,
there?s the idea of removing some of the
possibilities for error out of the DAS testing.
In the work we?ve done with some of our DAS
installers, we?re finding when we come in, there
might be a 10% error rate on these files. Say I have
5,000 files, I sample 500 files. I can?t check every
one of them, so I sample.
I say, ?OK, it?s good.? I pass them off to my end
customer. They look at 5,000 tests and say, ?What
am I going to do with this?? They sample the tests.
They sample different tests, and if there?s a 10%
error rate, chances are they?re going to find some
problems. The results all come back to the testing
contractor, and we get into this loop.
The problem was expressed to me best this way: ?I
have 1,000 traces in a directory on my PC. Which
ones are missing? Which traces are duplicated?
Which traces are misnamed? I haven?t even gotten
to which traces fail judgment.? The existing
processes, which are based on a tower technique,
just do not scale.
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Monica: Also, the DAS systems are evolving. With
active DAS, DAS is becoming more complex.
Tom: One thing Anritsu is doing is redefining what
a test is. I?ve talked about a return-loss sweep, a
distance-to-fault sweep, a cable-loss sweep, and
about having to do these all at three different
Why do we need to run nine lab-based tests on
each cable and deal with these individually? Don?t
we have computers? Don?t they do things like this?
We do have computers, and they do things like
this. We can redefine what a test is, from ?Here?re
all these things I have to do to this cable,? to ?This
cable is good or bad.? We can remove some of
these workflow issues.
There?s a MOP, a Method of Procedure. Some
companies call this a SOW, or statement of work.
By necessity, it?s fairly general, but when a
technician is faced with an ambiguous situation,
what they?ll tend to do, rather than have to come
back and test again, is they?ll take three, four, or
five different traces, and let the engineers sort it
Typing filenames on the instrument turns out to
be a major time sink. Not only do they tend to
make a typo once in a while ? you would, too, if it
was 20 degrees out and blowing like anything ?
but each technician tends to have his own naming
standard, and they leave it to the engineer to sort
There?s also some ambiguity in the existing
process for instrument setups, and this can lead to
situations like ?Oh my goodness, it was the wrong
start and stop frequency,? or ?The limit line was
wrong,? or ?Something was wrong. We?ve got to
go back and retest.? These sorts of things could be
removed by test automation.
Monica: In a DAS environment, you might have a
neutral host, so it?s not necessarily the operator
doing the testing. And the people that are doing
the install and the testing might not be as
qualified, or have so much RF experience. Doesn?t
that create additional challenges?
Tom: It certainly does, and I?ve been involved in
some of these. DAS testing, even if you do have RF
experience, is a different field than some of the
other testing you may have done, and there are
certain ambiguities there.
What Anritsu has proposed is an automated field
test solution. You may have heard of it by the
name of SkyBridge Tools. It?s on our external
website. It provides setup information for the
instruments. It provides test automation when
you?re on site, and it provides automatic
judgment, automatic reporting with cloud-based
dashboards, so everybody with a login knows
exactly how the job is progressing.
This way, the questions can be asked and
answered while the technician is still on site,
before they?ve closed out, before they?ve gone
somewhere else, before they have to come back,
before payment is delayed.
Monica: Basically, you can see there is a problem,
and then you can dig down specifically in that area,
whatever the case may be.
Tom: That?s exactly it. The idea is to get things
done quickly and done now. Our field tests show
that SkyBridge can cut the actual test time by up to
90%. That?s a big number, but if we?re going from a
manual method to a computer-aided method,
that?s not surprising.
Monica: With densification, the more packed your
infrastructure is, the more opportunities you have
for interference. That is whether it?s indoors or
outdoors. How do you deal with that?
Tom: First, maybe I should take a moment and
define what the interference mechanism is.
Interference is a receive issue. Signals that get to
the radio?s receiver affect the front end, and even
if it?s not the signal you want, it will come in there.
It will reduce the sensitivity of your radio receiver.
This lowers the radio?s sensitivity, and increases
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your bit error rate, increases your frame rate,
increases your dropped calls and all that bad stuff.
The name for this is receiver desense, or
desensitization. If it?s severe, it?s called receiver
One thing that seems to be a chronic
misunderstanding about interference is that
interference does not have to be on your receive
channel. All it has to do is get to the input of your
receiver. It can be on a different frequency.
In other words, it can be in band, but it doesn?t
have to be on channel, so your receive pre-filter
matters. If it gets through your receive pre-filter, if
it gets to the input of your receiver, it?s
Monica: In terms of the testing, how can you have
your testing become more efficient where you
have small cells, which are additional sources of
interference, when small cells and macro cells are
in co-channel deployment?
Tom: Anritsu has a lot of interference solutions,
but there?s one thing I need to point out, which is
that the incoming signal amplitude at the receiver
Small cells have their own unique problems when
it comes to interference.
Let?s say I have a signal source, an interference
source. It?s at -40 dBm. It?s emitting at -40 dBm. If
that signal is a mile from a tower, propagation
models say it?s going to lose 96 dB by the time it
gets to the tower. In absolute numbers, It?s going
to be -136 dBm at the tower. It?s not going to be
an issue. The tower won?t see it. It won?t matter
because it?s above the small cell?s noise floor. We
can coexist perfectly happily.
If we?re 50 ft from a small cell, the signal will lose
56 dB over 50 ft. That puts the signal at -96 dBm,
at the small cell?s receive and it?s a problem for the
My point here is that when you put in small cells,
there?re going to be interference sources that will
bother a small cell that a macro cell would never
see. Interference becomes a bigger problem. Of
course, the small-cell reception area is smaller. It?s
a small cell, after all. But there are other
interference sources that will matter to the small
cell that a macro tower won?t see. Efficiency in
finding interference becomes very important.
Monica: How do interference sources change as
you move from macro to small cells?
Tom: It depends on the sort of sources we?re
looking for. There?s on-channel interference,
there?s interference that?s off channel but in band,
there?s impulse noise, arcing, sparking. There are
even still jammers around.
We had a case a while ago where a high school
teacher had a jammer running during his tests so
his students couldn?t cheat, and it was shutting
down an AT&T sector. Jamming 911 calls? Not
We also have harmonics, multiples of an original
signal. Some of our TV signal harmonics fall in the
PCS band. There is intermodulation, both active
and passive intermodulation, that we all know
about from PIM testing. There?s something called
the near-far problem, where a strong interference
signal or a strong transmitter will overwhelm a
weak desired signal.
All of these are typical interference sources, and
we?ve got a great app note on interference
hunting concepts that goes over this in more
As far as making interference hunting more
efficient, Anritsu does have a tool set for this,
starting with some of the very simplest traditional
We?ve got the traditional direction-finding tools.
We take a spectrum analyzer and a Yagi antenna,
look for the strongest signal, and you triangulate.
We have map-assisted tools that will actually put a
map on a spectrum analyzer. We have car-based
signal location, where we can go through and
essentially seek the power.
Do you remember the child?s game of hot and
cold, where one child picks something, and the
other child asks, ?Am I getting hot? Am I getting
cold?? It sorts of works that way, and it?s
surprisingly fast. Also, it?s reliable, because it takes
care of issues with multipath, echoes, reflections,
and even diffraction.
Another solution is monitoring, because signals
aren?t always interfering. We can characterize a
signal by doing short-term monitoring. Every one
of our spectrum analyzers is web enabled. You can
hook them up to the internet. You can control
them with a browser from a distance. We can drop
something off at a site for a week, for two weeks,
for three weeks, and see what?s happening.
On the other hand, you might be interested in
some long-term monitoring. We have a set of
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headless spectrum analyzers designed specifically
for this sort of task, which can be either
temporarily or permanently in place, and we have
software to go with it, so you can maintain your
signal quality throughout your network as things
change. The device is comfortably monitored
Monica: There is testing that you do at the
beginning, but then monitoring is an ongoing
effort. Is the relationship between testing and
monitoring evolving somehow, with densification
and networks that are becoming more complex
Tom: Back when we were mostly concerned about
coverage, interference didn?t matter so much,
because all of our cellular standards have
redundancy, and they can handle a certain amount
of interference without dropping the call. Every
one of those methods of handling interference
involves sending out more bits to get the same
amount of data. In other words, you?ve affected
As soon as we moved to LTE and we were
concerned about capacity and densification
suddenly, interference matters, and it matters a
lot, because it?s hitting your throughput directly.
That?s why monitoring is becoming of interest to
our customers. Network operators, especially, are
concerned about their signal quality and their
If I go back 10 years to CDMA, if we had any
interference problem, it would be the easiest thing
just to plunk a $4,000 board into a base station
and bring up a new carrier, and all of a sudden,
you have more capacity.
That?s not possible with LTE. The bands don?t
permit it. If you want to have more capacity, first
you need to make the most out of the macro cells
you have. That?s what spectrum monitoring is
Second, once you get your small cells in, or your
iDAS or your oDAS, you need to make sure it?s
Monica: What is the impact that you?re seeing
from densification on spectrum assurance?
Tom: Spectrum assurance is Anritsu?s name for a
family of spectrum monitoring, interference
hunting, and signal mapping tools, both indoors
and outdoors. We?re developing these in response
to our customers? requirements for exactly the
sort of capacity we?ve been talking about with LTE
Monica: Where do you see testing moving in the
Tom: We?re going to be moving closer to real time.
We have all this communication capability now.
Our instruments are using it and they will continue
to use it.
Cloud-based solutions are tremendously efficient.
The test automation for DAS is a cloud-based
solution. We?re going to see that. You?re going to
see more control, you?re going to see more
remote expertise, you?re even going to see remote
dispatch coming in the future.
Monica: You mentioned real time. What is real
time for you in testing? Is it a day, an hour, a
minute, a millisecond?
Tom: Real time can be a day, it can be an hour, it
can be a minute. Picture this scenario. There is an
engineer at a central site somewhere in the world.
There?s a technician on site in the field. The
technician runs some diagnostics. He posts the
results in the cloud. The engineer sees the results
and downloads some more tests to the
technician?s equipment. That sort of collaboration
is what I am talking about.
Monica: I guess at different sites, and for different
needs, you might switch to different time
granularity while there?
Tom: Absolutely. Monitoring typically uses a
15-minute window. Troubleshooting would
require updates in a few seconds. If we?re building
a DAS system, maybe once a day is enough. It
depends on the task.
Monica: Monitoring allows you to identify and fix a
problem, but also it allows operators to optimize
the use of the network resources. Can you help
them with that as well?
Tom: Yes. We do have a product line that provides
a big-iron software application, called Master
Claw, that is a service-assurance solution.
We also have a software application called Vision.
It works with our long-term RF monitoring probes,
and it helps characterize when signals occur and
what they look like; it helps figure out where the
signals are occurring, within a few blocks, by
triangulation; and it provides all the necessary
information to dispatch a team to go and find that
Now we can sit in a central place somewhere, let?s
say somewhere in the US, characterize an
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interference on three or four sectors in, say, Los
Angeles, and dispatch a local team to go find it
when we?re ready to. That?s the sort of real-time,
continuous, cloud-connected thing we?re talking
Monica: Real-time optimization, and then you also
mentioned the cloud virtualization part. What is
that virtualization? How is virtualization in the
cloud changing your solutions?
Tom: Obviously, our solutions are becoming more
connected, and you can expect that to continue in
the future. We have a wide world of connection, at
least electronically. Barriers are falling, as
evidenced by this on-line interview. We?re many
miles apart, and it?s working just fine.
We expect this sort of collaboration in field tests to
continue. After all, field tests naturally have
experts in one location, and the man on the
ground in a different location. As soon as you do
that, electronic communication becomes just a
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Anritsu Company is the United States subsidiary of Anritsu Corporation, a global provider of innovative
communications test and measurement solutions for 120 years with offices throughout the world. Anritsu?s
?2020 VISION? philosophy engages customers as true partners to help develop wireless, optical, microwave/RF,
and digital instruments, as well as operation support systems for R&D, manufacturing, installation, and
maintenance applications. In addition to supporting precision microwave/RF components, optical devices, and
high-speed electrical devices for communication products and systems, Anritsu provides a large portfolio of
solutions to meet the growing demand for in-building wireless services from DAS to small cell environments.
About Tom Elliott
Tom has 20 years of experience in the telecomm industry working with RF and cellular technologies. Tom has
concentrated on test and measurement for cellular base stations for much of this time. Tom is a Product
Manager for Anritsu Company with worldwide responsibility for wireless service providers. He focuses on
improving network performance and making technicians more productive through the technologies and tools of
Anritsu. Tom has taught hundreds of technicians, written several procedures and courses, and regularly receives
the input of technicians, managers, directors, and CTOs on new test requirements as the wireless network
REPORT Massively densified networks ? 2016 Senza Fili Consulting ? www.senzafiliconsulting.com |37|
For more than 25 years, Ascom has helped mobile
operators worldwide with testing, monitoring and
optimizing solutions that span the entire wireless
infrastructure ? from the core all the way to the
In the RAN, densification has played an important
role in shaping Ascom products over the years, but
with the introduction of IP-based multi-RAT, multi-
band and multi-layer networks, Ascom has
developed solutions specifically targeted at
operators deploying small cells, DAS and, more
generally, HetNet architectures.
Ascom?s TEMS? iBuildNet is a planning and design
tool for HetNets which allows operators to design
deployments that combine both indoor and
outdoor infrastructure. It models multiple
elements that affect performance, such as
coverage, traffic steering, path loss, signal level,
SINR, cell overlap areas, best-server maps, and LTE
and Wi-Fi handover ? in 3D if desired ? to
determine the required coverage in indoor
locations. According to Ascom, TEMS iBuildNet can
cut planning and design time by 50%.
With TEMS? Pocket and TEMS? Pocket Remote,
operators can measure indoor and pedestrian area
traffic from handheld mobile devices. Specifically,
these products can identify locations where
performance differs from what the initial plan
predicted, and can resolve the performance issues
TEMS iBuildNet enables engineers to detect
discrepancies between the real environment
versus the plan, using the latest site survey
information provided by TEMS iBuildNet Walk.
With this solution, operators can collect data, and
add text comments, video, photos and 3D models,
as they deploy and test the networks.
TEMS? Discovery also leverages data collected by
TEMS Pocket or TEMS Pocket Remote to identify
RF problems in the network, and geolocate their
source. It allows for analytics and reporting in
indoor testing, drive testing, and network
Other solutions in the TEMS portfolio that focus on
the RAN include:
? TEMS? Automatic, a tool for automated data
collection for testing, monitoring,
benchmarking, audit and verification, via
probes that can be remotely controlled from a
? TEMS? Investigation, for drive testing of the
air interface and service quality.
? TEMS? MobileInsight, to test QoS from
mobile devices, using QoS-specific KPIs, SLA
monitoring, crowd sourcing, and subscriber
? TEMS? Monitor Master, to test and monitor
network performance using simulated traffic
at the application layer for different devices.
? TEMS? Symphony, for benchmarking.
REPORT Massively densified networks ? 2016 Senza Fili Consulting ? www.senzafiliconsulting.com |38|
A conversation with Todd Cotts,
Product Marketing Manager,
Ascom Network Testing
Monica Paolini: My guest in today?s conversation
is Todd Cotts, the Product Marketing Manager at
Ascom Network Testing.
Todd, can you tell us what Ascom is doing to
support densification efforts?
Todd Cotts: Ascom Network Testing has been
around for several years. What we?re known for at
Ascom Network Testing is our TEMS solutions: our
TEMS products and TEMS services. For over a
quarter of a century, we have been providing
products and services in the network testing field
to the telecommunications industry, including all
of the top, tier-one US operators.
Many of those services have been around the
network testing area, but recently ? earlier this
year ? we?ve launched a new solution that focuses
on the design and deployment of small-cell and
Monica: With densification, there are many new
challenges, but also wider opportunities for
testing, because the role of testing is evolving.
But before we get to this, we should define what
densification is. Everybody?s talking about it, but
are we all talking about the same thing?
Todd: The way I look at densification is as a means
by which a carrier goes about improving the
capacity of its networks, especially in densely
populated areas and large public venues.
A lot of the capacity issues are driven by the
demand of mobile users, especially data demand
these days. As the data demand increases, the
load is greater on the network.
The capacity that operators originally planned the
network to support is no longer sufficient. The
traffic load is now straining the network. What
happens is that the coverage begins to shrink
when capacity is insufficient. People and calls are
dropped off. The speed slows down. Latency
becomes an issue.
That?s really what densification is all about. And
the way carriers are going about doing this is
through small-cell deployments.
Monica: How are operators addressing the
capacity problem? Is the strategy the same across
Todd: The drivers are the same. Mobile-data traffic
has increased exponentially and will continue to
do so into 2020. Much of that mobile data traffic,
80% of it, is coming from indoors. A lot of it is from
the commercial and enterprise segments.
When it gets down to the drivers, there are a few
things I want to iterate here. In 2015, for example,
15% of mobile data traffic was from social media,
but, larger than that, 50% of it was from video.
Video?s going to continue to be a huge driver.
What it boils down to, Monica, is quality of
experience. This is the whole purpose for a carrier
to go into a partnership with an enterprise or a
commercial segment. And a hotel wants to
improve its customers? experience, and part of
that experience is, of course, a mobile data
connection, whether you come indoors or go
Carriers are focused on quality of experience. It?s
been shown that the way customers evaluate their
quality of experience is by speed. That?s one of the
ways. Another one is video quality. We have all
experienced stalling during the video.
Another way to define quality of experience is the
time required to download a web page on a
mobile device. When the network is slow, it?s very
Then, you have the resolution of the video
content, as well as the responsiveness of a mobile
app. All of these things amount to one big, key
driver, which is quality of experience.
If you don?t get the quality of the experience right,
whether you?re a carrier or an enterprise or
commercial segment, whatever it is you?re doing,
you?re going to churn.
Tenants are going to leave your buildings. Hotel
guests are not going to return. It?s a big thing for
everybody, and everybody has a stake in it, not
just the carriers.
There?s also a near-future piece to this, if I may.
We all talk about 2020. One of the near-future
pieces of this is that, as I mentioned, video
outstrips mobile data traffic, and it?s going to
REPORT Massively densified networks ? 2016 Senza Fili Consulting ? www.senzafiliconsulting.com |39|
continue to grow tenfold by 2020. In fact, there?s
research that says about three-fourths of the
mobile data traffic by 2020 is going to be video.
There are some other challenges, we?ve got to
realize, in the next four years. We don?t have a lot
of time to do what we need to do ? improve
quality of experience, expand the network, and
Around the corner, you?ve got new mobile apps
and services. You?ve got the internet of things. You
also have smart cities. Smart cities are popping up
everywhere. In the San Diego area, for example, a
completely new urban development has popped
out, and it?s all smart-city based, where all the
digital devices are connected and talking to the
internet, talking to one another.
Then, we have the dense urbanization itself. As the
urban populations continue to explode, and as
smartphones and smart devices continue to be
adopted, and as Wi-Fi and 4G continue to be used,
you have this huge explosion of mobile data traffic
demand on the network.
If we?re not prepared to support that, through
small-cell deployments, Wi-Fi offload, carrier Wi-Fi
or other technologies, the quality of experience is
going to go downhill.
Monica: With IoT, we?re moving beyond
subscribers? quality of experience. You typically do
not have a human at the other end, but you do
have many diverse requirements, and a huge
number of devices.
Todd: Gartner?s predicting, by 2020, 25 billion
connected devices. That?s a lot of connected
Monica: Densification is often narrowly thought of
as centered around small cells, but there are
different ways to go about it ? and different
technology solutions. Initially it was just small cells
on lamp posts. Now, it?s much more than that.
What are you hearing when you talk to operators?
Todd: When you?re talking about densification,
you?re really talking about small-cell deployments.
But a small-cell deployment is anything other than
a macro site. Small-cell deployments include many
types of access nodes.
Densification is also about indoor DAS, it?s about
outdoor DAS. It?s about heterogeneous networks,
which are really hybrid network solutions that
combine multiple RAN technologies as well as
multiple access node types, such as iDAS and
Wi-Fi?s a part of that, too. Not just enterprise
Wi-Fi; we?re also talking about carrier Wi-Fi these
days. And all of that is part of a small-cell
deployment, depending on the need that?s been
identified by the carrier.
Monica: The networks are becoming more
complex. In testing and monitoring, your work is
becoming, also, more complex. How can you help
mobile operators in dealing with the increase in
Todd: At Ascom Network Testing, we have a
number of solutions that help carriers densify their
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networks. One of them is in just identifying the
We have TEMS Pocket, for example, which is
probably one of the most popular of our solutions
for testing, but we also have TEMS Pocket Remote.
With TEMS Pocket, I can go in and do a one-time
test. I can either drive test, or do a site survey,
indoors or outdoors. I can get an idea of how the
network is performing at that moment in time, at
that particular location, across those particular
location parameters that I?ve defined.
TEMS Pocket Remote comes into play here,
probably more than even TEMS Pocket by itself, in
that TEMS Pocket Remote is a stationary testing
product. Basically, it?s an approach to testing the
network over a period of time, at the same
If I want to know, at any point in the city, or
multiple points in the city, or multiple points
indoors, or around the buildings, ?OK, how is the
network performing over a period of time?? TEMS
Pocket Remote would give me an idea of the
capacity. It would also help me identify any not
spots and any hot spots.
Then I would match that with TEMS Discovery.
TEMS Discovery allows me to analyze that data
and look at it geospatially, and begin to identify
where those areas exist and what type of events
are taking place to cause the issues that we might
have identified with TEMS Pocket.
That?s the network testing piece. That?s where, at
Ascom, we come into play. It?s really part of
identifying the need.
That?s where we?ve always played. We?ve played
in identifying the need, identifying the problem
areas. But with the launch of TEMS iBuildNet
earlier this year, we?ve now stepped more into the
game of not just testing to find out where the
problems are and what the problems are, but
now, ?How do we design a solution that addresses
those problems?? TEMS iBuildNet is that solution.
Monica: That is interesting, because a small-cell
deployment is more complex than a macro-only,
because you have the two layers: small-cell and
From a testing point of view, it is a challenge, isn?t
it? How do you deal with the increased
Todd: TEMS Pocket and TEMS Discovery both
allow us to look across multiple RATs at the same
time. It?s not anymore just about testing; it is now
about planning and designing the solution for the
That has to be planned and designed based on
what carriers need. When they go out and do the
testing, they already have something in mind.
They?ve identified problems, or they?ve had
customers calling. Their network team has been
identifying specific areas.
But it?s when they can say, ?OK, these are the
capacity targets that we want to achieve in these
areas. These are the coverage holes that we have.
These are the areas indoors and outdoors where
we need to partner with the enterprises to make a
better quality of experience for our subscribers
and for their customers? ? that?s really the
planning design part of it. That?s where TEMS
iBuildNet comes into play and you can do that. You
can do simultaneous multi-RAT design and
simulations. Then, as a result, what you?ll have are
What we have actually found, Monica, is that with
the automated simulation capabilities of TEMS
iBuildNet, it has been proven to be within 5 dBm
margin of error with actual network
measurements once the solution?s been deployed.
That?s critical, as well. It is important to make sure
that you?re not overdoing your design, not
overdoing your network. You don?t want to just
throw an access node out there, or 10 or 15 of
them, and say, ?Well, boom! This is, this is, uh,
going to work!? Or a small cell on a lamppost when
you may not need it on that lamppost. You may
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need it on a park bench down the road, or on top
of a building.
That?s where the planning and design comes in,
and with TEMS iBuildNet, it?s not just indoor. TEMS
iBuildNet allows you to design hybrid indoor and
outdoor, outdoor to indoor, or just indoor or just
Monica: These are all tradeoffs that operators
have to make. You don?t want to use a lamppost if
you don?t need it. Similarly, you want to
understand whether it is indoor or outdoor
capacity that you need.
You offer a 360-degree approach, where you can
plan, execute, and test.
Todd: That?s it, exactly. Carriers don?t have money.
When I?ve been out at trade shows with carriers
and talking with them, the one thing I hear over
and over from them, as well as from enterprises
and commercial segments, is nobody has the
money. Everybody?s strapped by budget
With those budget constraints, who has time to
figure out, ?Is it the right place -- is it the right time
for the solution? Do I need a small cell, or do I
need a DAS system? Do I need DAS, or do I need
Wi-Fi, or do I need both? Where should I place
them to make sure that my network is going to
perform to the target expectations that I planned
it to perform and meet those QoE expectations??
That?s what TEMS iBuildNet will do.
Monica: Going back to the technology that we
have for densification. There are some new
developments out there, so it?s a moving target.
There?s always new things that are happening.
What do you see coming up that is relevant to our
operators, and I guess, to you as well, if you
choose to deal with it?
Todd: LTE will continue to evolve, and obviously
what we?re looking at whether there is a
competition between the carrier and enterprise
Wi-Fi. The Mobile Broadband Alliance is certainly
concerned about the carriers entering into that
5 GHz space where Wi-Fi has played, and
Some of the solutions will be hybrid scenarios,
where carrier Wi-Fi and enterprise Wi-Fi play
nicely in the same sandbox. We have to certainly
include that within not only how we test, but also
how we design a network. That?s one of the future
The other one is, of course, 5G is a big one. We?ve
all heard about 5G. It?s on the horizon.
Deployment is actually expected in that magic year
2020. There are some already out there, saying,
?Yeah, we?re deploying 5G, we?re testing it today,?
or playing around with it.
Until 5G settles down, we have to take a step back
and say, ?OK, well, we?re just going to stay in the
loop,? make sure that we?re connected to the
carriers, make sure we?re connected to those
driving the technology to advancements in the 5G
arena, as well as the various associations and
organizations that are driving all of that, like 3GPP.
But between the LTE-U, the advanced Wi-Fi on the
carrier side, and 5G in 2020, you?re also going to
have cloud RAN. That?s something we also have to
look at ? it is the virtualization of network capacity
and the virtualization of networks within
I?m excited about that, but those are all things that
we have to factor in as our engineers, as our R&D
department, continue to develop new solutions or
advancements on solutions that we already have
in place ? we have to take all of those things into
Monica: It?s a challenge, because, as you say, 5G is
not defined yet, but you need to test to make sure
it performs as expected before launch.
Todd: We want to encourage 5G, but we?re
basically a supplier. Our main objective is to make
sure that we?re partnering closely with, as I
mentioned, the carriers themselves. What are
their roadmaps? What?s going on with them?
We?ve got to. I think that?s just good supplier
relationships with your clients. It?s important to
make sure that you?re listening to them. And
you?re not just listening to them, but you also have
people and teams, as we do, that are actually
dedicated to the various organizations and the
various initiatives, including heterogeneous
Their responsibility is to keep a finger on the pulse
of what?s going on, what?s tested, where we are.
We attend all the events ? we attend all the 5G
expos, all the HetNet expos, CTIA. As part of that,
we?re not just going to exhibit our wares, but it?s
also to network with everybody else that?s in the
industry, that?s driving a lot of these
advancements. That?s what we are doing today.
Monica: You were mentioning 2020 before, for
5G. You think that there?s going to be one date
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when 5G will become commercial? I?m getting the
impression that it?s going to be a lot of incremental
Todd: We all remember the 4G, when it came on
board. There were a lot of carriers that said, ?Yeah,
our network is 4G,? but it really wasn?t 4G, it was
3.5G. They called it 4G because it achieved 4G
speeds. This is all about speed. Even 5G is all about
speed, as well as efficiency.
I agree completely with you. I think 5G is
incremental; that?s why a lot of it?s going on.
There?re a lot of people already saying that they?re
launching it. In fact, they may be, but is it really
going to be what?s finally called 5G? It?s very
We?ve got several more conversations across the
various groups that define the advancements of
the different technologies, not just small cells and
those that are driving those technologies, but also
DAS and Wi-Fi.
It?s a big conversation that?s going on now, it?s
going to continue to go on, and I think, to your
point, we?ll see it little bit by little bit.
Let?s keep in mind, 2020 is just four years away.
Actually, less than four years. January 1, 2020, are
we going to have 5G? Very doubtful that we?ll
have the final version of 5G by that time.
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Ascom Network Testing offers expertise and solutions that enable wireless operators to expand network
capacity, improve operational efficiency and deliver a premier customer experience. Ascom develops its own
line of mobile network testing, monitoring and post-processing solutions that have been trusted by mobile
operators for decades under the TEMS? brand. Today, those solutions enable field testing (drive, in-building,
autonomous) of mobile networks, automated post processing of data collected via these ? and other third-
party ? probes, OSS-based network troubleshooting and optimization, and application testing and
About Todd Cotts
Todd Cotts is part of the Product Team at Ascom Network Testing. Todd has over 15 years? experience in the
telecommunications industry, having worked for some of the biggest names in the industry, including Sprint
Nextel and Kyocera Communications. Having served in a number of strategic and leadership roles throughout
the years, including directing product management of an indoor-outdoor network experience testing solution,
and with an MBA in Marketing and near completion of a second Master?s degree (MS in Psychology with a
Marketing focus), Todd brings to the table a multi-faceted approach to confronting many challenges faced by
telecommunications professionals today.
REPORT Massively densified networks ? 2016 Senza Fili Consulting ? www.senzafiliconsulting.com |44|
CommScope offers a wide range of network
infrastructure solutions that help operators and
enterprises build, optimize and improve the
efficiency of wireline and wireless networks. Its
? Cellular and other wireless access networks
? Wireless and wireline fronthaul, backhaul and
? Cable networks
? Fiber optics networks
? Data centers
? IoT connectivity
These solutions can be deployed both indoor and
outdoor environments, ranging from stadiums and
public transportation hubs, to medium-sized
enterprise locations, to small-business and
In the mobile space, CommScope provides
wireless operators with tools to improve network
and spectrum utilization by boosting speed,
capacity and coverage in the RAN and in the
backhaul. In this context, densification is a key
focus that CommScope addresses primarily with
indoor DAS and outdoor DAS, small-cell backhaul
and fronthaul, and cell-site solutions. The recent
acquisitions of Airvana and the Broadband
Network Solutions (BNS) businesses of TE
Connectivity have broadened CommScope?s
portfolio in densification.
CommScope?s experience in DAS has focused both
on indoor and outdoor installation. While the main
focus for DAS is still on large venues such as
stadiums, CommScope is expanding its solutions to
make DAS more cost effective and easy to deploy
in smaller venues.
CommScope offers the OneCell system ? a hybrid
small-cell solution that combines features from
DAS, C-RAN and small cells to provide a scalable
solution for indoor environments with demanding
capacity and coverage requirements that uses the
Ethernet existing infrastructure for backhaul.
CommScope solutions include metro-cell
concealment solutions for outdoor deployments.
These are designed to address the challenges that
mobile operators face in moving the telecom
infrastructure from macro sites to DAS or small
cells ? closer to the subscriber and in locations that
are more visible, easier to access and difficult to
At the core of CommScope densification efforts is
the company?s extensive experience in optimizing
antenna performance to deal with increasing
traffic density and the coverage requirements for
voice and data services. CommScope invented
remote electrical tilt (RET) solutions that allow
operators to shape their antenna beams in real
time. It also offers a Six-Sector Turnkey Solution
that splits a single antenna beam into two,
doubling the capacity, according to the company,
without the need to install a second antenna.
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A conversation with
Ben Cardwell, Senior Vice
President and Segment Leader,
CommScope Mobility Solutions
Monica Paolini: Our conversation on densification
and RAN evolution at CommScope is with Ben
Cardwell, the Senior Vice President and Segment
Leader of CommScope Mobility Solutions.
Ben, can you tell us what, in this context, you do at
Ben: As we all know, wireless networks will need
roughly 1,000 times today?s capacity in 10 years.
Operators generally have three tools they can use
to increase the capacity of their network.
The number one is to add more spectrum. This is
very expensive, and the opportunity to get more
spectrum only comes along every several years.
Number two, they can make the spectrum they
have operate more efficiently.
Number three, they can densify the network, add
more cells, and bring users as close as possible to a
hot fiber hop-off point.
The densification piece is key. That will be the
number one way that you see this 1000X capacity
come into the network over the next 10 years. At
CommScope, we have been doing densification for
operators for a long time. Densification is nothing
new, but it will certainly accelerate.
In the past, we have started with the macro
towers, which are certainly the most efficient and
economical way to start off for the operators.
They?ve been sectorizing their sites, going from the
traditional three-sector sites to six-sector sites or
even more. We?ve been providing the tools and
the know-how for them to do that. Once they get
to that point and they?ve sectorized their macro
sites, then they look to more in-building sites. In-
building has for a long time been a key avenue to
Second, CommScope has been the largest provider
of DAS systems in the marketplace over the last
decade. We?ve deployed in countless public and
The third thing we?ve done is working with neutral
hosts and operators to deploy what we call oDAS
networks, or outdoor DAS networks. oDAS can put
loads of capacity on street corners and other
outdoor locations in a very small footprint.
Monica: What is it that you personally do at
Ben: In the sectorization of the macro towers, we
provide high-performance antennas, filtering
capabilities, and connectivity that allow operators
to sectorize their sites. When you do that, you
require some very finely tuned cell boundaries,
eliminating interference. That?s one thing we do
In the building space and the oDAS outdoor space,
we provide the DAS equipment, and the design
services, and sometimes even the deployment
services to do that.
Monica: As you said, densification is nothing new.
It?s accelerating, but it?s always been there. It
initially was more for coverage. Now it is more for
capacity. Densification for capacity is different
because the technology?s different, and because
the needs are different.
How do you see it changing, especially in the
relationship between densifying the indoor versus
Ben: It is changing. Operators will need to do both.
They?ll need to cover more and more buildings
from the inside out. In the past they have focused
mostly on public-access venues ? big, big venues
where lots of people go. Those have been done.
Those are big buildings, big systems.
Going forward, we will need to move into those
second- and third-tier buildings that are more in
the 200,000 to 500,000 sq ft size. These new
systems will need to be much lower cost and be
deployable by a different type of professional.
Maybe an IT professional instead of an RF engineer
with 15 years of experience. We?ve been focused
on that in-building space, creating the platforms
and the ecosystem to allow DAS to scale to a much
Also in that space we?ve been developing
world-class indoor small-cell solutions. We have a
solution called OneCell that provides a cloud-RAN
approach to in-building, giving maximum capacity
utilization in a building.
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In the outdoor space there will have to be many,
many, many more of these small cells, especially in
urban and semi-urban environments just to carry
the traffic loads.
There are three major problems that the operators
have in this space. It?s getting power to the site,
getting backhaul to the site, and most important,
Site acquisition is becoming a major challenge.
That?s something that, also, does not scale well in
the industry, because it?s down to what the locality
will allow. As we know, different regulatory or
local approval councils have different
requirements. We?re focused very much on
creating solutions that allow scalability in this
Monica: You raised many topics that I want to
follow up on. Let?s start with the outdoors.
You said that you?re trying to help operators
address power, site acquisitions, and deployment.
How can you help them?
Ben: Site acquisition is, again, the number one
challenge. It?s all about concealment and not
creating an eyesore for the public.
We are creating cabinets and concealment
solutions that enclose small cells, antennas and all
the infrastructure required for a small cell.
Small cells may be placed either inside a pole,
under a park bench, in something that may look
like a vending machine ? something where it?s
really disguised from the public. This becomes
even more pronounced in the numerous historic
districts in the US where you cannot see the
equipment, you cannot see it at all.
We?ve done several historic districts where we?ve
replicated old-fashioned light poles that are from
the early 20th century. There were gas lamps on
the street, for example, to conceal the
infrastructure inside and enable the fiber
connectivity to the site with our fiber solutions,
and even backup power in the sites for fail-safe
Monica: Today, the requirements from cities are
highly varied. Do you think they?re going to
converge at some point, that we?re going to have a
consistent set of requirements across
Ben: I think there?s going to continue to be a large
amount of customization, but the more of these
cities and localities we deal with, through our
partners, we are learning some of the
commonalities. We are working very hard to
create some solutions that will be a least common
denominator, if you will, and more likely to be
sited about various cities.
The other key to this is we?re seeing operators and
neutral hosts forming public/private partnerships
with the likes of energy companies, or other utility
companies, or the municipalities that actually own
You?ll see in many cities that the poles and the
infrastructure tend to be common throughout that
city or municipality. We can create, oftentimes,
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two or three solutions that we can get approved
and deploy in those locations.
Monica: What is the relevance of the system
integrators in all this?
Ben: At CommScope, we typically design and
manufacture the infrastructure to make this
happen. The integrators play an absolutely key
role. The local integrators tend to know their
environment very well. Of course, there are some
national operators in various countries, and
integrators that understand the whole ecosystem.
Generally, the local integrators play a key role
because they have worked in that environment
before, either providing the solutions to the utility
companies or for the municipality. They?re very
important as part of the ecosystem.
Monica: Do you think they?re going to play a more
important role than operators themselves in doing
Ben: In doing the installations, absolutely. Because
of the scale and the number of small cells or
densification points, whatever type they may take
on or that are required, operators are not going to
be able to do this all themselves.
They?re not going to have that scale with their own
resources. They?re going to have to rely on local
partnerships and even some regional partnerships
to get it done.
Monica: You mentioned both oDAS and small cells
for outdoors. What are the pros and cons of each
Ben: They both have pros and cons. Really, it?s
about the specific task at that specific site. Again,
operators will need multiple tools in their basket of
tricks to do all the sites that are required.
The advantage of oDAS is that you can bring loads
of capacity into a very small form factor. You can
feed it with fiber. You can feed multiple operators.
You can feed multiple frequency bands to that one
radiating point, a very small form factor that can
be hidden. This is the advantage of oDAS, if you
don?t need that much capacity at a particular site.
You only need a few channels or a single operator;
then a small cell or a remote radio head, a
miniaturized remote radio head, can be a very
good solution. Really, it?s all about looking at the
economics for the task at hand.
Monica: You want to have multiple tools to
address the requirements. We have powerful DAS
for stadiums. If we go indoors, obviously that
solution is not relevant for a small office.
How can you get DAS to adapt to the smaller
venues? What are the tradeoffs between a DAS,
even a DAS for a small office or venue, versus small
Ben: We believe that DAS will continue to be the
tool of choice for the large public access venues
and sporting stadiums, airports, the big high-rises,
big shopping malls, things of that nature, where
every operator is going to want to be on that
system. They?re going to have to provide every bit
of spectrum they?ve got into those venues.
As we get to the smaller venues, we need new
tools. Again, in these smaller venues sometimes
we?ve been involved in DAS, obviously. The newer
DAS solutions that we have are planned, installed,
commissioned, and operated just like any other
piece of IT infrastructure.
We can enable an IT organization, an enterprise, to
use those. Those would still be an economical,
small, mini-DAS solution, if you will, where you
need multiple treatments of bands, or more than
In a building like corporate headquarters, where
the enterprise may be standardized on a single
operator, all they need is one operator in the
building, and maybe one or two bands. Then a
small cell starts to make more sense. Those
solutions, also, are becoming more enterprise
friendly because, to get in-building infrastructure
to scale, you?ve got to tap into that enterprise
Monica: I guess there are in-between solutions,
where you have a C-RAN approach. Do you
consider DAS to be a type of C-RAN? Your OneCell
approach seems to be a hybrid of small cell and
DAS, with a C-RAN architecture.
Ben: The OneCell system uses what you might call
a hybrid approach. It?s not a stand-alone small cell.
It?s a collection of access points within a building to
form a C-RAN. We call this a managed C-RAN
solution, an intelligent small-cell solution.
With OneCell, you have a system that operates in a
closed environment inside of a building, with the
backhaul to the operator, that can be deployed
extremely cost effectively.
Monica: What kind of a backhaul do you use for
the in-building connectivity?
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Ben: It?s IP backhaul, but it would still go out and
leave the building on the fiber.
Monica: Fiber from the building, and then is it
Ethernet within the building?
Ben: Within the building it?s generally your
standard twisted pair, Cat 5 or Cat 6 cable that is
already in that building.
Monica: Operators are looking more and more
into using unlicensed bands. They?re doing that
already with Wi-Fi, but also they are looking at LTE
unlicensed ? LTE-U, LAA, MulteFire. What are you
seeing or what are you doing on that front?
Ben: We believe that those unlicensed bands will
be very important, because spectrum is one of the
most valuable assets. Using that unlicensed band
will be key. We believe that this signaling, the part
of the network that controls the call, will always be
in the licensed band, because the carrier needs to
control that very carefully.
The newer technologies, like LAA or LWA, will
allow the LTE protocol to take advantage of some
of that unlicensed spectrum, grab it, use it while
it?s available, and be able to ramp up and down
the use of that dynamically.
We think that?s going to be very key to have that
kind of on-demand use of unlicensed spectrum.
When you do that, it adds to the complexity of the
RF network. Our expertise at CommScope is
managing that RF interference.
We believe we?re the best there is at
understanding and mitigating the interference in
the RF layer of the network to make all those
bands work together efficiently. We would be
creating DAS solutions in antennas and on
connectivity infrastructure to minimize all the
interference in the building.
In the outdoor space, the same thing. We?d be
working to create the antennas and filtering
solutions to make that sufficient.
Monica: That?s interesting, because interference is
nothing new, but for a mobile operator to manage
interference in an unlicensed band, or to manage
capacity, for that matter, in an unlicensed band is
an entirely new endeavor.
Ben: You?re exactly right.
Monica: Many operators are a little bit nervous
about how to do it, because still they have their
licensed band as an anchor, but there are still a lot
of challenges there. What are you hearing from
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Obviously, interference in an unlicensed band is
something you can manage only to some extent. It
depends on what else is going on at the same
Ben: That?s correct. Interference has become a
much more serious and pointed issue now that
LTE has been deployed. In spread-spectrum
systems like LTE, and even in CDMA and in UMTS,
as we move up in the G cycle ? 2G, 3G, 4G ?
interference becomes more and more important.
One reason is that the traffic on the network is
getting higher. The number two reason is that
you?re trying to get more and more speed out of
this fixed-frequency resource. You?ve got to fine
tune and clean up that spectrum as best as we
can. Every antenna?s got to have a very clean,
targeted pattern covering the areas, not
overlapping with its neighbor.
We?re managing that type of interference plus just
the normal interference that can come from the
environment of operating a mobile network.
We?re creating products that are easy to install,
that work well together so that ? even in the
interface points between the different pieces of
equipment in the network ? you are not creating
opportunities for an installer to create interference
when he connects them together.
Monica: As you say, one other crucial thing, as you
move indoors especially, is that you need to be
friendly to the enterprise. They need to be able to
easily fix problems if there is something wrong, or
to have an integrator come in.
How do you see the role of the enterprise in all this
changing? Are they going to be more involved?
Are they going to pay for infrastructures
themselves? How is that going to work out?
Ben: This is a very good question. That is extremely
important, that we enable that enterprise
ecosystem to be somewhat self-sufficient.
The carrier is going to always have to play a key
role, because it?s the carrier?s licensed spectrum
we?re talking about. They will always have to be
comfortable with whatever is radiating on their
spectrum. At the end of the day, it?s their
customers. If my cell phone doesn?t work, I?m
going to call my operator and be the one that
complains. We?re working very hard to create the
products that are friendly to the enterprise but
acceptable to the operator.
More importantly, we create products that are
extremely simple to design, deploy, and install, so
that the much larger market of IT engineers who
are going to be installing them are comfortable
working with them and can install them reliably.
It?s not just about the IT people in the building. It?s
about the ecosystem that feeds them today. We
have to enable that ecosystem because, again,
we?ve got to scale to not just doing the thousands
of buildings a year that are done today with DAS.
We?ve got to scale this to tens of thousands or
even to hundreds of thousands a year of buildings
that can be deployed.
We believe there?s five billion sq ft of opportunity
out there, of uncovered commercial space out
there that needs to be covered. The only way
we?re going to do that is by enabling an
ecosystem. We?re working very hard at that.
Monica: Yes, absolutely. Scalability is crucial here.
One other trend is virtualization. Is virtualization
going to help scalability?
Ben: It will help scalability. It will definitely help
improve the ability to deliver 5G services. It?s a
journey to virtualization for the operators. They?re
starting with some very simple things, like
centralizing the baseband in the network.
Today, in most cell sites the baseband is sitting at
the bottom of every tower, dedicated to that
tower. Sometimes it?s heavily utilized. Sometimes
it?s not utilized. If you take a cluster of 50 sites, and
take that baseband away, move it to a centralized
point, you can make it available to all those 50 cell
When there?s a football game going over here, you
can shift all the traffic over there. If it?s rush hour
and a traffic jam, you can shift it all over here. We
see that starting to happen already today. That?s
step number one.
The next step would be, from a capacity
perspective, virtualizing that. Moving it further
back in the network and putting it on software-
based servers. That can even be made available
dynamically to larger chunks of the network.
We think this is a migration that will happen over
the next five years as people prepare for a barrage
of new traffic.
Monica: What are you working on at CommScope
right now to meet the challenges over the, say,
next five years?
Ben: At CommScope we have two key
technologies that are going to be the
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fundamentals of the 5G network. In the next
generation, network broadband and wireless
networks will converge, and customers won?t be
able to tell, and won?t care, whether they are on a
fixed network or a wireless network. They?ll get
the same type of service from both.
We believe that wireless and fiber are going to be
the two big enablers of that converged network.
We are the leaders in both in the layer of the
network that we operate.
We?re creating solutions that are going to drive
this centralized C-RAN and virtualized RAN (or
vRAN) network. There?s going to be a lot of fiber in
these networks. Very few people know how to
manage fiber and wireless as well as we do, as it
relates to a wireless network.
Then, at the very network edge, at that wireless
access layer, we are working with our industry
partners to create the same types of infrastructure
we have in the past. Smarter antennas, where they
have more intelligence in them.
Things like massive densification will become a big
play where you have beamforming, because
beamforming helps further reduce that
interference in the network.
On the in-building front, designing the next-
generation DAS systems and small-cell solutions
that scale to that enterprise ecosystem we?re
talking about ? we think that?s a big opportunity
that?s largely untapped out there.
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CommScope helps companies around the world design, build and manage their wired and wireless networks. Its
vast portfolio of network infrastructure includes some of the world?s most robust and innovative wireless and
fiber optic solutions. Its talented and experienced global team is driven to help customers increase bandwidth;
maximize existing capacity; improve network performance and availability; increase energy efficiency; and
simplify technology migration. You will find CommScope solutions in the largest buildings, venues and outdoor
spaces; in data centers and buildings of all shapes, sizes and complexity; at wireless cell sites; in telecom central
offices and cable headends; in FTTx deployments; and in airports, trains, and tunnels. Vital networks around the
world run on CommScope solutions.
About Ben Cardwell
Ben Cardwell is Senior Vice President of Mobility Solutions at CommScope. He is responsible for leading the
global business unit that develops innovative wireless solutions for use in service provider and business
enterprise networks around the world. Prior to his current role, Ben was senior Vice President of Global Wireless
sales, responsible for leading all of CommScope?s customer-facing activities for the wireless group globally. A
25-year veteran of the telecommunications industry, Mr. Cardwell also served as Vice President of Wireless Sales
for CommScope Asia Pacific, where he worked closely with US and Asia Pacific service providers in developing
and deploying radio frequency and data communications infrastructure for voice and data services over mobile
networks. Prior to joining CommScope, Mr. Cardwell served in various leadership positions in research and
development, product management, systems engineering, and field sales with UTStarcom, Ericsson, and 3Com.
Mr. Cardwell graduated from Davidson College in North Carolina with a bachelor of science degree in physics. He
holds an MBA from Kellogg Graduate School of Management, Northwestern University.
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Since 1972, InterDigital has developed a wide array
of new technologies and contributed to
establishing wireless standards across cellular and
IEEE 802-based technologies, with a strong focus
Complementary to its work on wireless,
InterDigital has developed IoT solutions for the
transportation, automation (e.g., sensors, remote
control), healthcare and industrial verticals. In this
area, InterDigital has launched wot.io?, an
operating environment that facilitates the
development and launch of IoT applications in
which multiple ecosystem players, platforms and
interfaces interact. The oneMPOWER? platform
also supports growth in IoT by providing tools to
manage devices across verticals, applications and
In wireless, InterDigital focuses on three solutions,
all supporting the densification trend among
? EdgeHaul?, a low-cost, high-capacity,
millimeter-wave transport system in the 60
GHz band, which can provide mesh backhaul
in small-cell and carrier Wi-Fi deployments.
EdgeHaul can also be used for residential
fixed-wireless broadband access. Low latency,
support for network slicing, and SDN support
make EdgeHaul a platform well suited to 5G
deployments. The low latency and high
capacity make EdgeHaul a solution that can be
used for fronthaul in C-RAN deployments.
? Ultra Mobile Broadband, a 5G access
platform being developed to bring high
capacity and low latency to mobile networks
that use frequencies above 6 GHz. Ultra
Mobile Broadband leverages new spectrum
allocations in the millimeter-wave bands, and
it can target outdoor hotspots and indoor
environments, as well as provide in-band
backhaul. It supports both MIMO and multi-
user MIMO (through hybrid beamforming) in
TDD spectrum. Because of the short range of
millimeter-wave technologies, deployments
will target high-density locations, such as bus
stops, central-city streets, parks, malls or
airports, or specific events, such as marathons
other sports events, political conventions, or
other public gatherings.
? Next Generation Networks Platform, a
flexible routing solution to increase efficiency
in transmission and optimize video
performance, leveraging NFV/SDN, MEC and
ICN. The platform is a hybrid approach that
combines features of IP and ICN. It uses
multicasting to increase network utilization
and resiliency and to reduce latency. In a
move away from host-to-host centralized
processing, this approach pushes content and
functionality toward the edge, closer to
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A conversation with
Alpaslan Demir, Principal
Monica Paolini: Our conversation with InterDigital
about densification and the evolution of the RAN is
with Alpaslan Demir, a Principal Engineer there.
Alpaslan, could you give us an introduction on
what InterDigital is doing on densification and
what you?ve been working on, on that topic?
Alpaslan Demir: InterDigital is a multifront
company for many research topics. One of the
topics we are heavily involved with is densification.
We support multiple projects in the densification
I?m part of the team who is looking at the next-
generation millimeter-wave network. We look into
the challenging problems in densification and work
on creating solutions. When we talk about
densification, we talk about ultra-dense networks
Monica: There are different ways to go about
densification. Operators are pursuing many
different roads to get to a massively densified
network. One way is to look at new bands.
Alpaslan: In the 5G domain, we distinguish
between bands below-6 GHz and above-6 GHz.
The primary focus in my team is on bands above-6
GHz. Above 6 GHz deployments are in the
millimeter-wave bands. Some people refer to
bands above-6 GHz as centimeter-wave and
millimeter-wave bands. We are talking about
frequencies in the 28 GHz or 39 GHz range. We?re
talking about spectrum in the 60 GHz or 70 GHz as
The beauty of these frequencies is that the new
bandwidth they make available is tremendously
large. You are talking about Mbps or multiples of-
100 Mbps bandwidths, with up to 2 GHz
bandwidths, or multiples of 2 GHz, especially at
70 GHz. This gives you the ability to increase
densification. The more bandwidth you have, the
more data you can transmit.
When it comes to the millimeter-wave domain,
one thing we need to understand is that, due to
the propagation loss, you need to deploy nodes
very closely. Maybe you?re talking about spacing
nodes at 50 m to 100 m to 200 m. This
automatically creates densification.
When you look at the bandwidth in terms of Mbps
per hertz, the concept of areal densification comes
in. With the addition of millimeter-wave bands in
densification, the definition of capacity should not
be limited to bps/Hz but it should involve space as
another dimension. For example, if there are 50
links deployed over one sq km, each with 10 Gbps
over 2 GHz channel bandwidth, then the total
capacity can be defined as 500 Gbps/sq km.
Monica: The need to have a denser network is a
challenge in millimeter-wave bands. It?s a
limitation compared to the below-5 GHz cellular
spectrum bands, where you have much wider
reach. But it?s also an advantage, because it
reduces interference. It?s a tradeoff there, because
you can reuse spectrum more regularly than you
can, for instance, in the 700 MHz bands.
Alpaslan: Yeah, definitely. When you look into
millimeter-wave bands, you need highly
directional antenna systems. With the highly
directional antenna systems, people think that you
definitely suppress the interference. However,
that?s not very accurate. Overall, you can reduce
the interference. You still have interference issues
with highly directional beams.
Monica: What kind of deployment scenarios do
you see for these millimeter waves?
Alpaslan: You definitely can talk about indoor and
even outdoor scenarios, urban environments,
definitely ? wherever you need very high density,
you can utilize the millimeter-wave network.
Campuses, enterprises, malls, all sorts of locations
can definitely utilize millimeter-wave applications.
Monica: You mentioned 5G. We?re seeing a trend
towards some of the elements of 5G becoming
available before true 5G is deployed. Do you think
this is the case? If so, what is the timeline? Do we
need to wait for 5G to be completed, or can we
get started ahead of 5G full definition, with gradual
changes within 4G?
Alpaslan: That?s a very good question. In a 5G
domain, certain technologies are developed and
certain prototypes are available. However, when
you look into the ecosystem, you do not see
commercially viable formats yet. Especially in the
RF domain, the antenna structures, solutions to
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merge the antenna with the RF chain are not yet
This is delaying things. The other aspect is the
standardization process. As they did in the 3G and
the 4G domains before, now companies have
started looking into the standardization aspects of
5G. A reasonable time everybody is talking about
for commercially viable deployments in the 5G
domain is 2020.
Monica: Before that, before we get to 2020, what
do you think is going to happen in terms of
Alpaslan: There will be prototypes, there will be a
ton of research, and the testing and the
capabilities are going to come up with
densification. In Europe, there are several research
facilities or places where the deployment scenarios
are being tested.
In the United States, we are expecting similar
activity. The FCC is making new spectrum bands
available in which we can start testing and
deploying our prototypes.
Monica: In terms of regulation and band
availability, do you expect to have millimeter-wave
bands that are available worldwide or in most
Alpaslan: It?s very difficult to achieve a global
synchronization on these bands, and everybody
knows that. For instance, the 28 GHz band will
become open in the United States, but you may
not have the same band all over the world. That?s
As engineers, we are definitely up for the
challenges, and we?ll find solutions to
accommodate whatever the needs are in this
Monica: What about the standardization process
you mentioned? 3GPP is working on this, and
there is a lot of research going on. Do you expect it
to be polarized, or is the industry converging nicely
on new standards?
Alpaslan: There are always some glitches here and
there. However, when you look into how 3G
panned out, and 4G similarly, I personally don?t
see much of a problem converging on 5G-domain
But 5G is not just a single concept that fits
everything. 5G has many facets. We?re talking
about low-latency applications, such as those for
tactile internet. We are talking about high-
throughput applications. And there are many
additional aspects. Even IoT concepts are panning
out as part of 5G. The 5G is much, much greater
than 4G and 3G. But we definitely need to have
Monica: IoT is a driver to 5G and also benefits
from it. How important to do you think IoT is as a
driver for densification?
Alpaslan: My answer may be a little bit technical
here. In normal densification, the concept of fiber
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drops for a dense network may become an issue.
With respect to the number of fiber drops in the
system, how could you reduce this number of fiber
Let?s say that instead of using fiber drops in every
node, you can connect these nodes with wireless
backhaul. You can obviously increase the number
of hops doing that, but the main benefit is the total
cost of the deployment. The backhaul network
that you create will be wireless. However, due to
the multiple hops that you introduce, there are
latency problems that you have to solve.
From any standardization perspective, the
standard has to be cognizant of all these scenarios
and find a common ground, so that it empowers
people to use their own applications and
interpretations, and it creates harmony.
Monica: Because there is so much spectrum in the
millimeter-wave bands, can you use the same
band for both backhaul and access?
Alpaslan: Yes. One of the approaches we take at
InterDigital is that we?ll have these two GHz links
available to you. Not always do you need the
backhaul links utilizing these bands. In our
approach, we?ll definitely look into the joint access
and backhaul concepts. Where we deal with
interference management, you do have
interference from the backhaul to the access or
from access to the backhaul.
On top of this, you have latency issues that you
have to fix. We look at densification holistically,
and enable the joint-access backhaul, and solve
many problems coming with it.
Monica: Can you tell us something about how you
Alpaslan: One simple example I can highlight is
that, if you have multiple channels available to you
between neighboring nodes, you can definitely set
these nodes using a different channel, such that
the neighbors will not see each other?s signals and
the impact of interference from the second-tier
neighbors will be lower. When you are doing this,
you have to be very careful about your system?s
performance, the radio performance, and the
leakage that may come from other channels.
Another example is that interference metrics
knowledge of the directionality of interfering links
allow you to create a dynamic routing setup to
mitigate interference. You can even create
different directions. Instead of going through a hop
directly, you can use multiple hops to convey your
information, so that you don?t interfere. This is
basically with one link active. The one link is no
REPORT Massively densified networks ? 2016 Senza Fili Consulting ? www.senzafiliconsulting.com |56|
longer affecting the other link if you start playing
with the directionality of the links.
Monica: If you have multiple hops, latency may
become an issue, and latency is a crucial factor in
defining performance. You need not only capacity,
but low latency to get a good quality of
In 5G, that?s going to be a major requirement. How
can you achieve these lower latencies?
Alpaslan: We do have many other ways of solving
this problem. One simple example, again, is with
You are receiving packets. Normally, what you do
is you absorb all the packets, and once you have
received everything in that packet, you start
forwarding. If the packet is causing you 10 units of
delay, now you have to wait for 10 units, and then
start forwarding that same packet of 10 units to
the next tower.
What you can do is create much smaller units
within that packet, and start sending these small
units without waiting for the entire 10 units
coming in. Let?s say you start transmitting every
unit without waiting. You immediately reduce your
latency by doing this.
Monica: In addition, with the increased complexity
in the RAN, there is much more work that we all
need to do in order to make sure the performance
However, inevitably, as you move to 5G, you?re
moving to an environment where there are
multiple wireless interfaces used for coverage,
capacity, or both. You need to integrate them all.
What?s your view on what?s the best way to go
Alpaslan: I definitely see legacy devices as an
integral part of moving forward. We cannot just
forget about legacy devices and the legacy
infrastructure, and then start building completely
brand new 5G infrastructure.
We need to develop technologies that take
advantage of existing legacy infrastructure, as well
as of the opportunities created by the bandwidth,
the latency, and such of the 5G domain.
In the 5G domain, the systems are heavily
populated, and highly directional beams are
utilized. But you cannot have coverage in every
corner. Even your hand movements or gestures on
your handset will completely destroy your link, and
you may lose connectivity.
What are you going to do if that?s the case? Your
system has to be adaptable enough to go back to
the legacy network and start using it. Wherever it
makes sense, we should look for solutions that
aggregate both the 5G and the legacy systems.
Monica: 5G, 4G, 3G, they need to be integrated
tightly, so that you can have devices working back
and forth among interfaces. Wi-Fi?s part of the
picture, too, right?
Alpaslan: Wi-Fi is always part of the picture. As a
matter of fact, Wi-Fi standards are adopted much
faster than 3GPP standards, because the focus is
more narrow and the scope of standardization
more limited. When you look at the 5G domain
within the 3GPP perspective and, more generally,
at the evolution of the cellular domain, the
industry is much larger than the Wi-Fi industry. It
takes longer to converge and implement new
InterDigital has resources working in both
directions, cellular and Wi-Fi.
Monica: When I talk to them about higher
frequencies, they?re still a little bit nervous.
They?re much more familiar with the lower
frequencies, where they have full control and have
fully licensed bands with good penetration and
wide coverage. As you move to higher frequencies,
the regulation is different, coverage is different.
What are you hearing from them?
Alpaslan: Let me state this: there is no escape
from creating solutions for millimeter-wave or
high-frequency bands. The overall industry is
pushing for that. We definitely see some operators
taking advantage of that, as well. Even today, we
talk about operators embracing Wi-Fi and
connecting with Wi-Fi, and we do see a lot of ways
to merge LTE and Wi-Fi systems.
Moving forward, the anticipation is that some of
the bands on the millimeter wave could be
licensed, or could be semi-licensed, and some of
the bands, like 60 GHz US ISM band, could be
From an operator perspective, it is best if you can
take advantage of what is out there. The operators
should be more adamant about creating solutions.
Some of the applications in 4G were unforeseen.
When 4G was enabled, then these applications
With 5G, what we have is a tremendously large
bandwidth, a very fast network, and all these
REPORT Massively densified networks ? 2016 Senza Fili Consulting ? www.senzafiliconsulting.com |57|
capabilities. A ton of new applications that would
be mind- boggling would come up. We will see.
Monica: It will be interesting to see. There?s a lot
of work ahead. If you look at the next five years,
what is InterDigital focusing mostly on?
Alpaslan: For the densification purposes, we will
continue to look into the solution space and
solving the challenging problems. I see InterDigital
providing solutions, helping to shape the industry,
contributing to the standardization process, and
introducing products, as well. We will do this not
only for 5G, but for what comes after 5G.
Alpaslan: 6G, hopefully.
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InterDigital, Inc. designs and develops advanced technologies that enable and enhance mobile communications
and capabilities. Since its founding in 1972, its engineers have designed and developed a wide range of
innovations that are used in digital cellular and wireless products and networks, including 2G, 3G, 4G and IEEE
802-related products and networks. For over four decades, InterDigital has been a pioneer in mobile technology
and a key contributor to global wireless standards. InterDigital?s team of more than 170 engineers ?
approximately 80% of whom hold advanced degrees, including over 50 PhDs ? has unparalleled expertise in
major mobile connectivity and content delivery technologies. Since 2000, InterDigital has spent over $1 billion
on technology research and development. InterDigital is a registered trademark of InterDigital, Inc. EdgeHaul,
oneMPOWER and wot.io are trademarks of InterDigital, Inc.
About Alpaslan Demir
Alpaslan Demir is a Principal Engineer in the Future Wireless Group at InterDigital. He is part of a team working
on NextGen Millimeter-Wave Architectures and currently focusing on activities related to millimeter-wave
densification. He has been serving the wireless communications industry for more than twenty years with a
unique combination of experiences relevant to MAC, PHY, and RF design. Notably, he is a prolific inventor with
56 granted and numerous pending patent applications to date. He is an IEEE member and holds a Ph.D. degree
in Communications from Polytechnic Institute of NYU.
REPORT Massively densified networks ? 2016 Senza Fili Consulting ? www.senzafiliconsulting.com |59|
Founded in 1919 and headquartered in Germany,
Kathrein is a leading vendor of antennas and
related equipment, such as filters, combiners and
concealment solutions, for wireless networks and
for multiple verticals.
Transportation is a vertical in which Kathrein has a
strong presence, with antennas and other
components for the railway and automotive
industries. The company is leveraging its expertise
in this area to enter the IoT market and, more
specifically, to provide connected car solutions.
Industrial automation, logistics and retail are other
IoT core verticals to Kathrein.
Kathrein also provides antennas for indoor
connectivity of private networks in enterprise,
hospitality and other venues. Those solutions can
be used for content delivery (especially video) and
other data services, as well as in satellite
communications and broadcast.
Cellular networks, however, are the largest
segment at Kathrein. The company offers a wide
range of solutions for indoor and outdoor
coverage, targeting different network layers ?
from macro cells to small cells and to DAS. To
support operators?, need to boost coverage and
capacity, Kathrein has developed multiple
solutions that enable densification.
The most recent is Kathrein Street Connect?, a
small-cell antenna system in which antennas are
located just below street level, accessible through
a manhole cover?type lid. By placing antennas and
BTSs below street level, operators can deploy
unseen infrastructure that meets municipalities?
requirements more easily, and can have easier
access to backhaul and power, than other outdoor
Kathrein offers antennas for above-ground small
cells, as well. These are designed to operate in the
increasingly complex networks that result from the
growing adoption of small cells and need to
accommodate higher and more diverse traffic
loads. And Kathrein continues to optimize them to
meet increasingly stringent requirements in terms
of, for example, regulation power levels,
provisioning, operations, antenna visibility, RF
exposure, and ease of installation.
One area that is growing in relevance to
densification is antenna concealment. Alongside
macro-antenna concealment solutions for urban
and rural environments, Kathrein provides ways to
embed antennas into a variety of street-furniture
elements. Kathrein Inside Connect, for instance,
was developed in collaboration with JCDecaux to
provide a modular antenna that can be integrated
into advertisement infrastructure (e.g., billboards
and bus stop shelters).
For indoor environments, Kathrein offers DAS and
small-cell solutions for different types of building
structures and traffic patterns. In this area,
Kathrein has recently introduced K-BOW, a micro
C-RAN system, in which antennas are connected to
a shared baseband, typically located within the
building. K-BOW supports multiple mobile access
frequency bands from 700 MHz to 2.7 GHz,
including LTE-A and Wi-Fi.
REPORT Massively densified networks ? 2016 Senza Fili Consulting ? www.senzafiliconsulting.com |60|
A conversation with Jim
DeKoekkoek, Product Line
Manager, Antennas and Small
Monica Paolini: This conversation on the
densification of RAN and its evolution is with Jim
DeKoekkoek, Product Line Manager for Antennas
and Small Cells at Kathrein.
Jim, could you tell us what you personally do at
Kathrein, and what Kathrein is doing in the area of
Jim: My role here is one of being the interface
between our engineering department and the
market. As part of that, it really is a good chance
for me to visit with customers, find out what their
needs are, where they?re going, what the
directions are ? and coordinate that with our
engineering folks, who are largely based in
At Kathrein USA we had big changes in the last
couple of years. We recognize that in a
competitive business, Kathrein really needs to
become a player in the US more than it has been.
We?ve made major strides that way, and relocated
our office to the heart of the Telecom Corridor? in
Richardson, Texas. We recently closed a
manufacturing plant in Oregon, opened a huge
new facility in Mexico, centralized our
warehousing in Texas, and become more involved
with industry working groups such as 5G Americas
Monica: But the company is based in Germany,
with clients worldwide.
Jim: Exactly. One of our challenges, in the past,
was that we were more Eurocentric than we really
wanted to be. We recognize that the US is a strong
market for us and have taken some big steps to
realize the strong opportunities here. The Kathrein
name means a lot to people. The quality is
excellent. It?s an enjoyable company to work for,
for those reasons.
Monica: When we talk about densification, there
are many ways to go about it. Operators will, of
course, pursue multiple paths at the same time.
But these days when I think about Kathrein, the
first thing that comes to mind is Street Connect?.
This is a novel approach to densification.
Jim: Street Connect has been a lot of fun for us.
We were contacted originally by an operator in
Switzerland, by the name of Swisscom. They had
done quite a bit of evaluation of costs related to
deploying small cells.
They had the typical problem where the data
usage is going sky high. They said that, since 2008,
it had gone up a hundred times. They have very
strict zoning standards in Switzerland and
therefore difficult to deploy. They were looking at
?where can we install antennas for small cells in
new and novel places??
They actually came up with the concept of
installing it in the ground, in what looked like
manhole covers. They looked at a few antenna
vendors and ultimately chose Kathrein to bring the
solution to market due to the high level of quality
and engineering expertise. We did some joint
development, and 17 trials in and around
Switzerland to determine performance and
Voila, we have this amazing product now that
provides a solution zoning and aesthetic
challenges all mobile operators face.
Monica: You said that they look like manholes, but
they?re not. What?s the difference?
Jim: The average person walking by can?t tell the
difference. The cover, of course, is not metal, like a
normal manhole cover as that would cause
interference, but it is a metal-looking composite
cover. It?s designed and tested to withstand up to
40 tons so it can handle heavy trucks and traffic.
Monica: What if you were to put them in a
manhole itself? Obviously, you?d probably have
propagation issues with the metal of the cover, but
does it have to be in a different area?
Jim: It does need to be in its own separate
enclosure. We don?t want to restrict access to an
actual cover, where there actually might be a need
for workers to go into that. Also, it?s smaller in
diameter. It?s about 17? inches in diameter, which
actually is too small for most people to get into.
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Monica: Usually what you do when you go from
macro to small cells, you go from way up high, and
you get progressively closer to the subscriber.
Kathrein goes one step further, because Street
Connect goes below the subscriber.
What does that do in terms of the interference,
say, with the macro, when you have a co-channel
deployment where the macro and the small cell
use the same spectrum?
Jim: Placement is really key there, to try to prevent
that interference. If you?re designing a system,
you?re going to look at maybe trying to shield from
the macro cell using surrounding buildings. Part of
the coverage of this system really depends on
reflection. It?s commonly located adjacent to
buildings, where we actually get good multipath,
and good coverage that way.
Monica: In terms of cost, how does Street Connect
compare to a lamppost or other outdoor small-cell
Jim: Swisscom compared Street Connect to, first,
macro cells, and then to conventional small cells
on lampposts and so forth, over a five-year period,
to calculate all their maintenance costs, and the
installation of fiber. Swisscom found that it comes
out to be about half. It was very attractive from a
perspective of cost.
Really, that is the main driver here. Certainly,
they?re going to use other tools as well, where it
makes sense. I?m sure they?re going to still
continue, as any operator would, with lampposts,
and other types of small cells. But this really
worked well from a cost perspective.
Monica: If fiber is available, it?s easier to have to
the small cell underground than if you go to a
lamppost, where fiber connectivity is usually a
Monica: Swisscom must have been talking to cities
and municipalities. Were they open to this type of
deployment? Streets are under the control of
municipalities, and so you need their support?
Jim: Absolutely. The right-of-way for locations for
the Street Connect is a big deal. Zoning and
placement of antennas, particularly in big cities ?
where you have this huge, dense traffic load
requirement ? is a big problem.
One of the fun parts of the Street Connect is that
we have cities that actually are interested in
deploying it and that have control of the right-of-
way. We have customers who will advocate for it
and streamline that zoning process.
Monica: Small cells represent a new approach to
wireless deployments. We are trying to put the
telecoms infrastructure in a place where,
traditionally, there was none.
Are there other places? You?re not just deploying
small cells underground. Where else will your
products go in the future?
Jim: There?re a lot of tools in our toolbox. That?s an
old clich?, one of our most popular to date for
neutral host and mobile operators is our canister
small cell product line. That?s one area, and we?re
constantly innovating and enhancing those. by
adding features and capability ? extended
frequency ranges as new frequencies, such as the
REPORT Massively densified networks ? 2016 Senza Fili Consulting ? www.senzafiliconsulting.com |62|
3.5 GHz and the 5.8 GHz, start to come into play. A
lot of demand for that.
The other thing is that most of the small cells have
been 2x2 MIMO. Traditionally, that?s been
adequate for most capacity requirements. But
we?re starting to see that in major cities, where
they don?t have any more capacity or place to put
another antenna that 4x4 MIMO is becoming a
reality, to get the capacity they need. We?re
adding the 4x4 MIMO.
Another approach in terms of antennas, both new
and existing, is working with third-party firms to
come up with flexible mounting and concealment
We have an antenna that we call a smart-pipe
antenna, internally we smilingly call it the barber-
pole antenna, because that?s what it looks like.
That antenna can be mounted on, say, the corner
of a building.
What?s cool about it is that the antennas can be
rotated, and this way you can customize the
direction of coverage. An operator can have this
antenna on the corner of a building, in a
downtown canyon environment, and aim one
antenna to the north, and the other antenna to
Another thing I can do with that antenna option is
to mount it like a paper towel roll, meaning that
it?s horizontal. Mounted on the side of a building,
an operator can aim one antenna at the lower
floors, and one antenna at the higher floors.
Another creative solution that we?ve had fun with
is to mount the smart-pipe on what they call the
messenger wire -- the strand cables that run
between telephone poles. We have a kit to mount
the antenna hanging from the wire and next to a
radio. We can accommodate 2x2 or 4x4 MIMO
Again, we can adjust where the beams go. Those
are the kinds of things we?re doing with the
existing antennas. In terms of new products, we
are coming out with a series of antennas that I
would liken to Lego blocks. They?re antennas that
are designed to be mounted in hidden places.
Places like behind, say, an advertising sign in an
airport or some public space.
You can configure them by combining them. If an
operator needs more gain, or more directionality,
a combination of two, or three, or four of them
can be easily be placed together, or back to back.
Lots of good applications, so we?re really having
fun with the small cells.
Monica: Operators require a lot of flexibility.
They?ve got more bands, but also they have more
services to support.
One class of services that is going to create a wide
range of demand requirements and new traffic
loads is IoT. There you have different types of
services, different type of devices and use cases
driving your opportunities. How is IoT going to
impact what you do, and how can you help
operators get into that market?
Jim: Good question. Boy, IoT is coming fast. It?s
coming faster than we maybe thought it was going
to. Things like the connected car, for example.
We are starting to build the 5.9 GHz, for example,
into antennas so we can participate in that
connected car business when it occurs.
Kathrein is a huge supplier of automotive antennas
as well, so it?s a natural tie in. As the supplier to
most of the major manufacturers in the world
we?re already thinking about how we?re going to
support connected car, leveraging those antennas.
Of course, with the IoT, there are many layers.
Kathrein also has a broadcast solution ? in fact we
have been providing these since the 1950?s. When
you have slow data applications, we may tie them
into broadcast facilities. We have satellite solutions
and hybrid fiber coax. All of these tie together to
create a connected solution. We?re trying to
coordinate our efforts in all of those things for IoT.
Monica: How do you see broadcast fitting into the
IoT expanded usage, congestion, small cells?
Jim: Great question. Broadcast spectrum will be
auctioned via the FCC repack. Remaining
broadcasters after the auction are evaluating the
ATSC 3.0 standard that will allow 2-way
communication in their spectrum. If implemented
and adopted, this will provide an enormous
amount of bandwidth for IOT applications and
backhaul for wireless carriers.
Broadcasters will more than likely follow what the
wireless carriers are already doing ? densifying
their networks with small cells.
Monica: Broadcast, it?s a concept we have been
working on for a long time, in terms of how we
actually do it. There is a lot of potential, but what?s
the best way to harness it? With the increase in
demand, we?ll have to see how that plays out.
Jim: It also could be things like what they call LoRA,
which is the 900 MHz. We?re also seeing L band,
the 1500 MHz. All of those frequency blocks start
REPORT Massively densified networks ? 2016 Senza Fili Consulting ? www.senzafiliconsulting.com |63|
tying into the internet of things. You start using
them in the most appropriate way for whatever
layer you?re trying to accommodate.
Monica: IoT would require additional bands. Do
you think there are going to be separate bands
reserved to IoT, and specific applications with IoT ?
say, connected cars, or something else?
Jim: They all have appropriate usages. From meter
reading to applications with low-latency
requirements, you?re going to utilize more than
one technology. Where you?re reading a meter
once a month, you don?t care when it comes in.
When you?re trying to maybe do an emergency
broadcast, you might have a different technology.
They all are going to be useful tools down the
Monica: The availability of new bands enables
operators to have small cells and micro cells
working on different channels. This would simplify
life for everybody involved, because you do not
need to coordinate small and macro cells.
At the same time, we still have a lot of co-channel
deployments, where macro and small cells are
using the same spectrum, and interference has to
be managed. That has been, for a long time, a
major concern for operators. How can we address
Jim: It is a tough question. The more frequencies
you put into usage, the more multiband antennas
we have, the more combinations for
intermodulation that you have. That?s one aspect.
Then again, you?re trying to deal with not
interfering with the macro level.
Really, placement is key. Adjustable
beams are key. Probably adjustable
power on radios is key. You can
optimize a network that way to
minimize those overlaps. Every
situation is going to be custom
tuned, so to speak, as you try to
optimize the network.
Monica: You mentioned at the
beginning that you have been
focusing personally on the US, and
listening to what you hear from
your customers. You?re also
working for a company that?s based
in Europe. Can you tell us a little
about what it is you hear that?s
different in these geographies?
Jim: In different places in the world, really, the
main difference is spectrum availability. That?s one
obvious area. There are different regulations in
different countries. In Europe, for example, the
height of an antenna is much more tightly
In Europe, they also will tend to limit what they call
the lower-side lobe. They?re more concerned than
we are in the US about RF exposure to people.
They tend to have really stringent standards for
In fact, that was an interesting part of the Street
Connect Solutions. Switzerland has one, if not the
most, stringent requirements for RF exposure in
the world, by about 10 times. That was actually a
great proving ground for the product in terms of
that RF exposure issue, which we really had to deal
We?ve done a lot of testing here in the US and
have active trials going on. We?re very
conservative in our RF exposure, the maximum
permissible exposure. Yet we?re trying to make the
system work well. We?re trying to get as much
input power as we can, because we want to get
good coverage and good performance out of it.
Those are all the things that we?ve been doing in
our trials. We?re really figuring out how to prevent
RF exposure, or interference with the macro
We?re ready to move forward, actually. We?re at a
point now where we?ve made good progress
there. We?re ready to actually start installing
Monica: That?s exciting. One other thing is that
with small cells, it seems like the technology is
there ? we?re all ready to go. All the vendors are
REPORT Massively densified networks ? 2016 Senza Fili Consulting ? www.senzafiliconsulting.com |64|
ready. Most of the time, the big challenge to
rollout is really the operational part ? installing it,
getting all the permissions right away, electricity,
How do you help, and how do you see that helping
in terms of reducing the complexity, and getting a
business model that works much more smoothly
than it does today?
Jim: Good question. One way is to partner with
other vendors, vendors that might focus and
specialize, say, on advertising signs, who may
already have rights-of-way in cities, who maybe
have already worked with city governments to
establish agreements where they have expedited
zoning permits and approvals, and in many cases,
where they already have power and fiber in the
Another is education at the government and local
levels -- providing the necessary information to
ease the process. And another is for us to
continually innovate with new antenna solutions
and concealment ideas.
You?re absolutely correct, it is a time-consuming
process to figure out ways to get the right-of-way,
the permissions, the zoning, and so on. Again, it
seems like many of the larger cities that need this
coverage are being very cooperative with us. We
actually have that in our favor.
Monica: Let me ask you, as a final question, about
what it is that you at Kathrein are working on in
order to get ready to meet the challenge over the
Jim: It really comes back to evolving the quality
solutions that we have ?adding new bands to
them for operators who really want to future-
proof their systems. Adding the 3.5 GHz and 5.8
GHz, that?s a big deal.
Adding the 4x4 MIMO capability, particularly at
the high-band frequencies, is a big deal. Everybody
wants it. They all want to be ready for it when it
comes. Then adding these flexible products that
allow, in many cases, to install an antenna in a
nonconventional location. Those are really the
directions that we?re headed with the small cells.
And of course laying the groundwork and
providing the latest research and development
into 5G technologies -- especially millimeter wave.
Monica: This is all new. With small cells, we have
the need to have telecom infrastructure
everywhere. But you want it to be less intrusive
and, where possible, hide it.
Jim: Right. Interestingly enough, we?ve done
simulations ? say, for example, in Manhattan ?
where we?ve taken a series of conditions and
parameters that we plug into design software. We
compare the performance of different models. It
could be external antennas on light poles, versus
Street Connect, versus a canister. We look at the
different heights of installations: how high. We
have found that that?s a critical element. How high
do you put that antenna?
We can make evaluations, then, on which are the
most effect tools for a given situation. It?s also
interesting, really, that the performance doesn?t
vary that much between the Street Connect and
what we call a slim-pole antenna, which is a small
antenna, or the barber-pole antenna. Actually, it?s
encouraging how well they all work in their right
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Kathrein is an innovation and technology leader in today's connected world. Kathrein solutions enable people to
globally communicate, access information, and use media, at home or on the road. From mobile
communications, signal processing systems and optimized data transmission in buildings; to fiber optic and cable
networks and satellite reception technology; to radio and TV transmission and data reception in cars; Kathrein is
a hidden champion and family-owned enterprise that has been working on the technologies of tomorrow since
1919. For more information, visit: www.kathrein.com.
About Jim DeKekkoek
Jim DeKoekkoek took the role of Product Line Manager in April 2015 with responsibility for Base Station
Antennas and Small Cells for Kathrein in North America. Mr. DeKoekkoek started his career in RF with the U.S.
Air Force as a SSB Ground Radio Tech and also worked in an Electrical Installation Squadron installing aircraft
control tower radios. After 6 years in the USAF, Jim held positions at General Electric Mobile Radio, Zetron Inc.,
and Kathrein-Scala Division. In total, Jim has more than 40 years of experience solving wireless communications
problems and has a BA in Accounting from Dordt College in Sioux Center IA.
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Rohde & Schwarz
Headquartered in Germany, Rohde & Schwarz has
been a main player in wireless communications
testing, measurement and monitoring for over 80
years. In addition to mobile wireless service
providers, it serves multiple markets, including
fixed wireless, broadcasting, electronics,
automotive, aerospace, government, security, and
Its solutions encompass five product areas: test
and measurement, broadcast and media,
cybersecurity, secure communications,
radiomonitoring and radiolocation.
In mobile wireless, Rohde & Schwarz provides a
wide range of products that span mobile phones
or UEs, and mobile-network testing.
In terms of access technologies and services, the
company supports all 2G and 3G legacy
technologies, LTE and 5G, in addition to Wi-Fi and
short-range technologies such as Bluetooth.
Within LTE, Rohde & Schwarz covers VoLTE and
voice testing, CA, SON, Wi-Fi offload, and public
safety ? both for FDD and TDD.
An emerging area of focus is IoT, where Rohde &
Schwarz provides measurement and testing
solutions for eMTC/LTE-M and NB-IoT. In
preparation for 5G, Rohde & Schwarz is working
on products for wideband, millimeter-wave, and
new waveforms yet to be adopted, as well as
advanced technologies, such as massive MIMO
Products that help mobile operators and network
equipment vendors test and optimize network
elements that are affected by densification include
? Freerider III, a portable/backpack
benchmarking solution for indoor and outdoor
? TSMW Universal Radio Network Analyzer and
TSME Ultracompact Drive Test Scanner, two
test-drive scanners used to
tune, install, optimize, monitor
and benchmark models. The
TSMW Universal Radio Network
Analyzer is designed to support
MIMO and CA. TSME
Ultracompact Drive Test
Scanner is compact and hence
also well suited for indoor
? ROMES4 Drive Test Software
for network analysis and
optimization that works across
? CMW500, a platform for testing
the wireless interface of mobile
devices. It can be used across
technologies and architectures,
and in conjunction with SON.
? SMW200 Vector Signal
Generator, with up to 2 GHz of
internal modulation bandwidth,
used to generate high-quality, digitally
? FSW Signal and Spectrum Analyzer, and RTO
Digital Oscilloscope, with up to 2 Gbps
bandwidth, for RF testing in TDD and FDD
? TS8980 RF Test System Family, for RF
conformance and operators? acceptance tests.
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Rohde & Schwarz
Testing a densified
A conversation with Jeremy
Cline, North America Product
Manager, and Rob Wattenburg,
North America SwissQual
Monica Paolini: Our conversation on densification
at Rohde & Schwarz is with Jeremy Cline, the
North America product manager, and with Rob
Wattenburg, North America SwissQual Business
Jeremy, can you tell us what Rohde & Schwarz is
doing in the field of densification, and what you
and Rob are doing specifically in this area?
Jeremy: Rohde & Schwartz is multifaceted. We?re,
generally speaking, an RF test-equipment
manufacturer. Rob and I work on the field side.
We?re constantly working on providing our
customers the ability to perform outdoor drive
tests, as well as indoor walking tests, mainly to
verify network coverage and quality provided by
the ever-increasing number of small cells and all
the other strategies you hear of as part of network
I?m the North American Product Manager for
Mobile Network Test. That?s a market segment for
which we have a dedicated product portfolio to
address the challenges that network operators and
customers, alike, face due to these new network
My colleague, Rob Wattenberg, is our North
American Business Director for SwissQual
Products. He talks with our R&D department in
Switzerland on a consistent basis, to make sure all
of our strategic decisions are made according to
what we see in the market, and to ensure that we
have a coherent product offering.
Monica: There have been changes in the way we
test network performance, driven by operators?
need to capture QoE.
With densification, how is testing going to be
affected by moving the focus towards QoE?
Jeremy: There absolutely is a shift towards testing
QoE. That?s one of our top priorities. We?ve known
for a while that KPIs only tell a part of the story.
When?s the last time you went to a ball game at a
stadium venue, for example, and you were
worried about ?What?s my RSRP look like??
Maybe some of us RF engineers do, but the
layperson is more worried about subjective things
like audio quality and video quality. They want to
know ?Is my YouTube video that I want to
download coming through? And if it does, is it
coming through in an acceptable manner, where
there?s not a lot of blurring and things like that??
There?re so many aspects of what we call the real-
world customer experience that it?s become truly
key to test and verify the power of a mobile
network. Something I?ve noticed over time is that
our typical use case for our products has evolved
to a more hands-on, walking-around type of
testing, whereas before it was traditionally you
walk out to your car, slap an antenna on, put the
scanner in your front seat, and go do some
outdoor drive testing.
There?s still a little bit of that, but really things are
moving indoors. As densification methods like
small cells and LTE unlicensed bands start to get
used, and you?ve got Wi-Fi offload going on, the
focus on QoE is just going to become more and
more important, to reflect what customers are
actually seeing and feeling.
Again, I?d say it?s more about the actual data
throughputs that can be achieved and other
subjective measures that everyone can relate to.
Monica: When it comes to utilization, you
mentioned indoor access. We know that most of
the subscribers and most of the traffic comes from
indoor locations. As you say, you still need to go
around with a car, but you also need to go inside
the buildings or try to capture the indoor
performance. How do you do that? How will you
need to change the way you work or how your
solutions work, to capture that?
Jeremy: One of the trends we?re seeing is that
small cells are really moving indoors. Generally
speaking, we?re familiar with the inner workings of
the macro network; that?s a fairly mature
technology and infrastructure. But as small cells
move indoors, there are going to be quite a few
more testing challenges to address.
For one, there?re going to be many more small
cells to verify coverage for. It?s as simple as that.
In a well-coordinated network, you hope that the
small cells that are going indoors don?t really have
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any effect on what?s going on outdoors or vice
versa. If the small-cell network is well designed,
you?re probably not going to create those kinds of
problems on the macro side.
But the new challenge we?re seeing is in the third
dimension, meaning altitude. When you want to
get access to the signal, you walk or drive around,
and typically it?s in two dimensions. For an indoor
venue, though, you may have 15 or more floors, so
you?re doing the same route but you?re actually
moving up in altitude, and now you have to do this
15 different times. It?s more time consuming.
There?re more things to take into account. The test
tools have to be able to keep up.
From a test equipment perspective, we have to
worry about providing solutions that are able to
verify the coverage for each and every small cell.
And the changes we make in our portfolio are
driven by all the new devices that get released
As things get more complicated in the network, we
have to keep the testing process easy. We can?t
afford to take a step back in usability.
Monica: Many new dimensions are added to
traditional testing, where you had only a macro
network and phones. Not only do you have
different devices, in different locations. You also
have small cells sharing spectrum with macro cells.
They affect each other. How do you deal with that
in terms of testing?
Jeremy: You want to have some coordination
between the small-cell and the macro-cell
networks, even though early on you may not have
One of the things that comes up is RF interference.
That?s something you can never ignore. As if it
wasn?t challenging enough before, you?re going to
see these LTE unlicensed spectrum bands coming
into the picture. Just the sheer number of small
cells that are going to be deployed on the network,
which could have coverage issues between
themselves and/or with the macro cell network
outside of a venue.
You?ve also got the emergence of self-optimized
networks, and the idea is that that will lead to less
in-field optimization, but interference is simply
something you have absolutely no control of in
some cases. But you should never ignore it. You
need to be worried about that in the field.
If a base station?s receive antenna can detect a
signal that shouldn?t be there, that?s really
interference, but there?re so many small
interferers out there that we know lie in the wrong
spectrum. This may not matter with a macro
network, because that signal, with its path loss and
its geographic location, may not be picked up by
the base station, meaning it?s not really a threat.
But now when you start to look at small cells,
there?re going to be so many more deployed in the
network. They could be closer to these sources
that weren?t really a threat before but now they
are, because a small-cell receive antenna may pick
them up. In some ways, you could argue that
they?re more susceptible to interference. That?s
just going to add another layer of complexity.
It?s going to be important to have interference
tools just like we do today and did in the past. In
the future it?s going to be even more important to
locate these signals quickly and easily and
efficiently and get those issues resolved as fast as
Monica: With small cells, it?s more than just having
smaller-footprint equipment. A lot of things
change. As you say, sources of interference might
change, but also the way we deploy them and test
the small cells. You might have less-skilled
technicians installing them and testing them. The
location is different, and the networks will change.
The dynamics of the network change more quickly.
The operator might continually add small cells at a
faster pace than they do with micro cells.
How is that going to change the way you test the
network? More dynamic network, less-skilled
Jeremy: That?s certainly a concern. As we go on
from 2G, 3G, 4G, and now we?re looking at things
like 5G and IoT, the network is getting more and
more complicated. You?ve got all these strategies
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related to network densification, like small cells,
heterogeneous networks, and LTE and Wi-Fi
Testing equipment is expected to keep up. We
have to put in all these bells and whistles, you have
to be able to verify performance, but the test
equipment cannot get any harder to use.
Speaking from my own personal experience
visiting with our customers, I?ve noticed a trend
toward the idea that they?re going to change who
does what in the company, and the person holding
the test equipment may not have much RF
background or experience. They still need to be
able to use the tool.
Ease of use is definitely at the top of the list from a
testing equipment perspective. That?s something
we?re focusing on, and it?s going to be absolutely
critical to have, especially if the network gets more
The other thing I?ll add is that we see a need for
automation and remote monitoring, as well. You
look at, again, this number of small cells that are
going to be deployed in the network. They already
are, and it?s just going to grow exponentially
through 2020 and beyond.
Expecting a cell technician, for example, to go out
in the field and verify all of their sites in one day is
almost becoming unrealistic. There?re just too
many sites that they?re going to have to be
Instead, we may see some testing requirements
where you leave a scanner or a UE at a site, and
you can log into it anytime, 24/7, to see what?s
going on. Advances in the Android operating
system have really changed the way these tools
are interacted with.
We get access to the chipsets. We get from the
devices all these KPIs that we need in order to look
at some of the things I?ve already mentioned, like
data throughput, and voice quality, and video
quality. We get a whole lot more information than
we used to.
Again, it all comes back to the ease of use and
allowing anybody to pick it up, turn it on, and press
go, and get what they need.
Monica: Ease-of-use and automation are crucial
for dealing with increased complexity. One source
of complexity that you mentioned earlier is that
operators? use of unlicensed bands for Wi-Fi, LTE
unlicensed, or other access technologies. How do
you deal with that? To test for performance in an
unlicensed band, it?s inherently more complex.
Rob: From our test tool point of view, there are a
couple things we have to be concerned with.
One is obviously the RF environment. We have
tools to be able to properly assess that RF
environment. We?ve got a good line of RF scanners
that are software defined. We can evolve with
technology. We can evolve with spectrum band
deployment ? which is probably even more
important than the RF environment, which, as
Jeremy referred to earlier, is pretty robust. Once
you?ve got these things installed, they tend to
function in the RF domain.
The next thing we really have to be focused on is
the functionality. If I?ve got a device that?s made to
be able to use LTE unlicensed or maybe in
aggregation between LTE and Wi-Fi, how does that
device manage the flow of information through
the IP domain? That?s where a ton of our energy is
going these days.
We?ve got a company called ipoque that is a
Rohde & Schwarz company, and we have taken
their deep-packet inspection capability and
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integrated it into our tools so we can watch the IP
Most of the problems we?re seeing today are not
caused by RF deficiencies, but through packet
routing. Maybe some networks are filtering
packets that shouldn?t be filtered. Maybe they?re
not being prioritized properly. Maybe there?s
packet loss. These are the things that we have to
help engineers figure out how to solve.
We take what is essentially the end-user tool or
device, and it?s really important for us to use that
particular thing. We can?t use a generic device to
test these complex networks. The phone that you
and I go get from a carrier is what we have to use.
I can go get a phone from Europe, bring it over,
unlock it, and use it on some of these networks
here in the States, and it doesn?t perform the same
way. It might not work properly.
For instance, if VoLTE doesn?t work, we have to
use the carrier?s end-user device. We buy that, we
have to integrate our software into that, and then
we have to layer on top of it functions that are
essentially mimicking what you and I would do
with our phones. It might be, ?Hey, I?m going to go
surf websites.? I might go look at videos. I might do
a VoLTE call. I might do a video chat.
These are all things that we have to do to drive the
devices to test these networks. The complexity in
this densification is the aggregation of technology
bands. The functionality of each has to work in
concert with all the others. Troubleshooting the
problems that arise from that is really critical.
Just to take a quick step back, when we program
these phones to do what our end users do, we
have to be able to measure what they experience.
That?s where quality of experience really becomes
critical. I don?t care if I get a gigabit per second out
of my mobile phone. All I care about is can I have a
video chat with my kids who are away at college?
Those are the things that are more critical to me.
I can give you hundreds of examples of real-world
issues we?ve had, where we?ll go do an Ookla
speed test and see 30, 40 mbps on a mobile
phone, yet I can?t download a 500 MB file in less
than four hours. There?s a problem somewhere
out there in the network. We?ve got to be able to
provide the background information that
engineers need to understand where these
problems are coming from.
Monica: That is a challenge, because different
applications have different requirements or
generate different types of traffic. If you test the
overall performance of the network, you might not
be able to see the difference there.
Rob: Exactly. I would say this in terms of latency.
Video is really one of those hot-button items.
We?ve seen a number of studies that show that
video is going to be 75% of all bytes that flow in
the network by 2020. Looking at video and latency,
those things can go hand in hand, but in some
cases, it?s not quite so important
If I?m looking at a YouTube video, latency is not so
critical. If it?s a video on demand, let?s say the
typical use case, I would go to YouTube and watch
a video that somebody uploaded at some time in
the past; that?s really nothing more than a file
download in disguise.
In this case we?re talking about YouTube. It could
be Hulu, Netflix, Pandora. There?s all kinds of
delivery mechanisms out there for voice and
video. They all have strategies in terms of how the
bytes flow. Their emphasis is on delivering the best
quality of experience to the guy who?s using the
phone. Latency?s not so important there. I don?t
care if there?s a 10-second delay in the flow of
packets. That?s not a critical element there.
When we move into, say, live video, where I?m
watching the Olympics on my phone, now latency
can come into play. Again, do I really care if that
video is coming to me three seconds delayed or
five seconds delayed? The typical delay we see in
watching on a mobile phone on a live video is 5 to
It does matter in terms of the throughputs. If I?m
looking at a video on demand, I can get a buffer
filled in a high bandwidth network very quickly.
You get a spike of data coming to your phone. It
plays out. As the buffer empties, another spike of
data rolls through, the buffer gets filled back up
again, and everything plays out smoothly, and I?m
a happy customer.
For live video, you don?t have the luxury of
buffering 40 seconds of video. You get much
smaller chunks of data, which means you?re now
much more susceptible to dropouts and data
throughputs. Latency has an impact there because
the higher the latency, the larger the buffer needs
to be to overcome problems with it. Lower latency
means I can keep my buffer sizes smaller and not
worry about retransmission so much, as well.
It?s a very complex formula that goes into latency,
buffer sizes, how close to real time can we get with
the video or audio transmission if we need it in
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Monica: VoLTE and conversational video, or ViLTE,
are the next challenge. How do you test for
Rob: IR.94 ? let?s say an IMS-type video chat ? is
very challenging to test in the real world. We see a
lot of people who can put things back in the IMS
servers and try to assess video quality, but in the
end, can you tell if I am a happy customer? The
only way to tell if I?m happy is by being where I?m
at with the device.
When I talk to my kids, for instance, we?ll pull up
the phone, we?ll do a video chat call. What
happens behind the scenes is everything?s getting
routed through the IMS servers. There?s a video
socket set up for video packets. There?s another
socket set up for audio packets.
What we?re doing with our test tool is we?re now
running what we call an algorithm. By ?algorithm?
we mean that we can run audio into an algorithm,
and what?s going to get spit out is a mean opinion
score that?s going to grade the quality of that
audio from one to five, five being best. I can grade
the audio with this algorithm, and I can grade the
video with a separate algorithm. Now I?ve got two
measurements, or two KPIs, if you will.
The third thing that?s critical to understand in a
video chat is lip sync. Since audio and video are
transmitted on separate paths, you?ve got to be
able to come up with a method for calculating lip
We?ve seen some studies where they actually put
blood pressure monitors on people, and in a poor
video environment, blood pressure actually goes
up in people. We know that we don?t want to be
under any more stress than we already are, so it?s
critical for carriers to be able to measure audio
quality, video quality, and lip-sync capabilities on
these video chat calls.
I would say the biggest challenge for us, and we?re
very close to releasing this, is that we have to be
able to inject video into the device, because we
can?t really test reliably with opening up the
camera feed and making a video call. We have to
feed into the device a known reference clip that?s
going to simulate the network properly.
A black screen?s not going to transmit any bytes,
but motions, face movement, those are all things
that actually up the bit rate of the data
transmission. We have a video/audio clip that goes
out at the same time, and then we put special
markers in the video so that we can now calculate
timings for the lip sync.
Then, on the receive side, we run these algorithms,
as well. Those receive algorithms, we?ll be able to
go full-duplex audio, video, and quality. On the
algorithms, these aren?t simply software pieces
that just grade this video. These are algorithms
that have gone through incredible amounts of
The ITU has issued standards for the proper way to
measure video quality in mobile environments.
ETSI has recommendations as well. We work very
closely with the standardization bodies, and we?re
very proud of the fact that we have the approved
ITU standard for measuring video quality in a
mobile environment. It measures all the way up to
1080p, and we?re in the process of testing it for 4K
video, as well.
If you?ve got real latency issues, you?re going to
end up with real problems of when I talk, you hear
it later. We call this mouth-to-ear time, and it is
super critical from a quality of experience
Nothing?s more frustrating than what we call
double talk, where I talk and you talk at the same
time because we?re not quite in sync. There?s an IT
standard in terms of when double talk is
problematic. Latency plays into that in a big way.
That?s a real problem area for carriers. In terms of
VoLTE and ViLTE, that?s probably one of the more
critical parameters that we?re able to measure. Of
course, you still have to look at things like jitter,
jitter buffers, the call state that you happen to be
There?re some specialized tests that we have, just
to cover where you?re at with that. We have a
special test that we can run to measure the exact
amount of latency you have. It?s done through a
pretty clever mechanism where we send audio
from what we call the A side to the B side. The B
side hears it and sends it back, and we can get
latency measurements from an end-user
perspective based on that.
We also have the ability to layer noise in on top of
speech so we can see how well the network
elements that remove unwanted noise are
performing. If we can throw background noise in,
say, the conversation we?re having now, hopefully
the other end doesn?t hear it. That requires all the
right noise cancellation mechanisms to be turned
Echo is another problem. We?ve got to make sure
echo cancelers are working properly. We have
specialized tests just to simulate echo. We can
introduce echo and measure the ability of the
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echo cancellation components to remove that.
Again, it all points back to this quality of
experience, measuring audio and video quality.
Densification reemphasizes the need to look at this
in this manner. We?re in this heavily densified
network. Let?s take ourselves forward 10 years.
We will have devices that may be hitting the
Internet or hitting the IP backbone in several ways
in parallel. It is reemphasizing the back-end
functionality, and how it might impact the quality
Monica: Absolutely. If we look at the next 10
years, what are the challenges that you are trying
to address with IoT or 5G? How are they going to
change the way we test networks?
Rob: From a tools perspective, we tend to sit back
and wait to see where the markets go, where the
carriers are actually deploying technology, and
then we?re ready to test it.
The nice thing about Rohde & Schwarz is we?ve got
groups in this company that work with the chipset
manufacturers, the device manufacturers, the
infrastructure manufacturers, the standardization
bodies. We are in the ones and the zeroes of
Here on the field side, on the test tool side, we?re
leveraging that experience, and we?re getting
ourselves prepared for running the kinds of tests
that are going to stress these new networks and
their functionalities. That?s one of our challenges in
How will the internet of things matter to us on the
testing side? If my doorbell is going to connect to
the internet, I don?t think we need a test tool to
tell us does that thing work properly, but we do
have to understand what its impact on the
Network virtualization is coming, and mobile
devices might have some clever ways of accessing
multiple radio-access technologies, or share RANs.
All these have an impact on functionality, so we?ve
got to be able to stress that functionality. Those
are things we?re working on, as well.
The RF environment is going to get more and more
complex as 5G comes. Our RF scanning receivers,
which have these phenomenal performance
capabilities, and software-defined radios, we?re
now evolving those to make sure we can really
understand the RF environment.
One thing, and Jeremy talked about it earlier, is we
are looking at how we can better assess
interference in this evolving market. Right now, we
feel LTE is very susceptible to interference. We?ve
seen things like ballasts and fluorescent lights like
you see behind me create interference that cuts
throughput of an LTE network in half.
Finding those kinds of sources of interference is
going to be one of those really tricky things for the
carriers. It?s spotty. Interference could be up and
down, all over the place. Coming up with a
mechanism to do that more efficiently is
something we?re working on.
Back to your point earlier, which is everything has
to be simpler than it is today: we have the need for
more and more people hanging networks out in
the world, the real world, whether it?s in small
I?ve heard some people talk about moving towards
100,000 sq ft buildings and bigger. That?s where
we need to be focused. It?s going to go to 50,000
sq ft buildings and then maybe my house.
That?s going to require somebody to do some kind
of work on site. That guy that does that work is
going to have to be extremely efficient. He?s going
to have to be able to go deploy, hook up, and test.
No longer will we have the days of engineers
coming out and doing surveys after the fact.
The holy grail for us is a tool that?s absolutely for
free. You hit start, stop, pass, fail, and everybody?s
happy. Obviously we can?t get to the holy grail, but
that?s the direction we?re heading.
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About Rohde & Schwarz
For more than 80 years, Rohde & Schwarz has stood for quality, precision and innovation in all fields of wireless
communications. The electronics group is strategically based on five pillars: test and measurement, broadcast
and media, cybersecurity, secure communications, radiomonitoring and radiolocation. The company addresses
customers in the mobile radio, wireless, broadcasting, electronics and automotive industries, in aerospace and
defense as well as government, security and critical infrastructures. Rohde & Schwarz is among the world
market leaders in its established business fields. It is the world?s leading manufacturer of wireless
communications and EMC test and measurement equipment, as well as of broadcasting and T&M equipment
for digital terrestrial television.
About Jeremy Cline
Jeremy Cline is a Product Manager at Rohde & Schwarz where he is responsible for products that are primarily
used for mobile network testing. During his 6 years with the company, he has specialized in drive test,
benchmarking, network optimization, interference hunting, and other general purpose RF applications. Jeremy
helps identify testing solutions for RF customers across multiple industries including aerospace and defense,
telecommunications, semiconductor, biotechnology and device manufacturing. Jeremy graduated from The
University of Texas at Austin with a BSEE, and The University of Southern California with a MSMDDE. He can be
reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About Rob Wattenberg
Rob Wattenberg is the Business Director for SwissQual products in North America and is based in Irvine,
California. Rob joined SwissQual in 2008 as a Regional Manager, and introduced their innovative products and
technologies. He brings over 25 years of experience to Rohde and Schwarz in the Mobile Network Test market
segment. Rob has held several executive level positions in the wireless industry; primarily related to field testing,
optimization, and benchmarking of cellular networks. Rob?s expertise in recent years focuses on Quality of
Experience measurement as it applies to voice and video. He holds a Bachelor?s degree in Electrical Engineering
from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.
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Samsung Networks develops network
infrastructure products for mobile operators
worldwide. Since the 1970s, Samsung has been a
leading global mobile infrastructure vendor, and
more recently an innovator in TDD-LTE and FDD-
Samsung Networks launched its first commercial
FDD-LTE network in the United States in 2010. This
was followed by commercial TDD-LTE network
launch in 2011 with worldwide deployments from
Asia to the United States.
A core focus of Samsung?s technology
development has been on an end-to-end small-cell
portfolio featuring three types of small cells:
? Outdoor small cells, with radio and baseband
combined in a compact unit that can be
installed on outdoor urban fixtures to increase
capacity in dense areas, and to improve
coverage where the macro layers cannot
reach. According to Samsung, its outdoor
small cells can support up to 200 active users
in a 20 MHz channel.
? Indoor small cells, suited for installation in
public venues and enterprises. These are
smaller than outdoor small cells (4 kg) and
support 64 active users per cell.
? Residential femto cells, small units (less than 1
kg) designed to be plug-and-play devices that
automatically select the appropriate
frequency and enforce the operator?s location
policy. They support both data and voice
(VoLTE) for eight concurrent active users, with
up to 225 mbps throughput and a coverage
area up to 1,000 sq m according to Samsung.
Samsung is also working on LTE Unlicensed small
cells, with the first products supporting LTE-U ? the
Samsung LTE-U eFemto ? using enhanced Carrier
Sensing Adaptive Transmission (eCSAT) for
coexistence with Wi-Fi. The LTE-U small cells will
be software-upgradable to LAA.
Samsung?s small cell gateway, helps operators
increase their densification efforts, by aggregating
thousands of small cells in to a single connection to
the EPC. Samsung?s end-to-end small-cell network
enables operators to manage interference among
small cells and between macro-cell and small-cell
layers. It uses advanced scheduling and cell-
coordination technologies that benefit from the
tight synchronization that centralized baseband
Current R&D focus is on 5G: Samsung is working
on the new RAN architecture (virtualization, with
C-RAN topologies and decentralized core functions
moving toward the edge); new bands (mmW
bands: 28 GHz, 37 GHz, 39 GHz, and 60 GHz,
primarily); improvement of antenna technologies
(e.g., MIMO and beamforming); and coexistence
with legacy RATs (3G, LTE) that are still widely
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the chipset to small
A conversation with Nivi
Thadasina, Senior Director of 5G
and 4G Engineering, Samsung
Monica Paolini: For this conversation on
densification, I have the pleasure of talking with
Nivi Thadasina, Senior Director of 4G and 5G
Engineering in the Wireless Network Systems
division at Samsung Electronics America.
Nivi, may I ask you what Samsung is doing to help
densification efforts by mobile operators? And
what is your personal role within that?
Nivi: I?ve been with Samsung Networks for over 10
years and have been involved with small cells since
their ideation and inception in 2004, even before
the term ?small cells? was introduced. We did the
initial research ? partly because of Samsung?s
capabilities to undertake development of new
technologies and to solve tough problems faced by
We design and offer end-to-end products, as you
are aware. Plus, we have the capabilities to design
and manufacture our own chipsets. With that in
mind we said, ?OK. What is the best way to
address a need within the United States??
As part of that, we started to look into these
miniature base stations. That eventually led to our
world?s-first small cell ? at that time we were
calling it ?Internet Radio? ? launched with Sprint.
That was back in 2007.
At Samsung, my role encompasses responsibility
for radio access solutions targeted for the United
States. We do the feasibility analysis, propose new
ideas and methodologies, new product
requirements and the product definition. Once our
development team in headquarters realizes the
product, it is validated here in the United States
before the final delivery to our customers. Our
team is also responsible for commercial rollout of
small cells for both enterprise and residential
Monica: Samsung has been involved in small cells
for a long time. I remember in 2007, the Sprint
launch. A lot has changed since then, even though
we?re still in the beginning of the densification
process. Can you tell us how you see the evolution
to densified networks?
Nivi: In 2007 the need was coverage. In-building
was the challenge. The signal was not penetrating
where it needed to. The immediate need from our
customers was ?Can we get coverage in areas
where it?s very hard to reach through macro
cells?? Coverage was the initial need.
With the introduction of small cells they now had a
tool to quickly and efficient address coverage
challenges in their network. That eventually led to
?Now that we got the coverage, can we also look
at capacity offload?? Especially for users who are
on the cell edge of the macro network ? they are
the ones who consume the most power and
spectral resources, from a macro standpoint. Most
in-building consumption could also be classified as
cell edge users due to RF signal characteristics. Our
customers asked ?OK. Can we also use this product
to see whether it could be utilized as a capacity
offload tool?? That was all part of the 3G.
As part of evolution from 3G to 4G, now the
biggest need we see is voice over LTE. ?Can I
provide voice coverage in areas that are very hard
to reach?? For that, our customers are looking at
small cells as ?Hey, can I use this tool to address
With that, obviously, we can provide a better user
experience ? better voice quality and significant
improvement in call accessibility and retainability.
Another added benefit for operators is
improvement in spectral efficiency for in-building
utilization and cell edge users. We are able to
squeeze more bits per hertz while improving
overall experience for end users on their cell
Looking ahead, as you?re aware, 5G is the next
evolutionary step. Millimeter wave can have a very
large path loss. Propagation characteristics are
tough. I would say that the 5G is a very natural
evolution for small cells.
Monica: What you were saying with respect to the
increased spectral efficiency in 4G is interesting.
What you?re seeing is an increase in spectral
efficiency in the macro. For instance, indoor small
cells not only improve the in-building performance
for the people inside the buildings who are closer
to the small cell, they can also improve the macro
layer. Is that correct?
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Small cells help the macro, as well. Usually in the
beginning we thought, ?You just put a small cell for
the people using the small cell.? It may benefit
even more the people who are at the edge of the
Nivi: Absolutely. I hear many encouraging
comments from the operators about average
sector throughput increasing after addressing
those tough users deep inside a building or on the
That?s mostly due to the fact that you are able to
close the link between the UE and base station
with improved MCS rates, higher bits per hertz and
less power thus resulting in lowered interference
levels. Definitely, I think it?s a win and win for both
the macro-cell and small-cell layers.
Monica: Do you see a shift between indoor and
outdoor locations in the operators? densification
Nivi: Samsung has been focused in indoor for a
couple of different reasons.
There are already widely published statistics
showing that 50% to 70% of the calls originate
from deep inside the building.
There are also estimates on how much of the
indoor spectrum is under-utilized by the operators.
These numbers vary; however, the primary
concern is the disparity in coverage between the
outdoor and indoor environments.
Spectrum, among others, is clearly the most
valued asset owned by an operator and that is
under-utilized in indoor environments. By
deploying a small cell deep inside a building, they
are now able to light up the high valued resource.
From Samsung?s standpoint, we see this as a great
opportunity, as we?re able to help our customers
to address and relieve the macro network by
reducing capacity demands from users deep inside
a building. Plus, you are able to go address the
voice over LTE challenges that operators face,
which are typically in indoor locations.
Monica: Couldn?t the operators use Wi-Fi Calling
Nivi: Very good question. There are different
opinions on that. Let?s say you make a voice call
over Wi-Fi and that the call experiences voice
quality challenges. Or, worst, the call drops.
Transitioning or handover between Wi-Fi and
macro networks is not seamless, and may result in
poor voice quality or frequent drops. In that case
what would an end-user do? The user will
naturally call the operator to complain since most
end-users can?t decipher whether the root of the
problem is with their home Wi-Fi coverage or the
operator?s macro network. The operator is unable
to trace user experience since that particular call is
handled by a network that is outside of their
domain, i.e., unmanaged network.
One way to address it would be by moving that call
from Wi-Fi to voice over LTE, all of a sudden I am
now able to go see and predict the user
experience. That?s one thing.
The second is that it?s well publicized that with
Wi-Fi, the coverage within your home is still
somewhat restricted compared to coverage you
can experience with the small cells. Based on our
product experience, we have received positive
feedback from the field on how noticeable was the
coverage expansion in their homes relative to
Wi-Fi coverage. Now they are able to make calls in
areas where they could not before.
Monica: 5G is a huge opportunity, because
wireless networks will be able to use a wider range
of spectrum bands.
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At Samsung, how do you see those new bands?
Some of them are traditionally not cellular bands,
like millimeter wave. How do you see them being
used for densification purposes?
Nivi: You saw the FCC ruling that came out
recently. They?re immediately looking at four
bands. That?s great news for all of us. The 28 GHz,
37 GHz, 39 GHz, and 60 GHz. Right now we?re
doing a lot of work in 5G in this area. We?ve been
looking at 5G for the past several years.
From our standpoint, we see a great opportunity.
There is an immediate opportunity in 28 GHz.
Overall we are looking at multiple different
solutions for 5G to provide blanket coverage in
both outdoor and indoor environments. By virtue
of Samsung?s strong presence in small cells, we
strongly believe that we have a distinct advantage
as we have deployed the most field proven
solutions in this space.
Monica: What kind of bands are you seeing that
are better suited for indoors versus outdoors? Is it
backhaul or access? What?s the best way to
Nivi: Our customers will deploy all the way from
sub-1 GHz, namely 600 MHz, to millimeter wave.
It?s already well known that once you reach
millimeter wave, the in-building penetration can
be a challenge. We have product solutions that
allow our customers to solve such problems. Our
customers use various high and low bands to
selectively address various use cases and coverage
needs inside and outside buildings for access.
Monica: There are two different views you can
take. As we move higher in frequency, the range is
shorter. That can be an advantage in an indoor
location because it?ll have less interference. At the
same time, you need more equipment because
the range is smaller.
If you have a cell with a range so short that you
need a high number of them, is it cost effective for
Nivi: We are looking into various technologies to
extend the range of 5G in millimeter waves well
beyond what the industry initially envisioned. Does
this mean a millimeter wave based 5G cell will
equal sub-2 GHz cellular levels? Not yet.
Combination of massive MIMO and adaptive beam
formation, as an example, will significantly
improve the link budget by virtue of generating
narrow beams and large improvements in
transmission gain. I think some of these
technologies and techniques are utilized to
overcome the path loss.
We do believe 5G is ready for commercialization.
We have done extensive demonstrations and trials
to validate how to close a 5G link at much greater
distance to allow cellular like deployments.
I do believe that the 5G deployment pattern will
be combination of macro cellular and small cell
footprint. It will utilize various configurations from
street furniture, rooftops, and existing cell towers
to fulfill coverage and capacity demands.
Monica: There are going to be many solutions out
there. That brings up the issue that not only do
you have different solutions, different locations,
but also different vendors. How do you view that?
This has been a challenge for a lot of operators.
They want to have equipment from different
vendors, but integration is not easy. What?s your
view on this?
Nivi: When we first approached small cells, we
encountered similar challenges, with not only 3G
but also 4G networks. Typically, most operator
networks for macro deployments are homogenous
within a given market. A single vendor covers the
entire network. If you are not an incumbent
vendor, this can introduce additional challenges.
Knowing that we are not an incumbent player in all
the US markets, we designed our products from
day one to underlay a macro network. Intrinsic to
the base layer of our HW and SW is ability to co-
exist within any incumbent markets.
Now the question is ?How can we coexist?? Not
only can I coexist, the end user should not know
the difference that ?Hey, I?m on a Samsung
network or someone else?s network.? The handset
should seamlessly move between these multi-
There are certain innovative ideas we had to
incorporate into our products to seamlessly
coexist. On top of that the coexistence will come in
two forms. One is ?How can you coexist?? from a
radio standpoint, and the other is ?How can you
coexist?? from a core network standpoint. There
are different solutions to address the radio and the
In my opinion, 3GPP has done a very good job in
terms of coming up with well-defined interface
specifications, which make it bit easier for multiple
vendors to interop. However, there are certain
things operators can still do, especially in the X2
area, to further promote multi-vendor co-
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SON is another area in which interoperability is
crucial. It?s not necessary to have a vendor-
agnostic SON. But, certainly, having that would
help promote a truly multi-vendor radio network.
Monica: There are also different technologies. We
have LTE, but operators are also using Wi-Fi as a
complementary radio access channel. Then we
have LTE unlicensed ? either LTE-U or LAA, LWA,
MulteFire. This opens the way to another level of
tight integration of performance across different
access channels. What are you doing there? How
do you see this further developing?
Nivi: You?re right. The technology is getting more
and more complicated. Not only are you looking at
multiple bands, multiple technologies. Now you?re
looking at a combination of LTE and Wi-Fi and so
There might be three or four different flavors of
this technology. You might see a combination of
LTE and Wi-Fi, since Wi-Fi is prevalent. You might
see LWA solutions out there. LTE-U is something
that we are aggressively pursuing. Certainly you?ll
see that plus LAA. Of course, MulteFire is also out
Each of these solutions has its own pros and cons.
Eventually this industry will evolve and hopefully
Monica: What are you working on with Samsung
today in preparation for the next five years? What
is the focus for the future with respect to
Nivi: We are certainly working on lot of exciting
things, in terms of how we can capitalize on our
experience and lessons learned from 2G, 3G, and
4G into 5G. Plus, as an industry, I think there is a
rapid evolution from physical elements to
Samsung is clearly looking at all the different
opportunities, technology evolutions, talking to
different customers, not only in the US but
worldwide, in how best to design our solutions to
fit their needs.
One of the biggest strengths Samsung has is that
not only can we provide complete end-to-end
solutions, but also build our own chipsets. That
plays a strong role and hopefully influences the
evolutionary path for our customers.
Monica: You have your own chipsets. You
mentioned virtualization. Does it mean also that
you?re working on the C-RAN part of the solution
for small cells?
Nivi: We have launched C-RAN in Korea. I think
that?s already well publicized.
When I mentioned virtualization, the approach to
virtualization for core and RAN will differ. Unlike
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for core networks, I do believe that RAN
virtualization will probably encompass
combination of physical and virtual elements with
various functional-layer splits. A small cell is
essentially either a complete eNodeB in one box
with, say, an Ethernet backhaul or low power RRH
each to scale to meet market goals.
As we evolve towards 5G, what makes sense is a
combination from having all the layers stacked in
one box, to a combination of having a radio plus
everything else perhaps virtualized.
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Headquartered in Ridgefield Park, N.J., Samsung Electronics America, Inc. (SEA), is a recognized innovative leader
in consumer electronics, mobile devices and enterprise solutions. A wholly owned subsidiary of Samsung
Electronics Co., Ltd., SEA is pushing beyond the limits of today?s technology and providing consumers and
organizations with a portfolio of groundbreaking products in mobility, virtual reality, wireless infrastructure,
wearables, electronics, and home appliances. Samsung is a pioneering leader in smartphones and HDTVs in the
U.S. and one of America?s fastest growing home appliance brands. To discover more about Samsung, please visit
www.samsung.com. For the latest Samsung news, please visit news.samsung.com/us and follow us
About Nivi Thadasina
Nivi Thadasina is Senior Director of 5G and 4G Engineering at Samsung Electronics America, where he is
responsible for radio access network products in the U.S. Previously, Nivi led engineering efforts for the first
commercial launch of LTE service in the US market with MetroPCS that utilized Samsung?s evolved NodeB and
evolved core packet products. Nivi also led the development of the world?s first commercialized femtocell and
holds several patents for radio frequency technologies optimized for indoor environments. Prior to Samsung,
Nivi worked in engineering roles at Bell Northern Research and STMicroelectronics, where he was involved in
the design of 2G and 3G Wireless communications systems and Very-large-scale integration (VLSI) chipset
development. Nivi holds a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from University of North Carolina,
Charlotte, and a Master?s Degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Texas, Dallas.
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Over the years, SOLiD has developed RF amplifiers,
RF radios, and optical transport solutions designed
to enable cost-effective densification of mobile
networks, increasing capacity and coverage
through DAS and small-cell deployments.
SOLiD offers both outdoor and indoor DAS
installations that target a wide range of locations,
from large venues with high capacity-density
requirements, to slightly smaller commercial
venues ? which SOLiD calls the Middleprise. In the
past, Middleprise venues have been challenging
for DAS deployments because of the complexity
and cost of traditional DAS. SOLiD?s goal is to
change this and make DAS attractive to smaller
venues as well as to large ones.
SOLiD DAS solutions support multiple verticals,
including entertainment (e.g., stadiums, arenas),
mass transit, healthcare, education, retail,
hospitality and enterprise.
The ALLIANCE Multi-Carrier DAS platform is
SOLiD?s flagship DAS solution. It supports neutral-
host deployment models, and works in
frequencies ranging from 150 MHz to 3 GHz.
Remote units are available at different power
levels, each suited to a different venue and
topology. Lower-power ROUs are well suited for
smaller venues and public safety networks. Higher-
power ROUs are most commonly deployed
outdoors or in venues with high traffic loads.
The ALLIANCE platform also includes:
? The ALLIANCE BIU and eBIU, the head-end
that filters traffic to the base stations.
? The ALLIANCE DMS, used to manage the DAS.
? The ALLIANCE OEU, an optical multiplexing
device to expand coverage to additional
SOLiD also offers the EXPRESS Single-Carrier DAS, a
multi-band solution developed for indoor and
outdoor environments where only one operator
has a presence.
The EXPRESS Public-
Safety DAS is a
variation of the Single-
designed for the
In the optical backhaul
and fronthaul area,
SOLiD has been a
leading proponent of
DWDM, which splits a
single fiber strand into
channels to increase
the capacity of the
fiber, multiplying the
capacity of the link.
enable the operator to
use the same strand to
serve multiple small
cells, and to provide
both fronthaul and backhaul.
The DWDM solution, Infinity Access, supports
multiple protocols (e.g., CPRI, OBSAI and Ethernet)
and can simultaneously support multiple access
technologies (e.g., LTE and Wi-Fi) in the same
strand. Operators no longer need to add a new
fiber link when they add a new RRH or a small cell.
Moreover, because DWDM allows operators to
gradually add new links to the same strand, they
can reduce their deployment and operating costs
as they expand their networks.
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Densification in the
A conversation with Ken
Sandfeld, Executive President of
Monica Paolini: Today I have the pleasure of
talking with Ken Sandfeld, Executive President of
Ken, let?s start by talking about what SOLiD is
doing in the area of densification, and what you?re
personally involved with.
Ken: At SOLiD, we?re focused on in-building
wireless coverage with innovative indoor DAS
solutions and bringing new in-building
technologies to the enterprise ? and now
specifically to the Middleprise segment of the
business, to be able to broaden that market space.
Middleprise densification is a priority right now.
The other area that we spend a lot of time in is
new solutions for outdoor environments ? in
particular for dense urban environments. We
believe we can do that differently than some of
the solutions that are currently available.
Monica: How is the balance between indoor and
outdoor infrastructure changing or evolving with
Ken: There?s no doubt we?re more focused on in-
building than on outdoor, mostly because we see
there?s a huge demand coming from the in-
building space. We all know that. In terms of the
time spent, that?s also where more of the
problems are, so to solve those problems would
be very striking.
Most of what?s going on in the outdoor space right
now is small cells ? deploying more and different
types of small cells and solving for that
environment. So we?re also working on what
would be essentially outdoor DAS solutions to
compete with small cells, or augment and work
with small cells. There are some significant oDAS
solution advantages over small cells: oDAS can be
smaller, and deliver more service and more
spectrum than a small-cell solution can. It just
hasn?t evolved to that point yet, but we think it
really can. We?ll have to see how that goes.
Monica: How about the cost?
Ken: The cost is actually lower, because you?re
putting less electronics on the pole. The largest
part of the electronics is kept back at the C-RAN
location. From a future-proof perspective, you are
actually not pushing protocol-dependent
electronics out to the pole, and that fact has
always made DAS so attractive from an outdoor
It doesn?t mean you?re giving up a lot of
functionality. You still have all the controls at the
C-RAN to be able to do SON and interference
management. You?ll just be doing that at a
Monica: If you have indoor infrastructure, you are
more shielded in terms of interference, but that is
still something you have to consider. You either
deploy on a different channel, or you have to deal
Ken: Until we have all those additional bands to
play with and the use of unlicensed bands with
LTE-U, there is a need for systems and software
that are getting smarter.
However, there may be a period where the in-
building handoff to the outdoor, and vice versa,
will not happen. I do believe there is just going to
be a gap in the data as you go from inside to
outside, maybe only a second long, but there will
be some issues.
Over time it will get better, when you have
stronger virtualization of software-defined
networks. You?ll essentially have APIs that will
allow an ecosystem of people to all play on the
same playing field when it comes to SON, and
being able to optimize third-party solutions. Once
that happens and solutions are more standardized,
then we?ll see a lot more cohesiveness in those
Monica: We had this great promise of having
massive densification on day one, of small cells
everywhere, but it?s actually taking longer. Why do
you think that is?
Ken: From an in-building perspective, the
challenge with the solutions currently on the
market is that either you have a solution that has
more active electronics, where you?re putting
radios on the ceiling, essentially a more traditional
approach, where you?re putting a small cell on the
front end of a DAS.
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Alternatively, you may simply deploy a small cell in
a closet and then just radiate the signal from the
To date there hasn?t been a hybrid solution that
brings it all together.
You have the smaller buildings where you can put
two, three, or four eFEMTOs, small cells, and you
just put them in the building and you cover that
As you get to larger spaces, your options increase.
Either you distribute RF or you can distribute
radios around. There?re some solutions that do
both. The problem with distributing radios is, how
do you scale with multiple operators, more bands?
How do you deal with the additional cabling? And
deal with the costs associated with adding more to
it? Your TCO goes up. Or you can distribute RF.
Monica: There are different solutions out there. Is
it the technology or the cost that has been slowing
Ken: There are two parts to that.
There is the actual infrastructure of distributing or
radiating the RF, delivering the RF to the user. I
think those solutions need to be Wi-Fi like, low-
cost devices that can support multiple operators.
Ideally, you want solutions that can scale to
multiple protocols and multiple bands without
having to add more electronics on the ceiling.
Then you have the connection to the core, which is
probably the bigger cost driver, because that gets
into the business model issue.
If the enterprise can?t connect to the service,
including the operator connection portion, then it
doesn?t matter how good the RF solution is, it?s
useless. You ultimately need one simplified
solution that will bring those two things together.
Frankly, it?s what the network operators require;
also, carriers can?t support an environment where
they have to roll trucks and engineers to turn up a
small project. It needs to be a self-installed
solution, and potentially self-optimizing or self-
Monica: How does the business model for small
cells work in practice? How does it relate to the
DAS neutral-host model?
Ken: SOLiD believes that DAS and small cells will
become a hybrid, yet simplified, solution and will
be deployed by third-party owners and/or neutral
hosts, as they often work directly with building
owners that don?t want to own, manage or deal
with these systems.
This will change the business model for the
operators. Operators don?t want to devote a lot of
resources. They just want to manage their service
and their KPIs to guarantee that their licensed
signal is not being interfered with.
Ultimately, all the parties need a win-win solution.
In order to do that, you need to bring the whole
thing together in one simplified architecture. The
days of having multiple, disparate systems ? it?s
just not affordable or attractive for anyone to
Monica: When sharing infrastructure, operators
may worry that they will lose control and
exclusivity. How do you think they?re dealing with
Ken: They don?t need to lose control or exclusivity
at all. In the model that we see developing, the
technology allows every operator to have its
bands, its radio resources, and its management
capability completely separate.
There will be some convergence, maybe at the
antenna, maybe at the amplifier. Of course, the
operators will want to know if they?re getting good
KPIs. The goal is that they shouldn?t have to do
anything, except if the red light goes on that says
the KPIs are bad, so that someone fixes it.
The goal is to be able to deploy tens of thousands
of projects, without the network operator having
to service and maintain all of them. In order to do
that, we need each person in the ecosystem to be
able to take responsibility, and manage what?s
appropriate. That?s going to be done through a
centralized cloud capability and lots of
It?s a one-box, software-defined, single system,
where there?s no need, as you scale, to rip and
replace infrastructure. That is a huge thing for the
enterprise. Anything that?s obtrusive and requires
rip-and-replace is really a deal breaker. Both the
enterprise and operators know it has to happen as
technology evolves, which is why DAS has always
been very attractive.
DAS is essentially a dumb pipe, so there?s a part of
DAS that?s really attractive to an enterprise. There
is a part of DAS that?s very unattractive: the cost of
the cabling, and the ever-challenging service or
Monica: One issue that comes up all the time is
who?s going to pay for this infrastructure ? the
equipment and installation?
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Ken: I think you?re going to see all models continue
to be implemented; however, the one model that
you?re going to see become more prevalent is the
enterprise spend. The only reason the enterprise,
and specifically the Middleprise, doesn?t spend on
these solutions now is there?s no guarantee, or
there?s no path towards easy connection to the
There?ll be some projects where the carrier will
decide that it wants to put capital in, because it
has an interest in that project.
Third-party owners will continue to grow in this
space. Their ROIs will change how they get the
revenue and how they operate. And you are
correct in asking who pays for all of it. It can be 3PL
systems or carriers. Maybe it?s an advertising
model. Or it?s that the building owner?s
participating, and it?s managing the system.
It is going to be a somewhat different model than
the typical third-party projects, but all those
models will exist, and the technology will just allow
operators to bring the costs down, and they?ll be
able to tackle projects that are smaller than the
typical large venue.
Monica: If the enterprise pays for the installation
and equipment, it has a stronger position when
negotiating with operators. The relationship
between the enterprise and the operators is
bound to change.
Ken: Yes. Some enterprise customers are going to
be large enough that they will have someone on
staff who will manage some of that.
However, there is a large portion of the
Middleprise that will need someone else to handle
the carrier coordination, or at least to get approval
to turn on their signal. Those companies may ask a
third-party system integrator or contractor that
has an existing working relationship with an
The players will stay very similar, but we?re going
to be able to engage projects that just weren?t
feasible in the past, and that?s really the goal,
opening up the Middleprise market. When this
happens, the ecosystem will have to evolve to
meet Middleprise requirements. The operators
will also evolve, because they?re looking to grow
their services and revenue base from the users.
Additionally, system integrators will expand their
offer to the Middleprise, and they too will get
smarter about process and their options to deploy
these systems, as soon as they?re more capable
and the business models are ready.
Monica: This reflects the increasing needs of the
enterprise. The enterprise is willing to pay,
because it has bigger needs.
Ken: In the Middleprise, lack of voice coverage was
a big problem. Today it is still an issue for many
venues and properties.
However, many things are migrating towards
database architectures, and so now it?s more of a
mobility play. As PBXs start to go away, enterprises
see the need to enable everyone?s technology and
everyone?s service provider.
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Middleprise customers tell us they would like all
operators to have the opportunity to become part
of the solution. If they have to choose, they?ll pick
the bigger ones, but ultimately they don?t want to
leave out anyone.
The system not only needs to be ready, out of the
box, to have all operators connect, but all the
operators need to understand that they must be
willing to communicate and work with those
Monica: Do you think mobile operators are getting
more sensitive and more open to the needs of the
Ken: Absolutely. Network operators recognize that
they need solutions, so they need technology.
They recognize they need business plans to be
able to provide better in-building service.
The network operators are absolutely clamoring
for better solutions to allow them keep their
Middleprise customers happy. If that means they
have to supply a system where the other
operators potentially can connect, that?s fine. It?s
going to be a question of who?s first.
In that respect, operators will be able to expand
their Middleprise presence. They may not provide
capital, but they may provide backhaul, or better
customer service in that particular project. They?re
going to be fighting for their piece of that
Monica: How important is it to get virtualization in
the access network? And what will we put in the
cloud, and what will be distributed to the edge
Ken: We believe that the more we can put in the
cloud, the better. The more we can provide to the
network operator from our cloud at a neutral
location, the better. The less often a network
operator has to roll a truck to a customer?s site, go
into the customer?s building and work on things in
the building, the better. Never having to physically
go to the customer?s site is the ultimate goal.
Network virtualization and SDN are critical. You
have an intermediary that is aggregating and
providing that service to the network operator so
operator can aggregate tens of thousands of
projects all over the US without having to be able
to manage every one of those properties.
It becomes a much more manageable proposition
to network operators and becomes very valuable,
but they haven?t been able to do that up until
It is only in the last few years that we?re getting to
the point where network operators are able to
work with a multitude of software vendors for the
virtualization of their network, and able to add
capabilities and open up their core to new models
and new ways of doing business. That is the
Monica: Another thing I want to ask you about is
public safety and indoor coverage.
Ken: It is something that?s often forgotten. You
have two schools of thought out there. You have
those who are focused on the commercial cellular
side of in-building, and the fact that the public
relies on their smartphones to ensure their safety.
Then you have a group of people who focus on
public safety, specifically the first responder
communications, because it is a real problem, one
that SOLiD recognizes as a public imperative.
I believe the in-building systems and the systems
that SOLiD produces will ultimately be able to
solve for both of those needs. They may be two
different systems. They may use separate cables,
but they can be managed by one cloud.
Regardless of how they go together, the enterprise
is going to require that the provider of the solution
be able to put it all together as one system
regardless of what the code requires for certain
cables and certain systems.
In- building public safety codes are rapidly
becoming requirements, albeit almost randomly
across the country and at varying levels of
requirements based on local authority code
adoption plans. Any system in the building needs
to be able to support those public safety bands in
the future. It can?t continue to be two separate
systems from a management and an overall
When you think about it, wireless communication
is safety. A 911 call is a voice call, but there?s also
data associated with it ? critical first-person
information regarding the emergency, plus there is
By the way, enterprises nowadays require that the
911 system work to code and be compliant, but
they also are looking for location. They want to be
able to know where the people are in the building
for safety purposes.
Depending on where people are, location is a huge
issue in public safety, as well as a potential
revenue producer because of the need to know
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where your customers are in a building. There?s a
lot of opportunity for location ? but also a lot of
undiscussed privacy issues that have to be
From a public safety perspective, knowing the
location of the device is a no-brainer. If there?s a
device in the building, it may not have a person
with it, but we need to know where all the devices
are. The great thing about smartphones is that
people rarely let them go.
Monica: How are we going to change the way we
densify networks in the future?
Ken: High-frequency bands in 5G are going to
become critical. This is important for in-building
wireless infrastructure, which means the
Middleprise gets even more important, because
there?s more infrastructure that may need to go in
You might have an antenna on a conference table,
but it provides multi-gigabit speeds at that little
spot. It all connects back to the same gateway
It?s critical that the solution can scale to do all
these things, and that?s why a software-defined
architecture is critical.
We don?t know exactly how the protocol?s going to
work and how that?s going to function, but it?s
going to be very micro-hotspot focused when
you?re talking about those millimeter-wave
Ideally, you?d like to work in lower-frequency
bands so you can deal with better propagation,
but the millimeter-wave-frequency bands of 5G
are going to be absolutely critical.
For example, in places like hospitals, where you
have extreme data requirements, you?re going to
see micro-hotspots, where you?re going to utilize
those frequencies on a very localized basis to solve
high-capacity data needs. You?re not going to try
to propagate that through 300 feet of walls. You?re
going to have to be very localized that way, which
comes back to infrastructure.
If you?re using fiber and Cat cables, the
infrastructure has to be something you can
constantly add to, just like Wi-Fi. Wi-Fi networks
today are continuously being optimized. They?re
adding more locations, more access points.
It?s no different for licensed bands, either. There?s
no reason why you shouldn?t be able to continue
to add services as you go, which means that the
network operator?s going to be looking for ways to
make that happen.
Ideally I think network operators are going to get
more involved with supplying pipes to the building,
and dare I say, there?s going to come a time when
potentially an enterprise deploys a large system
that simply connects to that pipe.
Essentially, you may get to a quasi-roaming
situation, where if the building owner is paying for
the pipe and a device comes into the building and
it uses a lot of high-speed data in those micro-
hotspots, there may be a back-charge agreement
that compensates the in-building network owner
for the use of the network by that carrier?s
It may become second nature for the network
operator to have these micro-agreements for each
enterprise. Agreements where they can handle
those users that go on the system, without having
to fund the building deployment and manage the
That ecosystem ideally would allow them to get
incremental revenue that they wouldn?t be able to
get if they didn?t invest in the whole system.
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SOLiD helps people stay connected and safe in a rapidly-changing world through a portfolio of RF Amplifier, RF
Radio and Optical Transport solutions. SOLiD enables indoor and outdoor cellular and public-safety
communications at some of the world?s best-known and most challenging venues including leading hospitals;
professional and college sports venues; government, university and Fortune 500 corporate buildings and
campuses; international airports and metropolitan subways; and other high-profile sites. For further
information on SOLiD DAS, Backhaul and Fronthaul solutions, go to www.solid.com or call 888-409-9997.
About Ken Sandfeld
As Executive Vice President, Ken Sandfeld leads the overall sales and product strategy activities for SOLiD?s
portfolio of network densification solutions. Ken possesses over 17 years of experience in the wireless
infrastructure industry and is passionate about bringing innovative technologies to market. Prior to his current
leadership role, Ken held management positions at MobileAccess, Remec, Spectrian and Zyfer. Today Ken is
focused on bringing SOLiD?s leapfrog technologies out of incubation and into the market to solve some of the
industry?s biggest problems. Those areas include high-efficiency amplifiers for indoor and outdoor small cell
applications as well as low-cost DWDM tunable optical solutions for the Enterprise and Wireless Operator
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SpiderCloud has been a forerunner in the
enterprise small-cell indoor market with its
enterprise RAN, or E-RAN, solution. Initially E-RAN
used 3G spectrum; now it supports any
combination of 3G and 4G, as well as carrier
aggregation. SpiderCloud is currently developing
new products based on unlicensed LTE and 5G.
SpiderCloud E-RAN uses macro spectrum (in a co-
channel deployment) or a separate band to
provide better indoor coverage and higher
capacity for voice, video and other data traffic. The
E-RAN system has two elements: 3G and/or 4G
Radio Nodes (i.e., small cells) installed throughout
the building; and a Services
Node, a small-cell controller
that manages up to 100
Radio Nodes in a building up
to 1.5 million sq ft in size and
links to the core network.
According to SpiderCloud, a
system of 100 Radio Nodes
can support 100,000?s of data
sessions and handoffs
involving thousands of users;
32 concurrent 3G calls; and
64 active LTE connections at
150 Mbps. In early
deployments with Verizon in
the US, SpiderCloud reported
that, after turning on an E-
RAN network, the average
number of connected users
in the macro network dropped by 45%, freeing
macro resources for subscribers outside the
Services Nodes configure and optimize Radio
Nodes with SON, manage mobile access, and
monitor QoE and performance. They are linked to
Radio Nodes via Ethernet connections that the
operator can install in the building or that are
shared with the enterprise LAN. In large venues,
the Services Node is typically installed on the
premises. In smaller venues, it can be remotely
installed in the operator?s data center in a C-RAN
The E-RAN topology accommodates MEC
functionality, to support enterprise applications
that benefit from local caching and traffic
SpiderCloud is working to support LTE in the 5 GHz
unlicensed band, through LTE-U, LAA and
MulteFire. Unlike LTE-U and LAA, MulteFire does
not require a licensed band to anchor
transmission, so it will strengthen the neutral-host
model in venues where multi-operator support is
required. SpiderCloud also supports the use of
Authorized Shared Spectrum (ASA), which fits well
neutral-host and private LTE deployments.
Beyond the walls of the enterprise, SpiderCloud
offers SpiderNet, a centralized configuration, fault
and performance management system that
enables mobile operators to manage multiple
E-RAN locations. SpiderNet is based on Broadband
Forum?s TR-069, and uses IPSec tunnels to connect
to the Services Nodes at the customer premises.
Northbound, SpiderNet is integrated with the
operator?s core support system through NBIs.
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in the enterprise
A conversation with
Art King, Director of Enterprise
Services and Technologies,
Monica Paolini: In our conversation with
SpiderCloud, I talked to Art King, Director of
Enterprise Services and Technologies, about the
growth in indoor cellular coverage in the
Art, can you tell us what SpiderCloud Wireless is
doing to improve coverage and capacity in the
enterprise, and what you?re doing personally in
Art King: SpiderCloud Wireless builds indoor
cellular systems. We call it the Enterprise RAN. It?s
a small-cell technology with Ethernet in the
fronthaul within the office building, and Radio
Nodes distributed through the building. Its
footprint is very similar to the one you?d see in a
contemporary Wi-Fi network.
We have the Services Node in the telecom heart of
the building. It coordinates the cloud of radios and
then ties back to the mobile core via high-capacity
My background is in the enterprise space. I got to
learn more about the wild world of cellular over
the last three years. I do the marketing,
evangelization, a lot of writing and a lot of the
public-facing activities for SpiderCloud, and I get to
interact a lot with both our customers and our
engineering organization, and the analyst
community and the press.
Monica: It may be worth giving a bit of historical
introduction, because enterprise plays a major role
in the client base of any mobile operator, and yet
that segment has been somewhat neglected in
terms of indoor coverage. How do you see that
Art: The enterprise hasn?t been neglected, per se.
There was a lack of cost-effective technology to
address buildings of maybe under about half a
million sq ft.
Within the higher end, there are quite a few
buildings with DAS infrastructure, but a lot of
buildings are too small for the fixed-costs to work
that DAS entails from a business perspective, for
both the operator and the customer. Small cells
are opening up the total addressable market to
include smaller office buildings that just weren?t
available in the past for coverage and capacity
In the DAS model, you build a big wideband
antenna through a building and then plug base
stations into it. That model does not work for
smaller buildings. We?re bringing technology to
address the unmet needs of the subscriber
buildings from 50,000 to half a million sq ft.
Monica: That?s a huge market. We always hear
about stadiums and big campuses, which are the
first targets, but then as you go down in size, it?s
like a pyramid. You have many more buildings, but
they are smaller and, until recently, more difficult
to cover from a technology and financial point of
Now we have the technology. How can small cells
address the smaller-venue market, specifically?
Art: With small cells, you?ve got essentially
standard 3GPP cellular technology, but you?re
talking, let?s say, a 10,000 sq ft footprint. In the
case of Verizon?s deployment that we are
implementing, we are reusing the 30 MHz in the
LTE band 4/13.
By reusing 30 MHz over and over again in the
same building, you get a lot of spectral reuse and
extremely high capacity, because instead of having
that spread out over X sq m, it sits over only
10,000 sq ft. It changes the spectrum needs and
allows operators to do a lot of the things they have
been struggling with, by making the cell radius
Monica: In the case of Verizon, you increase the
efficiency of the spectrum asset by spectrum
reuse. How do you achieve that?
Art: We leverage standard cellular technology.
Cells were designed to interfere and have cell
edges. It?s just the nature of the technology. We?ve
built a lot of intellectual property around our
platform to enable a better experience for the
At the end of the day, the acid test from the
operator community is really meeting KPIs. I don?t
have a PhD in engineering, so the nuance of how
it?s really done is beyond me, but the KPIs and the
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satisfaction of both the enterprise customers and
the operators of the technology are the core
message. We can tell through customer
satisfaction that we have solved a lot of these
A huge amount of automation has been added in
the SON, the self-organization, self-optimizing
software in our Services Node that coordinates the
cloud of radios. With SON, the network keeps itself
tuned and aligned and in harmony with the macro
network in the outside world.
Monica: By making it possible for the subscribers
within the enterprise to use the local network, you
also offload the macro network. That means that
the macro resources are free to be used in the
wide area. How does the combination of indoor
access and outdoor offload bring value to
Art: Indoor and outdoor coverage were always
looked at as two parallel things. That?s been one of
the discoveries ? perhaps not a discovery so much,
but it?s been an internalized change in thinking in
some of the RF engineering groups ? that indoor
and outdoor infrastructure nodes complement
When we started seeing indoor systems drive a
drop in macro usage by 50%, light bulbs started
going on, where people started thinking about
doing holistic engineering.
When you look at a macro upgrade, you start
looking at the dollars and saying, ?That enterprise
building right there generates a hotspot in the
macro. There?s a thousand people there. What?s
the cost of doing the macro upgrade versus
offloading them to a small-cell infrastructure and
getting them off the outdoor network??
You?re seeing the emergence of densification not
only as a capacity and performance move, but also
as a way to manage your spend on the outdoor
network at the same time.
Monica: The change in performance with the
offload has an impact on the business case. To
date, the business models for indoor coverage
have been difficult, because it?s unclear who?s
going to pay for the infrastructure ? the enterprise
or the operator.
Art: We?re seeing both.
We?re seeing operators that are saying, ?We will
certify and allow SpiderCloud to be connected to
our network. Any reseller or enterprise that wants
to build out a network ? as long as it?s done to our
specifications and by one of our system integrators
that will do a sanctioned, high-KPI installation ? go
There are other operators that are saying, ?We
want to build and manage all the pieces.? That
obviously has its own capital impact and business
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One big issue with releasing the reins of control is
installation or surprise installation might cause
channel interference with the macro. The bigger
picture that is emerging is that as operators have
fewer concerns about co-channel interference and
more experience in managing it, they start
becoming more comfortable with saying, ?Yeah,
let?s have the installations happen more freely,
because we know that the technology doesn?t
interfere with the outdoor network.?
RF engineers naturally start conservatively,
because they are held accountable for the KPIs
and the performance of the network within their
geographies. I understand their concerns, but over
time, things start relaxing to where you have the
ability to sell to the enterprise and fulfill its
requirements. There?s less of a concern about
interference on the outdoor network.
Monica: Now there?s a lot of talk of neutral host
arrangements. Who do you see as the emerging
entities in the middle that facilitate these neutral
Art: You?ve got the large entities like ExteNet,
Crown Castle, American Tower, and a lot of the
traditional tower companies that are buzzing to do
small cells. I have seen host-neutral Ethernets
being proposed, where you can plug in small cells
and, because they?re being installed above the
ceiling, there are no aesthetic issues with multiple
We?ve also seen enterprises that are basically
saying, ?We need cellular service indoors now.
What we?re going to do is to converge on one
mobile operator. As part of our contract with that
operator, we are going to request an allowance for
small cells to light buildings where the
performance isn?t satisfying our business users.?
You?re seeing both people talking about host
neutral, in the context of MulteFire in the future,
but also enterprises that are saying, ?I know I can?t
get that now, but if I converge on to one operator
and manage my contract with them, I can satisfy
my business people.?
Monica: You mentioned MulteFire. That?s an
interesting development in the densification
universe. There is LTE-U, unlicensed, LAA, LWA,
MulteFire. They all use the unlicensed 5 GHz band,
and that tells you is that the unlicensed is of great
interest to mobile operators, especially in indoor
environments. What?s your view on these
Art: Licensed bands are running out of steam. You
don?t have enough spectrum to keep up with the
downlink utilization by the customers.
You added LAA to boost that downlink capacity in
the unlicensed spectrum. Beyond that, with
MulteFire, you?re operating both uplink and
downlink inside the unlicensed spectrum in a
friendly manner, without stopping Wi-Fi. Or if
you?re operating it in the 3.5 GHz spectrum, you
avoid the issue completely.
It?s a great way to solve the neutral-host problem.
Instead of building the wideband antenna and
doing base stations, you converge on the same
piece of spectrum and you converge on the same
access methods of the spectrum.
MulteFire is being engineered to live in a
contention-based environment, where you can
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have multiple MulteFire instances running in the
same piece of spectrum, but you can also have a
MulteFire single infrastructure that connects to
multiple mobile cores.
Why is 5 GHz so interesting? It?s a planetary band.
Imagine if every UE in the world had a 5 GHz radio
and MulteFire and it was available around the
planet. It would solve the indoor problem for the
world in one equation. That?s obviously recklessly
optimistic and forward looking, but you can see
the end game being a great simplification of indoor
Monica: Having the same infrastructure shared by
operators and fully integrated with their network
makes it easier to manage for operators. It allows
a more efficient use of the spectrum at the access
level, but at the same time, it may look similar to
Art: No, it?s not competitive. In the enterprise it is
complementary ? envision the yin-and-yang circle.
You?ve got Wi-Fi and you?ve got cellular.
One of our enterprise advisers said very clearly, ?I
don?t want to be a Wi-Fi provider. I want to be a
wireless provider.? He was very focused on
satisfying both kinds of wireless for his business
people because they were pushing hard for full
service on all pieces of technology.
In environments like the medical one, where
you?re wildly overloaded in your Wi-Fi
infrastructure, they?re looking to unload Wi-Fi by
getting mobile devices off of Wi-Fi.
Monica: From the subscriber perspective, wireless
access from the device is the rule today. The
question is what technology the subscriber uses.
Subscribers don?t care, but as a vendor, an
enterprise or an operator, you just have to find
new ways to meet that demand.
As we get up to 5G, and even before 5G, there is a
lot of talk of using different bands, all the way to
60 GHz to 70 GHz, or 80 GHz. What is the scope for
those bands with much more limited coverage for
Art: What we?re hearing on the product
management side of our organization, from the
CTO community, is that the operator community is
looking at sub-6 GHz being indoor, and the very
high-millimeter waves are going to be outdoor
solutions. They believe that what?s going on
indoors right now with under-6 GHz, because of
just the sheer cost of building wireless access
points at a microwave frequency, and having to
put a huge amount of them into cabling, it blows
up the business case.
Sub-6 GHz, because it can generally propagate
through walls and has decent indoor
characteristics, will continue to be the direction,
with the very high frequencies being more of an
Monica: The 3.5 GHz band is going to be a major
opportunity for indoor coverage.
Art: Yeah, definitely. Without any co-channel
interference in the 3.5 GHz, when you hand in, you
hand in to a completely different frequency.
You?re not worried about the outdoor
Monica: A new development is Mobile Edge
Computing or MEC, which allows you push core
functionality to the edge. Many enterprise
applications and a lot of content is tied to the
venue location. Is MEC going to be relevant to the
Art: Yes. It could potentially be relevant in the
future, as enterprises buy their own RAN
equipment. Right now MEC is going to be
operator-controlled infrastructure, because the
RAN is controlled by the operator. When MEC
becomes relevant to enterprises ? when they can
buy a box from a Cisco or an HP, and bolt it into a
rack and connect ? it could start being very
interesting from the enterprise perspective. We?re
seeing plenty of traction and business interest
right now with MEC.
In the context of what we?re doing, MEC is
inserted in the S1 link between the RAN
equipment and the core. That can be either
through a virtual machine, where we pass the
traffic up to the VM and then back to the core, or
in an external box. We?ve seen MEC being used
We?ve done quite a bit of prototyping with various
software vendors, but the people who are in the
lead are looking at the holistic operating
environment, the maintenance, the patching,
everything necessary to run the whole life cycle of
MEC. These folks have thought through what are
the killer apps that will justify deconstructing an
application out of a cloud data center into the
MEC isn?t a data center at the edge of the cellular
network. It is going to be a purpose-built
environment that has business value being at the
edge. It isn?t put there just because you had some
computing capacity sitting in an enterprise rack.
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Monica: What are the enterprise applications for
Art: We?ve seen caching, local breakout, and a
number of applications around the unified
communications integration, so that a lot of the
native infrastructure on a mobile device can be
used with the enterprise infrastructure.
One of the funny things is that it drags the network
behind it. There are retailers in the bricks-and-
mortar space that want to go to a wireless point-
of-sale on tablets and mobile devices within their
stores. They?re seeking clean spectrum to operate
in instead of fighting in the mall with all the Wi-Fi
SSIDs and all the adjacent shops and their wireless
There are high-end retailers that are looking at
this: ?How can I move all these devices to LTE and
get out of the traffic jam that I?m in right now, that
can cause me to not be able to complete a sale
and have to go to a wired cash register because
the iPad stops working when I am trying to take a
Monica: At the same time, all those
communications are local, in the sense that they
are within the premises, right?
Art: Yeah. I was in a situation where a hospital was
saying that from a HIPAA perspective, they want to
use the LTE, but they can?t loop that customer
data out of the hospital through the mobile core
and back to the tablet, because of HIPAA
Whether or not that?s a misreading of the
situation, they were very clear that they had to
keep that data in-house. They felt it was
imperative to do it. It was a hard requirement.
They were saying, ?How do I do private LTE? How
do I do it on the operator?s LTE network, but break
that traffic out and send it to my data center inside
Monica: Actually, that reminds me of another
issue about regulation: safety, security, emergency
calls. How do you deal with that when you are in
an indoor environment?
Art: For our technology, the cell size and what
we?re doing with our cells, each cell has its own
ECGI. It?s very identifiable from an LTE perspective.
When you look at average cell spacing, I would say
a hundred ft between cells, we?re very much able
to assist an operator in meeting the FCC
requirement that a call must be located within
50 m of the person that generated the emergency
The ECGI and the information that the installer
sets when the radio is installed ? this identifies
what floor, what zone on the floor ? and provides
what the FCC calls a dispatchable location, so that
emergency services calls can get within the
distance requirement of the FCC.
Monica: What are you working on over the next
five years or so at SpiderCloud?
Art: Right now, the big things in the pipeline are
the LTE-U trials and the things that are going on
There?s a huge amount of interest within the
operator community that?s in our installed base,
because they haven?t built any Wi-Fi
infrastructure, and there was a reluctance to build
a whole parallel, separate mobile core
infrastructure to tie in Wi-Fi authentication. The
emergence of LTE-U has generated a lot of interest
in the operator community around the world for
Another thing we have going on is just executing
the business plan, and scaling up and helping the
operators we have in place get to higher volume,
and helping the system integrator channels get
more and more efficient and better at
deployment. A lot of basic business blocking and
tackling to make the machine go.
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About SpiderCloud Wireless
SpiderCloud Wireless develops breakthrough, small cell network platforms that allow mobile operators to
deliver unprecedented cellular coverage, capacity and smart applications to enterprises. SpiderCloud Wireless is
based in Milpitas, California and is backed by investors Charles River Ventures, Matrix Partners, Opus Capital,
Shasta Ventures and QUALCOMM. For more information, visit www.spidercloud.com and follow SpiderCloud on
About Art King
As the Director of Enterprise Services & Technologies at SpiderCloud Wireless, Art leads the development of
enterprise services definitions and business case propositions for customers and partners. Art is a Small Cell
Forum Board member and a Vice Chair of the Services Working Group. Art was formerly the
Mobility/Collaboration lead in Global Architecture for Nike Inc. where he held various global roles over 10 years.
Prior to Nike, he led the build out of two multinational engineering and consulting organizations for an IP
Services network vendor in the service provider industry. Art holds a BS in Computer Engineering from Portland
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III. Operators? interviews
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The many roads to
A conversation with Andy Sutton,
Principal Network Architect, BT
Monica Paolini: In this conversation with Andy
Sutton, Principal Network Architect at BT, we
discuss the role that densification has for mobile
operators ? and specifically BT in the UK, which
has recently become a mobile operator again after
the acquisition of EE, which in turn was a joint
venture of Orange and T-Mobile.
Andy, what is your new role at BT?
Andy Sutton: Since BT?s recent acquisition of EE in
the UK, I?ve formally transferred into BT?s Chief
Architects Office, where I?m responsible for
aspects of RAN architecture evolution, along with
mobile backhaul architecture and strategy. So I am
very heavily focused on the evolution of the
existing LTE Advanced network towards LTE
Advanced Pro, and working on our future plans for
Monica: Can you give us an update on
densification at BT? At EE, you were at the
forefront of the densification efforts for a long
time. What has changed recently?
Andy: From the EE perspective, we had a very
dense network from the days of GSM, in as much
as we were 1800 MHz?only operators. EE was
formed by the merger of Orange and T-Mobile,
and both networks operated at 1800 MHz. We
took the two 1800 MHz networks, picked the best
sites in the portfolio, and had a fairly dense grid to
start with in that regard.
Of course, then as we added more capacity
through 3G and on to 4G, we started to
significantly increase the capacity density in the
network. Our big focus to date has been around
rolling out 4G to the macro cellular network. That?s
involved upgrades to add 4G in a number of
LTE 1800 is our primary 4G band. In addition,
where we need capacity, we?re adding LTE 2600.
We?ve already launched carrier aggregation with
two carriers. It?s commercially available on the
network. We have a third carrier available to roll
out this is a second 2600 MHz carrier, therefore
enabling three-component CA.
Additionally, we?re rolling out 800 MHz where we
need it. One, it helps to enhance in-building
coverage. Two, it helps to extend geographical
coverage as well. Geographical coverage of the UK
is incredibly important to us, along with increasing
Once we?ve rolled out onto our existing macro-cell
network, then within that macro-cell network
we?ve got a lot of what you?d effectively call micro
cells. These tend to be fairly short poles with
antennas on them, typically 5 to 10 meters high, or
installations on the side of shops, office blocks,
etc., where we?re really down in the clutter.
A lot of these sites were deployed back in GSM
days and evolved through 3G to add capacity. In
some places we used them to fill in small coverage
holes as well. Once you?ve got 4G coverage onto
the macro-cell network, and you start to add
additional carriers, you can do the same kind of
thing on the smaller micro cells.
This will further increase an area?s capacity
density. Generally, the location of these sites is
where demand is, because they were deployed for
that demand during the days of 2G and/or 3G. As a
result of that, demand tends to grow in the same
kinds of areas, in the main. So, really good
positioning in that regard.
Monica: What?s a micro cell compared to a small
Andy: Typically, in our network a micro cell uses
macro-cell-type equipment. It?s generally got a
small cabinet at the bottom of a lamp post, or it is
inside a building with the antennas on the outside,
but, generally, the microcell has a much lower
output power than the equipment is capable of. So
it?s covering a very small area. It could be a smaller
version of that macro-cell base station in certain
I consider a small cell to be a freestanding, small
unit that can be mounted in its entirety on a lamp
post that likely contains both the antenna system
and the radio, with extremely low power ? 1 to 5
watts, probably in most cases towards the lower
end of that scale ? and that would cover a small
area by design.
Today, these systems tend to be a single
operator?s, quite often a single RF carrier. We need
the ability to scale these solutions, certainly to
support carrier aggregation, to match the
capability we?re putting into the macro-cell layer
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What we don?t want to do, of course, is hand users
into a small-cell layer for capacity benefits, and
find that we?re restricting the service and the
performance, which will impact the overall
average network performance of the wide area
What we want to do is invest in small cells that
allow us to increase the average experience, be
that data rate, reliability, low latency, etc. A small-
cell layer has to be an answer to our problems and
not something that?s going to restrict our ability to
enhance the quality of the experience.
Monica: Do micro cells have a single sector?
Andy: Not necessarily. They can be one, two, or
three cell sectors, depending on the configuration.
If they are on a lamp pole, for example, they could
well have three cell sectors. In most cases, it would
generally just be a single cell sector?s worth of
equipment ? not in every case, but in many cases.
Therefore, they may go through a splitter to
multiple antennae for covering, maybe, multiple
directions from a particular building. Or it could be
fully sectorized, or it could be a single stack of
carriers sharing antennas.
Monica: And do micro cells share the spectrum
with macro cells?
Andy: Yes, all the same bands, effectively, planned
as part of the macro-cell network in that regard.
We?re not doing a lot to differentiate between the
layers. We do use certain parameters, such as
hysteresis, for example, where you have to dwell
on the micro cell for a certain period of time
before you hand in to it. Again, that?s not on every
micro cell. It depends on the use case in the
Monica: How do you move from micro cells to
Andy: The next phase is to really understand how
we deploy ever smaller cells, and tie that in, also,
with our approach to in-building coverage. If a
huge amount of data is generated in-building, and
we can manage that capacity within the building,
then of course it?s going to reduce the demand on
the external macro network.
Currently we?re considering the optimal strategy
for balancing growth in external network capacity
with managing in-building coverage to remove,
effectively, capacity demand at the source,
therefore helping us to balance the overall
network. That also allows us to work towards a
more energy-efficient networks as well.
In areas of high in-building demand, rather than
transmitting everything from outside in, we can
manage that capacity more efficiently with in-
Monica: What challenges do you face as you move
Andy: Among the challenges we foresee, site
acquisition is always one that operators have. We
need to develop new strategic partnerships. We
also need to understand what new business
models are available for both external and internal
I think we?re definitely moving into a period
where, rather than mobile operators pushing
mobile communications on people, there?s a real
pull now from the general public, from enterprise
and businesses, from academia, etc., to actually
have good-quality coverage and also capacity.
New business models should make it simpler to
access sites and infrastructure. In addition, of
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course, we need to make sure we can provide
backhaul connectivity to these sites.
Backhaul is probably the second-biggest change
after initial site acquisition. That?s going to require
a combination of high-capacity, fiber-based
solutions. It?s going to get expensive if we try and
run point-to-point fiber everywhere. We?re
currently exploring opportunities for the use of
PON infrastructure. It could be an evolution of
Something I?m quite keen on is the introduction of
WDM PON in the future. With WDM PON, we
could have dedicated wavelengths, so we?re not
sharing the access between different use cases.
Monica: How reliable ? and valuable ? is wireless
Andy: We have a range of wireless solutions
available today for small-cell backhaul, from
traditional bands such as 28GHz to wider channels
in the millimeter wave bands, including V-band
centered around 60GHz.
E band equipment is starting to get smaller. I think
there?s further opportunity there. It?s still a little
big and a little expensive at the moment for the
small cell use case. Maybe not so bad as a first hop
from macro down, but in terms of distribution, it?s
not quite there yet.
As we look further forward into the evolution of
LTE and the introduction of 5G, we also need to
understand what self-backhauling can look like.
Today when we talk about self-backhauling,
people think about near-non-line-of-sight or non-
line-of-sight and LTE frequency bands. But it does
not have to be.
Monica: How will backhaul and self-backhaul
evolve as we move to 5G?
Andy: In a 5G timeline, we need to understand
what we could do if we took all the various
spectrum bands available to us, all the way from
sub-6 GHz up to and including the higher
millimeter-wave bands that have been discussed
as potential radio interface technologies in the
future. We need to understand how we could
drop a small cell into a particular area in the
network, and then have it develop its own
backhaul using SON techniques.
If we?re going to be using full-dimension MIMO or
3D MIMO on these small cells, then potentially we
could provide connectivity, either primary or
backup connectivity, via a particular beam
between adjacent small-cell base stations, as well.
It may well be that we have a primary link that is a
point-to-point 60 GHz radio, for example, or a
multipoint-to-multipoint system in a lower
frequency band. But, actually, if that link were to
fail or it needed more capacity, we could have
alternative connectivity in the network.
Monica: How is densification changing the way
you plan and deploy your networks?
Andy: We need to think very differently about
how we build networks, because, as well as ultra-
dense networks, we?re under increasing pressure
to build ever more reliable networks ? ultra-
reliable networks ? and, of course, ultra-low-
latency networks as well.
When considering densification, it?s important to
overlay a number of other requirements. Do a
densification plan. Do an ultra-reliable plan. Do an
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ultra-low-latency plan. Then start to play those off
against each other and understand what a single
network looks like to meet those varying demands.
From a capacity perspective, we?re either adding
more sites or more spectrum, or we?re getting
better spectrum efficiency. We gained a lot of
spectrum efficiency by refarming spectrum from
GSM to LTE. Certainly more spectrum?s going to
help, and more sites are going to help too.
Then you end up with quite a complex
arrangement around acquisition and backhaul. The
introduction of self-organizing network capability
is going to be absolutely key. The challenge I see
with SON today is that it tends to be focused on
aspects of the RAN or it can do something in the
core, it?s not joined up at the network level.
Monica: Is network slicing going to make the RAN
Andy: I?ve not seen anything that?s really lining up
behind this concept of slicing as we move through
LTE evolution to 5G. If we really want an end-to-
end service, we need to ensure that service is
available, that capacity is sufficient, that the low-
latency specifications ? whatever they happen to
be ? are met, and that it is also reliable.
If we want to go to multiple nines of reliability or
availability, we need to be looking at truly
heterogeneous networks with a whole range of
technologies. This plays into the idea of using
different radio access technologies as well, in both
licensed and unlicensed spectrum, and
understanding how to get licensed and unlicensed
bands to coexist and cooperate.
We could couple them very tightly with something
like LTE-U or LAA more specifically. There are a
whole range of other mechanisms we could
potentially use to help the two radio technologies
cooperate, as well. There are lots of aspects we
need to consider when developing the overall
framework of a dense network.
If you were just to build an ultra-dense network,
you would then have problems overlaying other
requirements in the next decade on top of that.
You have to factor all that thinking into the
conversation quite early on.
Monica: You mentioned indoor coverage. Micro
cells are mostly outdoors. How is it changing the
balance between indoor and outdoor?
Andy: Yes, indeed. We?ve got a number of
solutions for indoor. Starting from, obviously, large
stadiums: England?s National Stadium at Wembley
is actually connected by EE. We?ve got a huge
installation there: 24 cell sectors and somewhere
in the region of 200 antennas.
That?s an example of what we are doing at some
high end locations, but actually, small cells for in-
building includes a mix of pico cells and femtos.
Various other femto solutions are being used in a
range of enterprise applications where maybe a
large DAS system wouldn?t be appropriate.
As we?re addressing in-building coverage now in
residential premises as well, we have launched not
only VoLTE, but also VoWi-Fi. We have
Wi-Fi Calling now across a range of devices. If a
subscriber has Wi-Fi coverage at home, they can
make and receive calls on the Wi-Fi as well.
Monica: In the US, DAS seems to be much more
popular than anywhere else in the world. What do
you think about DAS?
Andy: We certainly deploy DAS in large
deployments, large stadiums. There are
opportunities in large shopping malls. DAS lends
itself to shared deployments, where multiple
operators want to invest, or where a site provider
wants to cooperate with multiple operators and
develop a single distribution network around the
stadium or shopping mall, for example. Those
kinds of mechanisms work pretty well when the
alternative is everybody?s trying to co-site all their
own small cells around the site.
As you get into the smaller businesses, then you
tend to be engineering more bespoke solutions
based around that enterprise being a customer of
yours. In this case, the requirement from this
customer is simply to get coverage from your
network, in which case DAS is still one of the
When you get into the smaller businesses, small
cells may work micro p or pico cells could be
deployed and used with multiple antennas to
ensure sufficient coverage within the building, on
different floors etc.
Monica: You mentioned that DAS lends itself to
basically infrastructure sharing so you have
multiple operators on the same network. Could we
duplicate the model, making some allowances, for
Andy: Yes. The small-cell story is an interesting
one. When I mention sharing small cells I?m quite
often thinking of the network-sharing agreements
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that we?re starting to see in various places around
They?re certainly well established in the UK where
you may want multiple operators deploying their
own carriers but on a shared piece of
infrastructure. So having that flexibility is
The alternative to that is for a third party to deploy
small cells, and support multiple operators. That?s
a complex situation. How do you get the necessary
agreements in place? How do you manage quality
of service, rollout priorities, backhaul prioritization,
etc.? And then how do you actually do the hand-
These models have great potential, and we?re very
keen to explore them. Some of the technologies
coming to market now are extremely innovative
and offer flexibility to support a range of
deployment use cases.
I guess the question always is, does the operator
want to hand over a level of control for the
network to a third party, and how equipped are
those third parties to take that role on, deliver that
carrier-grade support that operators have been
doing for many years?
Monica: In a neutral-host model, you could have a
situation where each operator has his own radio,
so you would not have control over the physical
infrastructure equipment, but you?d still control
the spectrum and the access.
Andy: Indeed, absolutely. I would expect that
would be the case. We?d deploy our own spectrum
assets. The question then is just how many of the
parameters in the base station can be optimized
on a per-operator basis against that radio
spectrum. Again, that ties into the siting, the
antenna selection, tilt, behavior, etc.
Monica: In the UK you?ve had quite a long history
of having third parties working with you.
Andy: Indeed. There?s a range of operators. Fixed
and mobile operators themselves have a great
opportunity to be a third-party neutral host.
Developing some of those opportunities is
something that, as an industry, we should be
considering for sure. That would give the best
We have a range of people who own large
numbers of sites, for example, who are actually
buying up access to infrastructure. They could
potentially take on that roll or work in partnership
with mobile network operators or a wholesale
Conversations to date have always been a little
challenging as to exactly where the demarcation is
and where the operational responsibility is. As our
industry matures, everybody realizes that for
anybody to progress with these ideas and for
everybody to win, we have to find a consensus.
We have to find a way of moving this forward.
That means we need to be pragmatic in terms of
costs, contracts, and return on investments.
Monica: With in-building small cells, is there a
change in the relationship between mobile
operators and the enterprise?
Specifically, traditionally the operator owns all the
infrastructure, but with most cells Wi-Fi type of an
infrastructure, would you expect the enterprise to
pay for the equipment and then the mobile
operator to operate it, or is it the operator that
pays for everything, as traditionally done?
Andy: Traditionally it?s certainly been the operator
that pays, but I think we?re all open to new models
now. It depends upon the enterprise?s aspiration.
If the enterprise is a landlord wanting to guarantee
good-quality coverage in the building to attract
tenants, then clearly it?s in their best interest for
them to be making sure that happens. The best
way to do that is to fund an installation, in part or
There are other approaches, of course, whereby if
an enterprise is investing in Wi-Fi, the operator
could deliver a solution that supports VoWi-Fi.
Then that could be part of the agreement ? that
the operator provides that service, makes sure all
the devices are capable, etc., and then the
enterprise can make use of the Wi-Fi service within
the building for voice and data services.
There is a range of different models we can
consider here. It depends upon the use case and
the enterprises themselves. We get very different
ranges and requests.
Monica: What about LTE unlicensed? How is that
going to play out in this kind of environment?
Andy: In the UK, we wouldn?t necessarily expect
LTE-U, but certainly LAA is something of interest.
We?re very keen to understand how that will
operate, how it will coexist properly with Wi-Fi.
We?ve got to coexist within the established Wi-Fi
Certainly, having the ability to call up a 40 MHz
LAA channel in the traditional Wi-Fi band, the ISM
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bands around 5 GHz, would give a huge boost in
downlink capacity. So, using that as a
supplementary downlink and at 5 GHz, that really
lends itself to being used in-building, of course.
Obviously, there are going to be restrictions on the
propagation characteristics of that particular band.
They?re going to be difficult to match with other
cellular bands. During trials, both in-building and
externally, it would be interesting to understand
exactly what can be achieved. Certainly that?s the
kind of thing that?s in our strategic plan.
Monica: What do you think about LWA?
Andy: LWA could be an easier alternative in some
regards. What we?re really waiting on at the
moment is chipsets to support this in a range of
end devices so we can start doing some testing,
and really understand what the options are.
We haven?t nailed down one favorite at the
moment, and I suspect we?d probably end up with
a range of different hybrids of licensed and
unlicensed that meet different use cases.
Monica: What about millimeter-wave bands? You
mentioned the millimeter wave for backhaul.
What about for access?
Andy: With the current and projected traffic
volume, we will need millimeter-wave radio
interfaces at some point, certainly high-centimeter
wave or millimeter wave. The question is, when do
we really need it?
There?s additional spectrum in the sub-6 GHz
bands that will be made available in the near
future, as well as a number of other bands that will
be made available over the next, say, five years.
There?s a lot more spectrum coming in those
bands. I guess the question is how big do you
make a site, compared with how many sites do
You could, for example, build a large number of
small cells with an amount of spectrum on them,
or you could continue to build out sites you have
today and expand them with more spectrum
assets, more capability.
There are some practical site design constraints
that limit what you can build, how far you can
develop those sites. There are, of course,
regulations around EMF that would restrict the
total power you could put out of those sites.
What we really need to understand as part of the
millimeter-wave discussion is what does a dense
network of sub-6 GHz radio base stations look like?
If we have smart antennas, we?ve got 3D
beamforming, for example. Then we?re going to
get a step increase in spectral efficiency and area
capacity density. How far does that get us?
Something we?re working on at the moment is to
understand that evolution of area capacity density.
When we do move into the millimeter-wave
bands, then we?re probably looking at another
level of densification to support sites that maybe
have a cell radius of 100 to 250 m.
Ensuring a robust radio interface connection in the
higher bands is a challenge and may involve a
range of techniques. Such techniques would likely
involve dual connectivity and tight coupling or
coordination between cells in the same and
different layers of the network.
At the moment, most of the expertise in these
higher-frequency bands is in the fixed-link world,
so it?s the people working on millimeter wave for
point-to-point, point-to-multipoint, multipoint-to-
Integrating this into a radio base station with all
the associated multi-layer radio resource
management in a heterogeneous network, and
also putting that into a UE with a decent antenna,
is going to be a bit of a challenge.
Of course, for it to work as radio access, it?s going
to have to be very tightly coupled with the lower-
frequency bands as well. It?s very likely the lower-
frequency bands will provide the control planes
and an amount of user-plane capacity. Thus the
bulk of the user plane could be pushed into a
millimeter wave radio access layer.
Monica: How about using a C-RAN type of
approach to increase densification? How big a
challenge are the latency and capacity
requirements on the fronthaul?
Andy: The challenge for C-RAN today, of course, is
the capacity requirements on CPRI?s fronthaul.
Backhaul for a 20 MHz 2x2 MIMO FDD carrier
would be typically 150 to 180 Mbps. With
fronthaul, you suddenly jump to approximately
2.5 Gbps to do the same thing with CPRI.
That starts to burn up a lot of fiber and a lot of
expense. So how scalable is that for your entire
network? Well, given the fixed relationship
between fronthaul today with CPRI, and a, the
spectrum bandwidth that you use, and b, the
number of antennas you deploy, that really plays
against wideband radio channels with ever more
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carrier aggregation. It also plays against massive
MIMO as well.
I think the problem is scaling CPRI as we know it
today. I am encouraged, nonetheless, by the
amount of work that?s ongoing, looking at
alternative functional splits between the radio unit
and digital unit.
As soon as you remove that need to split, as you
would do in conventional C-RAN, and start to
move a little further up the radio stack, we can
start to offer some alternatives, something around
the MAC layer ? split MAC for example ? or
alternatively, split just before PDCP. Of course, the
higher up that radio stack you go, the less optimal
the radio coordination will be.
There are still a lot of benefits to be had. Maybe,
the ability to change that split dynamically
between, possibly, sometimes the MAC layer,
sometimes the PDCP layer will give you a lot of
flexibility to respond to different radio
environments and radio channel conditions.
Certainly, in some environments, pure CPRI may
work, but I think that?s going to be restricted to
stadiums and other environments like that. I think
really we need an alternative functional split we
can carry over, an Ethernet-based backhaul that?s
going to have some benefits in the radio network.
Actually, it?s going to be more backhaul friendly.
The performance requirements are not going to be
as stringent as they are in CPRI, and the capacity
requirements, most certainly not.
Monica: How important is synchronization in a
multi-layer network? What level of
synchronization do you need for enhanced inter-
cell interference coordination (eICIC), TDD or
Andy: The phase synchronization requirement is
typically stated to be around plus or minus 1.5 ?s.
As an industry, we?ve made good progress in
understanding that, and developing ways to
deliver this in a robust manner, and support that
level of phase alignment which we provide
increasingly, in addition to the standard frequency
We need to understand, as LTE evolves and 5G is
introduced, where those requirements are likely to
go. Again, if we make it much tighter, we?re going
to add extra cost complexity to networks. We
need to be very careful about some of the
decisions we make about the level of coordination
and time alignment we need to achieve, so we
don?t create a huge cost and operational overhead
Monica: This is an additional dimension when you
look at the tradeoff between cost and
Andy: Absolutely. That feeds into the discussion
around SON as well. Given the number of base
stations we?re going to have and the complexity of
those base stations, we really do need to start
automating more and more of these processes.
We need to be making use of machine learning, so
we can start to make more intelligent decisions
about optimizing the network in real time.
Monica: Optimizing and basically extracting much
more from what you have already, rather than
build. First, extract as much as you can, and then if
it?s not enough, build more.
Traditionally, it?s like a brute force. You try to send
as much data as you can. The old networks didn?t
give you a lot of opportunity for choice.
Andy: Absolutely. That optimization, traditionally,
has been something operators have done end-
to-end on the network. As a wider industry, we
need to be talking more about what
top-to-bottom optimization looks like as well.
What kind of applications are we developing, and
what protocols do they run over? A perfect
example is the fact that over 50% of the traffic on
the EE 4G network is video.
Of course, when video was first introduced to the
internet, it ran over UDP. Now, it runs over TCP.
That subtle change from UDP to TCP has a massive
impact on the efficiency of network operations.
We need to look at top-to-bottom protocol-stack
optimization, and understand how we?re going to
evolve that protocol stack, over time, to a protocol
architecture that delivers the optimal user
experience for end customers, network operators,
and application developers.
What I like to think about in this context is not just
bps/Hz, but the application bps/Hz, as a true
measure of network efficiency. In terms of the
applications? efficiency and the experience you get
as a result of that, and then how that ties into the
cost of building, operating, and scaling networks.
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BT is one of the world?s leading communications services companies, serving the needs of customers in the UK
and across 180 countries worldwide. Our main activities are the provision of fixed-line services, broadband,
mobile and TV products and services as well as networked IT services. In the UK we are a leading
communications services provider, selling products and services to consumers, small and medium sized
enterprises and the public sector. We also sell wholesale products and services to communications providers in
the UK and around the world. Globally, we supply managed networked IT services to multinational corporations,
domestic businesses and national and local government organizations.
About Andy Sutton
Professor Andy Sutton is a telecommunications network architect and designer with 30 years of industry
experience. At BT, he is currently responsible for RAN architecture evolution and mobile backhaul architecture
and strategy. Andy became part of BT after the acquisition of EE, having worked for EE since the merger of
Orange UK and T-Mobile UK in 2010. Andy previously worked for Orange having returned to the company in
March 2007 to take up the role of Principal Transport Network Design Consultant, he spent the previous two
years working for 3UK, initially as a WAN Specialist and then as Lead Network Architect. Prior to 3, Andy was
with Orange for 12 years and prior to that, he worked for Mercury Communications on fixed network
transmission, switching and synchronisation systems. Andy is a Chartered Engineer (CEng), Fellow of the
Institution of Engineering and Technology (FIET) and Fellow of the British Computer Society (FBCS), he
contributes to the MEF (Metro Ethernet Forum) and NGMN (Next Generation Mobile Networks) Alliance on
mobile backhaul topics. Andy is a Visiting Professor with the department of Computing, Science and Engineering
at the University of Salford and a Research Mentor at the University of Surrey 5GIC.
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A conversation with
Ozgun Bursalioglu, Senior
Monica Paolini: Densified networks are not just
networks with a higher concentration of access
points. They force us to think of network planning
and management in a different way. They require
and benefit from different technologies and
architectures than macro-only networks do. This is
the topic of this conversation with Ozgun
Bursalioglu, a Senior Researcher at DOCOMO
ovations in Palo Alto.
Ozgun, what do you see as the major trends
among operators as they work towards
densification? What?s changing? What needs to be
Ozgun Bursalioglu: Here at DOCOMO Innovations,
we have research activities for 5G and beyond,
especially on the PHY layer. Our recent
publications mostly focus on massive MIMO, and
mmWave-band technologies. As for major trends
in densification, first of all, we need to serve many
more users all at the same time. You?re talking
about increasing multiplexing gains, and this brings
the concept of densifying our equipment. And
having many more cells coming closer together
changes the inter-cell-site dynamics. Remote radio
heads, distributed MIMO, and of course massive
MIMO are all very important.
Monica: We have had MIMO for a long time, but
it?s still evolving, with massive MIMO and
distributed MIMO. How do you see MIMO
evolving within the densification context?
Ozgun: Companies and academic researchers see
massive MIMO as one of the key technologies to
enable all of 5G?s promises. Many people in
research have recognized this potential since
Thomas Marzetta?s seminal work at Bell Labs.
First let?s remember one thing about massive
MIMO. With massive MIMO, basically we have lots
of antennas compared to the number of streams
we are simultaneously serving. That just basically
makes the beams we are assigning to different
devices very sharp.
That means the interference between them is less.
That?s great, of course, for densification, because
we can hopefully mitigate the interference
problem. This all assumes that there is high-quality
CSI, or channel state information, available at the
transmitter. That is a very important and deep
topic for massive MIMO.
Monica: It?s taking MIMO to the next stage, and so
that should lead to a much more efficient user
Ozgun: Yes. Also, it has been shown that massive
MIMO is very efficient in terms of power. It is the
way to go in 5G. With massive MIMO we have to
put up all of these many antennas, and in higher-
frequency bands, the antenna spacing can be
much tighter, and you can pack in lots of antennas
into smaller footprints.
Monica: Right. Any difference between FDD and
TDD for massive MIMO deployments?
Ozgun: This is a great question. It is very related to
the channel state information that we discussed.
In FDD, the base stations send DL pilots to train the
antennas for DL transmission. These operations
scale by the number of antennas in the traditional
way of doing FDD training. Now, if you follow the
traditional approach, combining massive MIMO
with FDD is not practical.
In massive MIMO deployments, TDD becomes
more practical, because training for DL can be
done through UL pilots. The user sends the pilots,
and the base station can train all of its antennas at
the same time. The training cost scales in terms of
the number of users you are serving. That is, of
We should also mention that, in the FDD case,
there has been a lot of great research on doing
FDD training with massive MIMO, but it requires a
bit more effort. It requires the learning of second-
order characteristics of the channel, and it works
much better for the macro layer.
In short, although there are some other methods
that can be considered, TDD with reciprocity-
based UL training seems to be the preferred choice
right now for massive MIMO. This is the reciprocity
of the physical uplink and downlink channels.
Of course, this reciprocity from your device to the
base station does not hold if the RF chain is
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considered. We have to do some calibration at the
base station to take care of this problem. Actually,
we and many other people have worked on that,
and it is possible. You can do an RF calibration at
the base station using signaling between BS
antennas without using any collaboration from the
UEs. These are all very important points.
Monica: I guess it?s becoming feasible because
operators are able to optimize the RAN in real
time, so they have the information and then they
can just use it. Is it making it feasible to deal with
the increased complexity of MIMO?
Ozgun: You have to calibrate the RF chains of
different antennas. All of these antennas can talk
to each other and listen to each other?s signal.
That way they kind of correct themselves. They
align themselves that way.
There are some important differences, though. RF
calibration happens at a much slower rate than the
training for the channel that we require. In that
sense, you can do the RF calibration of this
alignment between the antennas at the base
station, and then you can go ahead and train the
channels and serve the users.
Monica: What part of this needs to wait for 5G,
and what part can be implemented ahead of 5G?
Ozgun: Calibrating these antennas, of course,
requires time and signaling design. I would say that
we may need some standardization effort to
reserve this signaling time for calibration.
How much time we need depends on the tradeoffs
that you are looking for. For the macro base
stations, normally you can have very expensive
equipment where this calibration is not necessary
for a long time, because it is very high-quality
hardware. It takes longer for them to get de-
If you have cheaper, more cost-effective devices,
you need to calibrate them more often. The other
thing is that you?re working with many antennas,
so of course it takes more time to calibrate the
We are trying to understand what grade of
hardware we are going to use, the number of
antennas, and what is the best way to do it. Also,
there is even calibration between distributed
antennas. This is all ongoing work.
We have done theoretical research where we have
modeled hardware imperfections and come up
with algorithms to compensate these. There are
also ongoing trials, field experiments done by
companies and universities.
Monica: There?s a lot of excitement about MIMO,
but another topic that?s getting a lot of attention
now is millimeter-wave bands. What?s the best
way to use that spectrum?
Ozgun: There are many ways. People are looking
at using it for different aspects, but one way we
look at it at DOCOMO Innovations is to increase
throughput. It is great in that sense, just because
of the huge bandwidth available if you have a good
The problem is, getting full coverage with
millimeter-wave is much more challenging,
because of the propagation conditions. We think it
is best to assist the millimeter-wave band layer
with the macro layer. DOCOMO has suggested this
approach, and called it the phantom-cell concept.
It is a split of the control plane and the user plane.
You make sure the control plane is in the macro
layer, so at least the device is always going to be
connected to the nearest macro cell and the
control plane information is available.
If there is an established connection with the
millimeter-wave band, we can get throughput
from there. If not, we can always go back to the
Monica: Right. That?s very important, because you
can combine the reliability of coverage from the
macro with the increase in capacity from the
Ozgun: There is one more thing. Now we have all
these small-cell base stations, remote-radio-heads,
and distributed antenna systems. In this case, the
user, in theory, does not have to know where the
signal comes from. It might just need a unique cell
ID that enables the device to connect to any
transmission point covering that location.
Monica: How does the unique cell ID work with
small cells? What are the advantages of this
Ozgun: It helps with the handoff procedures.
When you densify the network, cells get very close
to each other and the number of handoffs grows.
Trying to switch from one base station to the next
base station takes lots of time. It will have a huge
overhead, and we don?t want that.
We would want a user device to seamlessly
connect in a fluid way to all of the transmission
points around it. Now, if you are trying to arrange
the connection to a cell every time you realize,
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?OK, I?m getting a signal from this cell,? it may
become a big mess if you do it very often.
Instead, with a unique cell ID, you have these joint
points around you that are doing transmissions,
but somehow you see them as a single point, like a
single cell. That helps with saving the time, the
training, and of course, eventually the throughput.
Monica: That?s an entirely new way to think about
cells as a unit.
Ozgun: Yes. Now, actually there is a trend towards
user-centric approaches. We used to think about
base stations and cells, and the users in the cell,
right? Then we had macro cell, cell-edge users and
all kinds of other problems.
There is a trend, especially in the academic
research, towards these user-centric approaches.
Users can be served by base stations (macro cells,
small cells, or DAS). And each user might have a
unique set of these base stations that it can
connect to, so you don?t necessarily cut and piece
your network into cells now.
But, again, this architecture needs to be scalable.
This architecture needs to be smart so you know
which base stations or which points of
transmission to assign to this user, and this must
be very fast. We do research on these
Monica: Increasing capacity is obviously the first
goal, but there is also a need to reduce latency.
Because you can have all the capacity you want,
but if the latency is high, the service is not good
from a user perspective. Latency is becoming more
and more important with real-time applications.
How can we lower the latency in 5G?
Ozgun: There are many things that we want from
5G. Different applications may require lower
throughput but very low delay; others may have a
high throughput but tolerate higher latency.
The delay that we see at the user device, or in a
device without a user, such as a machine, is a
combination of things. The delay might be because
of the application layer, the network layer, or the
I prefer to talk about the PHY layer, and an
important part of it is coming from the traditional
way of training and associating to the base station
? the way the base station sends the pilots, users
learn the channels, and the user sends feedback ?
all of these.
With TDD UL training, which really sits well with
massive MIMO, training is immediate: the user
sends the pilot, and the base station learns the
channel. That saves you a couple milliseconds from
the delay perspective. One important thing, again,
at the PHY layer, is that as we are going to higher
bands, the coherence times get shorter. We need
to be very careful about doing these things very
Monica: You can densify your network in many
ways. You can use DAS, add small cells, or improve
the macro layer. What?s the balance there?
Ozgun: Among all the things that you said,
basically the idea is really to have many more
devices and many more antennas. Even when we
talk about distributed MIMO, we can actually talk
about distributed massive MIMO. If you have
already acquired the site for transmission, why just
put a single antenna? You could and actually
should put many antennas to a site.
Also, as you move to higher bands, to indoors, or
to hotspot scenarios, you don?t necessarily have
these macro-style base station sites anymore that
you can control. These new base stations can be
In terms of capex and opex, you might need to
choose cost-effective devices. Although these
devices are much cheaper than the corresponding
macro ones, you could still benefit from them
using smart algorithms ? for example, RF
Another example is that you might want the
distributed antenna systems to be synchronized in
terms of frequency or timing for coherent
transmission. You can do this with a common
clock, or maybe with over-the-air synchronization.
We need to think about having networks where
these things can be adjusted. If the connection to
one of them fails, your networks should be smart,
to use other available connections again.
It?s, again, very important to think not just about
size but also the transmission points around the
users. If one connection fails, your coverage should
Monica: Preventing failure is possible, because if
you have multiple layers, the same mobile device
is covered by multiple elements in the network
and has the flexibility to choose which elements to
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Ozgun: Also, going back to massive MIMO,
because of its very sharp beams, a user device can
get data signals from many different points, unlike
the macro layer where you are connected to a
single base station.
Monica: How are the requirements of
densification changing or being driven by IoT?
Ozgun: In IoT we might have different classes of
operation. In one case a device might need to
connect to the network very fast. Maybe the
connection can have a very low transmission rate,
but the speed of getting connected is important.
Again, the delay is very important.
The events for which these devices might want to
connect might be very random, very sporadic, or
they might happen simultaneously. I think we
need much faster random-access protocols, much
faster training for introducing these devices into
the networks they want to connect to.
Monica: What are the crucial bits in 5G as far as
densification is concerned?
Ozgun: If you think about it, we used to plan our
networks with our base stations, and decide which
users connect at which time, right? With the 5G, as
I mentioned, connections to some of these
stations might be interrupted or there might be a
blockage, so you need to be smart in arranging
At the same time, I think a major concern,
especially for hotspot areas, is the multiplexing
gain. We want to serve many users at the same
time. That requires us to train all many of these
UEs at the same time.
More users trained, more resources in terms of
time and frequency are given to the training phase
from the transmission phase. It is essential to do
these things in a more efficient way, in a way that
you can simultaneously train users, instead of
training each user one by one (one per pilot
dimension). We show that with pilot collision
detection and fast user identification, you can
overcome this problem. This way you can really
make use of massive MIMO ? because otherwise,
if you don?t do the training right, you?ll run into
pilot contamination or you?ll have to be really
conservative and use a large pilot re-use, and that
detracts from your densification gains.
Monica: In today?s networks, you have different
layers, different networks, different access
technologies, different bands, and so the question
is: how are you going to select which device selects
How can we go about it? The subscriber doesn?t
want to manually pick a network, but from the
network point of view, the operator needs to
decide what?s the best way to serve that customer
sitting there with that device with some
applications that he?s trying to use.
Ozgun: You?re highlighting a very important part,
which is load balancing, and, with that, user
scheduling. It is a very tough problem. In the
macro layer it is easier, in the sense that the cells
are bigger and you have a larger number of users.
Things average out nicely.
Going to smaller cells or networks with multiple
layers, you?re actually seeing an irregular, maybe
an unplanned, network. Of course, the user
doesn?t want to choose which ones it connects to.
This needs to be automatic.
The base station I get my signal from should not
just depend on the channel to that base station. It
should also depend on whether that base station is
overloaded with other users or not.
In the current system, the user device decides
which base stations to connect to, based just on its
channel gain. This system causes overloaded base
stations, and that?s what we see in crowded areas.
If you can push some of the users, some of the
traffic, to the less-used cells, you can increase the
overall base station utilization in the network.
With massive MIMO, this is possible, because you
have these beams that can come to you from
different base stations. You should be able to pass
the stream from one BS to another one with less
How do you decide all of these things while you
are transmitting in milliseconds?
A very important aspect of massive MIMO is that
you have channel hardening. That means the
throughput you are going to get becomes
independent of the instantaneous channel. It
becomes independent from the small-scale fading.
In a way, the channel hardens.
That means the base station can pre-guess, or the
operator can guess, the rate that the user will get
from a base station. Having this information on a
larger time scale than the transmission time scale
is valuable. Since the traffic load changes happen
much slower, you can optimize your network
operations in terms of how to shift traffic between
different layers. This optimization can even take
into account the properties of the traffic ? for
example, applications with different delay
tolerance. Channel hardening makes these
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problems simpler, and we see lots of gains. Load
balancing will be very important in the future.
For example, although the transmission happens
at the millisecond level, thanks to channel
hardening, ahead of time (on the order of seconds)
you can have a pretty good idea of what you?ll get
in terms of rate in the next milliseconds.
That allows you to be smarter about where to put
traffic, and it ties very well with the coordination
between millimeter-wave bands and the other
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About DOCOMO Innovations
DOCOMO Innovations is more than a just an organization for business development and strategic investment.
All groups within DOCOMO Innovations work together to realize new applications and services through
collaboration with American companies for the next generation of mobile services and beyond. DOCOMO
Innovations provides vital innovation to enable the future growth of NTT DOCOMO, Inc. in the Japanese and
global markets. DOCOMO Innovations is structured around four key teams, whose initiatives run the gamut from
mobile applications all the way down to core networking technologies: Business Development and Investment,
Open Services Innovation, Android Product Innovation, and Mobile Network Technology.
About Ozgun Bursalioglu
Ozgun Y. Bursalioglu is a Senior Researcher at DOCOMO Innovations Inc., working in the area of wireless
communications on MIMO techniques and LTE enhancements since 2012. She graduated from the Ming Hsieh
Department of Electrical Engineering, University of Southern California, in 2011. Her Ph.D. thesis is on joint
source channel coding for multicast and multiple description coding scenarios using rateless codes. Previously
she received M.S. and B.S. degrees from University of California, Riverside (2006) and Middle East Technical
University (METU), Ankara, Turkey (2004), respectively. She received the best student paper award at the
International Conference on Acoustics, Speech and Signal Processing (IEEE ICASSP), in 2006..
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DAS and Wi-Fi join
forces to keep sports
A conversation with James
Hammond, Director of
Information Technology, Carolina
Panthers, and Kevin Schmonsees,
CTO, Beam Wireless
Monica Paolini: Stadiums and other sports venues
are typically the first targets of densification
because of the extremely high usage density
during events. Our conversation about wireless
coverage at the Bank of America Stadium in
Charlotte, North Carolina, is with James
Hammond, the Director of Information Technology
with the Carolina Panthers, and Kevin
Schmonsees, the CTO of Beam Wireless.
James, stadiums are one of the best examples in
terms of high usage creating a highly challenging
environment. Can you give us an introduction
about what you do personally and what
infrastructure you have in the stadium?
James: At Bank of America Stadium, we were
faced with a problem over the previous two or
three years where our fans were not able to get
the connectivity that they expect.
At the games, they want to be able to do Twitter,
Facebook, they want to take selfies. They want to
do all the things they are used to doing with social
networking and connectivity in their regular lives.
It got to the point where the number of fans trying
to get onto social networking and the internet in
general was exceeding the capacity of our systems.
It didn?t matter whether they were using Wi-Fi or
the cellular systems for their data. They weren?t
able to get through.
That was leading to fan dissatisfaction. At about
that point, they hired me ? and one of the reasons
was to tackle these problems. As soon as I got to
the Carolina Panthers, I started examining the
systems that we had in place -- the DAS system for
rebroadcasting those cellular signals, as well as the
Wi-Fi systems ? and found that they both really
were not keeping up with fan demands.
They were under-designed for a much smaller user
population, making their five-year-old designs
obsolete. At that point we decided to bring on new
systems, and that meant ripping out and replacing
the entire DAS and Wi-Fi infrastructure.
Monica: Kevin, what about you?
Kevin: Michelle Rhodes and I started Beam
Wireless when we saw a gap in the industry where
there was frustration amongst venue owners just
like the Carolina Panthers. They just don?t have the
visibility and control of a DAS inside their venue.
What we try to do is provide the consulting ?
whether it is design, contracts with carriers, or
validation and optimization, to allow them to
learn, manage, and have full visibility into a DAS
system in their venue.
Monica: Before we talk about the technology, let?s
talk about the ownership structure. Who owns
and controls the wireless infrastructure?
James: That was one of the very first things I
witnessed when I came here to the Panthers. We
had a meeting with all of the carriers that were
involved with the existing DAS system. We could
tell that there was dissatisfaction among those
carriers trying to figure out whether the problem
was on their side, or with the DAS neutral host.
We felt really powerless being in the middle. We
couldn?t figure out exactly what was going on. We
couldn?t figure out if we needed to put pressure on
this or that carrier or on the neutral-host provider.
With that lack of visibility, we just felt like we could
never get to the core of the problem, and the
problems were never being solved.
In the meantime, all our fans were still
complaining that they were not getting the
coverage they wanted. We decided to move away
from a system of managed service, which was
essentially what our Wi-Fi and DAS were: we had
third parties that owned and managed both the
Wi-Fi and the DAS systems.
We decided to let those contracts expire and then
take over the ownership ourselves. We tried to
find the right consultants, such as Beam Wireless,
to point us in the right direction, give us the advice
we needed so that we would have the expertise
on board working with us, while we would
maintain ownership of the system, and have full
visibility, and take full responsibility for it.
Monica: Right now, are Wi-Fi and DAS integrated
and you manage both of them?
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James: In the case of the DAS system, we
contracted with Beam Wireless to help us select a
DAS replacement and help us do the construction,
integration, optimization, and ongoing
maintenance. DAS is pretty complicated. DAS is
more complicated than Wi-Fi when it comes to the
management and maintenance.
In the case of Wi-Fi, we also selected an integrator
called AmpThink. They came in and managed the
construction and integration, and they are
assisting us with our first year of service. Then
we?re going to continue with the maintenance
Although we own both systems, I think the level of
support we require from third parties to help us
manage them varies between the two.
Monica: The decision to take ownership is difficult,
because it?s a lot more work on your end. Is it
because you think connectivity is something so
crucial to you and for your fans that you want to
James: It is a scary thing to bring a third-party
managed system in house and take full
responsibility for that. That was a scary decision,
but it was the right decision to make. Because
we?ve got a saying here. Our owner, Jerry
Richardson, says that the fan is the most valuable
member of our team.
That?s really important, because what it shows is
that his emphasis is on the fan experience. If we?re
finding that fans are not getting the connectivity
they demand, then we need to fix it. And to fix it,
we really felt we just had to take full control.
Once we made that decision, started planning,
starting building, we realized it was the best
decision to make. I think even the carriers agree
with us that moving to this new model of DAS
ownership was the right choice. Because we are
taking that full responsibility, we have high
expectations that carriers then can get the benefits
of a good system to participate in.
Monica: How many carriers participate in the
James: When we built the new DAS system, which
was last off-season, in 2015, we maintained the
tenants that were there before on the old systems
? Verizon, AT&T and Sprint. We?re currently talking
to T-Mobile about also joining the DAS.
Monica: In terms of the usage model, the wireless
connectivity has become really an integral part of
enjoying the experience of a sports event. How has
this experience changed through the years?
James: New social networking apps come out
every day, right? Each one of those leads to
challenges. For example, a couple years ago, I had
not heard of, or perhaps it did not exist, Periscope
? or the ability to do live video streaming. New
apps like that pose real challenges, because with
video streaming we?re getting into high bandwidth
Then there are also rules about what you can do in
a stadium. We?re not supposed to permit a video
stream of a game going out live because of usage
and broadcast rights.
There?s always something new coming out every
day. But more importantly, the volume and
density have changed. Before, you would say it
was a small percentage of our fans that are getting
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on and texting and tweeting and taking selfies. But
as our digital natives get older and older, we?re
getting more and more of them coming into the
Overall it?s really the percentage of users wanting
to get online that has changed the most.
Kevin: But also one of the big trends we see, and
we see this not only in the Panthers stadium but
most arenas and venues across the country, is the
trend from voice usage to data usage.
It used to be making a phone call; now it is sending
a text message. That?s how fans communicate
during these events. Now it?s Snapchat, Instagram,
Facebook. It?s more of the data usage and the
multimedia on the phone. You can see that in the
One key thing the Panthers gained by having
control and management of their DAS is that they
get to see each operator?s statistics after every
event. They can see what the true fan experience
was per operator after every event. For example, if
the lower bowl has a fan experience problem in a
certain area, they can focus on that and try to
improve that for the fans. They didn?t have that
Monica: Some of the applications you mentioned
are also very heavy on the uplink. Do you see a
change in the uplink versus downlink balance?
Kevin: That?s something we?re definitely watching.
That?s a great question. I haven?t seen a significant
change yet. There?s still a big load on the downlink.
We?re very curious. So far we?ve had two events
this summer. I?m curious to see how the uplink
ticks and does the downlink potentially go down?
But subscribers are still takers, not givers of
content. That?s kind of the expression that they
use. Definitely watching it.
Monica: What is the balance between cellular and
James: I was asked this question many times by
management here at the Panthers, trying to figure
out, ?Hey, if we make our DAS so wonderful, why
do we even care about Wi-Fi?? Or, on the other
hand, ?Our Wi-Fi is really great. Why do we need
DAS? Because I don?t need to get onto the cellular
I do not see how you can avoid having both. In a
large venue you?re going to have to have a good
DAS system and a good Wi-Fi system.
First of all, each system can only go so far. If you?ve
got two different systems, that right there is going
to help your density problem.
Second, you?re going to have expectations from
the fans. They may come into a stadium with
excellent DAS. They may realize, ?Hey, I don?t want
to pay for my cellular data.? Not everybody?s got
free cellular data, so they?re going to want that
free Wi-Fi. I think you?re going to have the fan
demand driving the need for both. You?re going to
have the overall density requirements driving the
need for both.
Monica: Are you looking into using LTE in
unlicensed bands? LTE-U, LAA, MulteFire?
James: I?m going to start by saying, ?No, I?m going
to need the spectrum for Wi-Fi.? But I?m going to
let Kevin continue.
Kevin: I?ll say, ?Please use it.? It?s funny: because I
handle the DAS side, the expectation would
probably be that I wouldn?t care that much about
Wi-Fi. But I am thrilled to see the new Wi-Fi system
going into the stadium, because the biggest help
for the DAS is to have that Wi-Fi data offload.
It?s extremely important to have both systems in
place. We need to offload to Wi-Fi. Wi-Fi needs to
offload to us. Not everybody?s going to attach to a
Wi-Fi system, and like James said, not everybody?s
going to want to pay for data to stay on the
cellphone system. They really have to work
together. It?s extremely important to have them
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James: We built the new DAS system first in the
off-season of 2015, and the new Wi-Fi system was
installed during the off-season of 2016, so we just
finished that construction.
But as we were doing that construction, I was
approached by two of the carriers, wanting to talk
about what kind of agreements they can work out
with me in order to do the offload.
These are the same carriers that are on our
excellent DAS system, so you can see they?re very
interested in all systems working together,
because they recognize the density problem. You
have only so much space in Wi-Fi. You have only so
much space in DAS. They definitely can
complement each other.
Monica: When you decided to build your DAS,
were there other options, such as small cells, that
Kevin: Macro won?t be able to cover the stadium.
There?s too many fans. One or two sectors coming
in from an outdoor macro is not going to be able
to handle the capacity. That?s not really an option.
?Small cell? is really a loosely used term. A small
cell originally had a very minimal capacity. Same
thing: that?s not really feasible for a football
The newer term that people use for small cells is
really a ?lower-power radio.? That is actually
what?s used to feed the DAS. What a lot of people
call a small cell now is a 5W radio. But the
hardware referred to by original term ?small cell?
was used, say, for an office building or something
like that. It?s really not feasible for a bowl of a
Monica: How did you pick the DAS system you
James: At about the time that I got in contact with
Kevin, here, from Beam, we were able to quickly
narrow it down to three different DAS types. Then
I did some field visits ? went out to other stadiums
and took a look at what they had, and we
narrowed it down to the final choice.
Kevin: We had a long, in depth whiteboard
session, and that?s what I encourage any venue to
do when it wants another system, is to have this
technical whiteboard session. James and I sat
down and we drew out every manufacturer and
every product line for that manufacturer to discuss
what the pluses and minuses would be for the
The product we selected might not be the best
product line for another football stadium. But then
another vendor?s product line might not be best
for the Carolina Panthers.
One of the reasons we selected the product line
that we did was that it comes in what?s called a
NEMA-rated form factor. We needed to put
remote amplifiers outdoors, where they could be
exposed to rain and wind, cold and hot weather.
We needed an amplifier that was a little bit more
robust as far as power, because all of the carriers
were going to share that power. We weren?t going
to have separate amplifiers, because of cost and
Optimization features were also important. For
example, we can attenuate every remote amplifier
per band during optimization. That?s extremely
important, because a lot of the older product lines
didn?t have this capability. It?s really come in handy
There are also a lot of maintenance advantages
that we talked about on the whiteboard.
Something very important is the PIM test. Every
year, we go through an audit and make sure all the
passive infrastructure is still in good shape.
For example, take the antennas, the cable and the
splitters. How have they been impacted
throughout the season? We can actually put this
PIM tone through every amplifier in the system
very quickly and efficiently ? we can even do it
remotely and test all of that passive infrastructure.
Monica: Did you choose a passive DAS?
Kevin: No, it?s an active DAS. Our DAS has an active
amplifier that?s fiber fed and then amplifies
through the antennae.
Monica: No matter how good your system is, with
Wi-Fi and DAS, at some point you?re going to see
congestion, because users continue to find new
ways to use available capacity. What?s your
experience with that? You can?t avoid congestion,
but you can manage it.
Kevin: Right now, the DAS is fairly new, and we?ve
been through one whole season. The DAS is not
going to be the bottleneck. It?s basically a very
wide interstate or highway that can handle any
traffic that the base stations have been sending
The bottleneck right now is the operator base
station. For example, the DAS as it sits today is
designed for 48 sectors of traffic per band, per
operator. The most we have running today is 32
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sectors from one of the operators. Last season the
most that we had was 24 sectors from one of the
The bottleneck is the sector limitation on how
many users their radios can handle. For example,
last year, if we take one operator, our failure point
was 15 GB on the LTE download in 15 minutes.
This year, that same operator has gone from 18
sectors to 24 sectors. Now they?ve exceeded 28 GB
in the same 15-minute period without failure.
Without changing the DAS from last year to this
year, they just increased the base station capacity
by increasing the number of sectors.
Monica: When you have congestion, from the user
perspective, what do the people see? For how
long does the network go down?
Kevin: We have to talk about congestion in two
manners: voice calls and data. We don?t see any
voice congestion on the path at all. And I don?t
think we have to discuss voice because the trend
really has gone from voice to data.
For LTE data, typically what happens is that our
uplink tanks; that?s the first thing we see in the
stats. What we see then is that uplink throughputs,
which normally would be several mbps, suddenly
go down to 0.1 or 0.05 mbps.
The noise rise in that zone is so high that either the
customers can no longer communicate with the
base stations or their throughput is so slow that
the information never gets through.
To a customer, what happens is all of a sudden it?s
as though it doesn?t work. Their data worked 15
minutes and then all of a sudden, during, say,
halftime, which is the busiest time during an event,
the device just doesn?t seem to work anymore.
What we see then is the payload doesn?t increase,
but the attempts increase. What you see is people
continuously hammering the system trying to get
Monica: If you look at it five years from now,
you?re going to see a much bigger need for
capacity. How are you keeping up?
Kevin: It?s a great question. Like I mentioned,
today the most that any carrier has is 32 sectors on
the DAS. The DAS proper was designed for 48
sectors. When we talk about what it was designed
for, what that means is SINR, signal to
interference-plus-noise ratio, and channel quality
indicator, or CQI. They basically apply to the fan
experience. When we look at statistics after an
event, if the CQI in a zone is bad, the users in that
zone have had a bad experience.
What we do is we design a system that?s, say, 48
sectors for a certain SINR level. That?s based on a
certain percentage load on the carriers? base
station. Once it exceeds that, then we?ll have to
come back and modify the DAS.
In the bowl, we?ve pretty much hit the limit. The
only way to get more sectors in a bowl is adding
new antennas, which vendors come out every year
with different beam widths, new bands that the
FCC licenses. Whether it?s the WCS band on AT&T,
the new AWS bands for T-Mobile, Verizon and
AT&T, or Sprint?s BRS band, all up in that
2.5-2.6 GHz range, that?s what will happen.
Whether it?s RF or noise, it doesn?t matter. We can
only put so much of it in one section before it?s not
efficient anymore. That?s where additional
frequencies come into play.
James: The simplest thing we can do to address
congestion is to ask the carriers to simply give us
more. In other words, if we have 48 zones that are
available to them right now in our infrastructure,
they need to use all 48 rather than simulcasting
their sectors across that.
The first thing is the easiest thing, and that is
simply tell the carriers, add more capacity. We can
take that. This great big highway can take it. As
Kevin said, you just need to add more lanes, and
that?s really on the carriers.
Monica: From your point of view, you?re ready for
more capacity as long as the operators come in
and make the investment. When they see the
unique capacity, they?re likely to make that
investment, because it?s clearly to their advantage
to provide it.
Kevin: We personally discuss that with them. We
have everyone?s statistics, and we can compare
them. We can really push them in a direction,
saying, ?Hey, you have a capacity issue, in this
concourse and seating area. Next season or mid-
season, you need to double your capacity in this
area.? Again, the DAS is prepared for that.
James: If we?re doing our jobs right, and the
Panthers are, what that really means is we?re
going to have little or no congestion. Rather than
accepting that congestion is going to happen, we
want to have little to no congestion, because we
want to meet the fans? demands.
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About the Carolina Panthers
The Carolina Panthers is a professional American football team that competes in the National Football League
(NFL), as a member club of the league?s National Football Conference (NFC) South division. Announced as the
NFL?s 29th franchise in 1993, the Panthers began play in 1995. The team is headquartered in Bank of America
Stadium in uptown Charlotte, an outdoor 75,412-seat stadium that serves as the team?s home field. The
Panthers are one of the few NFL teams to own the stadium they play in. The Carolina Panthers have had two
Super Bowl appearances, won two NFC conference championships, six division championships, and seven
About James Hammond
James Hammond is the Director of Information Technology for the Carolina Panthers, leading a department of
nine staff members who support all technology aspects of the Panthers? operation, as well as wireless, Wi-Fi, and
network infrastructure for Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, NC. As part of an initiative to significantly
improve the Panther fans? connected experience, he coordinated the selection, construction, and
implementation of a new Distributed Antenna System (DAS) for the stadium, and is currently involved in
construction of a new Wi-Fi system consisting of over 1,200 access points. He has also coordinated other major
projects, including migration to a new phone system, and implementation of a fiber GPON solution that was part
of the renovation of technology in all club suites. In 2013, Mr. Hammond was featured on CNN discussing the
advantages and disadvantages of iris scanning and other biometric identification methods. Mr. Hammond
previously served as the CIO at Winthrop University and has taught Computer Science at Winthrop University,
University of Maryland European Division, the S.C. Governor?s School for Science and Mathematics, and
Rutledge College. He has been admitted to candidacy for the Ph.D. in Computer Science at the University of
About Kevin Schmonsees
With over 17 years of RF design, performance, and optimization experience, Kevin brings a passion for improving
the wireless experience in a DAS environment. Having worked for both wireless carriers and integrators, Kevin
has extensive hands-on knowledge with 1st-class designs, carrier relationships, installation/implementation,
integration, commissioning, and optimization. Kevin's goals with Beam Wireless, Inc. are to bring visibility and
control to their clients- allowing them to focus on the overall needs of their customers through a seamless
experience. He has a BS Electrical Engineering from NC State University and an MBA from Strayer University.
Kevin can be reached at email@example.com.
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A view on
A conversation with a Director of
Network Architecture and
Strategy at a US-based global
manufacturing and retail
Monica Paolini: This interview is with a Director of
Network Architecture and Strategy at a
multinational corporation headquartered in the
US, that includes multiple business units in the US
and abroad, involved in designing, manufacturing,
marketing and retail. The interviewee has chosen
to remain anonymous and we will refer to him as
GM, can you tell us what is your role within the
enterprise IT/communications organization?
GM: As a Director of Network Architecture and
Strategy, I need to make sure the technology
trends in the industry are going to match up with
the business needs for all the different businesses
we have inside of our company. And that covers
the network, unified communications, voice, and
touches heavily on security. I work very tightly with
our internal security group. We need to make sure
all those come together.
Monica: What wireless infrastructure do you
GM: We are a large Wi-Fi shop. We deployed that
a long time ago. We have different, varying
densities of Wi-Fi. Cellular has always been a
challenge for us, in our buildings, especially as we
move to LEED-certified buildings.
We opted for a DAS probably 10 years ago. That?s
served us pretty well, but we?re seeing limitations
as far as density is concerned. We have a very
large campus and we keep expanding it. Every
time we add a new building, the experience for the
rest of the campus goes down.
As our populations inside these buildings are
getting denser, we?re seeing that that, too, has a
degrading effect on the wireless signals.
Monica: Are you planning to replace the DAS with
more cells, or to extend the DAS in your main
GM: I?m looking to move to small cells. I?ve been
pushing carriers in that direction. Unfortunately, I
haven?t got them on the same page as I am. They
have their single-point solution; for each carrier,
it?s all different.
I?m OK with having different systems for different
carriers, but I have a problem with the varying
looks of those systems. That sounds weird, but I
have a very particular facilities department that
goes for a very specific look in each of the offices.
I have three different brands of antennas to supply
the three different carriers I have. That is a very big
challenge for my facilities department. On the
technical side, having those three carriers use
different systems means all I am getting from
them is cellular coverage.
If I had one cohesive system, then I might be able
to pick up some additional benefits, such as the
ability to take calls off of that system and handle
the call control ourselves. I have three different
systems. That?s never going to happen.
Monica: Do you need to have indoor coverage
from multiple operators? Wouldn?t one be
GM: One of the carriers has about 80% of our
traffic. Secondary carrier has about 17% of it. The
rest is a couple other small carriers. So, in the US
main campus, we need at least two carriers.
Monica: Do you have DAS in other locations as
well, or only on your main campus?
GM: We have DAS in multiple locations. Anywhere
there?s been a large problem, with enough people
complaining about it, we get a system in there.
A lot of these places are smaller, so we don?t do a
baseband headend. We end up bringing in the
signal from outside, which we have varying luck
with. Depends on how bad the cell coverage is
outside, and how overloaded the macro cell is.
That?s been a mixed bag.
Monica: You said you have to work within an
environment in which you have multiple
operators, each coming with their own
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infrastructure. What kind of alternatives are you
GM: What I?d really want is one provider that
could give me one system on which I could put
multiple carriers. I don?t necessarily want to run
the system myself, but I want the benefit of being
able to add services as small-cell companies add
The carrier is not going to offer them at the same
rate I want to consume them at. Additionally, if
each carrier used different solutions I would not be
able to offer the same enterprise features for all
Monica: You want to have consistency in your
network. On the service part, you want to have all
operators being able to support the same services.
What is the challenge there for operators?
GM: In the area I?m in, Verizon uses Ericsson. AT&T
leads with a Nokia solution. Because they?re two
disparate solutions, they offer different services.
The technology actually may offer some of the
same services, but again, carriers only implement
the ones they?re comfortable with and they?re
willing to support. That means that, even if the
technology could support a service, I can?t leverage
it, because the carrier decides not to offer it.
Monica: In addition to this bifurcation at the
service level, you have a similar bifurcation in the
access, because you have the different equipment
from each operator.
GM: Correct, and we?ve actually seen that in our
DAS as well. At some of our locations, we have a
baseband headend for one carrier, and we?re
bringing in the signal from the outside for the
other carrier. Even though we have both carriers
on our DAS, still one has a better experience than
the other. You go to a different building, that
might be reversed.
Trying to tell VPs about that, they don?t quite get
it, and they ask, ?Why can?t we just fix it??
Monica: Do you have a neutral host for your DAS?
GM: Yes, we do.
Monica: As you move to small cells, is the access
going to improve?
GM: Each carrier says, ?We will not share with the
other carriers.? The reaction to DAS was very
similar, in the beginning, to the one I?m seeing in
small cells right now. When DAS first came out,
every carrier wanted to run their own system and
did not want to combine the systems.
As DAS matured, we saw more and more carriers
allowing other carriers to be on their system, as
well as allowing a third party to come in and put in
the system and have any carriers join. The carriers
are even pitching some money for that.
Right now with small cells, we?re in that very first
phase, where all carriers want to put in their own
system and they don?t want any integration with
other systems or vendors.
Monica: Why don?t they want to share the small-
cell infrastructure? They are used to doing so with
GM: I think it stems from the carrier mentality that
?I do not want to support something I?m not
comfortable with.? This is very new for them in the
US, and so they?re looking at it and wondering, ?Is
this is a solution I?ve vetted? This is what I can
prove. I know this would work, but I don?t know if
it works when I have all these other carriers on
with me. I haven?t seen that.?
After small cells get out there and people demand
them we?ll hear: ?Oh, we can manage this. We can
Monica: One of the key discussion items is about
who?s going to pay for this infrastructure. Who do
you think should be paying for the equipment and
GM: I feel that, depending on the level of control, I
don?t mind owning it. I may not want to run it, I
may want to push that to a third party, but I do
want to have full control over what features are
Monica: Basically, what you?re saying is that ?I?m
willing to pay as long as I have some level of
control over what goes on, and what kind of
services the operator provides.? You put in some
money, and you want to know how that?s being
used. What?s the response from operators?
GM: With the DAS system, it?s a shared model
right now. I pay for some of it, the carriers pay for
some of it, and I have no flexibility. I can?t see
anything that goes on with that system.
Monica: As an enterprise, you may cover the cost
of deploying the network but, as you said, you may
not want to operate it. Who do you think is best
positioned do that? Is it the operators, or is it a
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GM: I say it?s a third party. We have a company
right now that comes in, and they?re the ones that
work with all carriers. They look at the costs and
negotiate deals with carriers. Carriers will only
pitch in if it means something to them. They put
that case together. This company knows the
carriers and the licensed RF space. I don?t have
people that are in-depth with that; that?s why I
look to a third party for that.
Monica: Will the operator or the third party be
able to share your indoor wireline infrastructure
for backhaul or fronthaul, or do you expect them
to build a separate network?
GM: This is where I?m going to differ from the
director of security. I don?t mind having carriers on
my infrastructure. I feel I can isolate them and
keep the rest of the network secure. However, I do
need to get security?s buy-off on that. That?s going
to be one of the challenges we face.
I think we can come together. We all see the value
of it, and we just work through those issues. I?m
not sure how that?s going to play out yet, though.
Monica: What about carriers using LTE unlicensed,
either LTE-U or LAA, in your campus?
GM: That is a very big concern of mine. When we
first started looking at small cells, carriers wanted
to pair it with Wi-Fi directly. They wanted to run
the Wi-Fi for me, or just layer on Wi-Fi on top of it
as a guest. Carriers are very good at licensed
spectrum. Unlicensed, I don?t think they have as
much experience there.
Frankly, my enterprise people know that
unlicensed spectrum pretty well. I don?t want
anybody interfering with the spectrum plan that
we put together.
Monica: Your workforce is becoming increasingly
mobile. Your employees can be anywhere. You
could be working from home or a coffee shop off
campus, anywhere. How is that changing your
GM: On the Wi-Fi side, which doesn?t come into
the licensed carrier spectrum, I?m looking to create
the consumer experience. One of the largest
complaints of any enterprise customer is ?It works
better at home.? What I want to do is give our
employees consistency with how they connect to
Wi-Fi and LTE whether they are inside or outside
Monica: For you, the challenge is not when your
employees go outside the campus, it?s when they
are on campus that it becomes the major issue.
There is a lot of talk of how operators can offer
services that are for the enterprise, and better
access. What do you think operators should do
differently to support the enterprise better?
GM: First one is, solve my problems. My problems
are that I need cellular coverage that?s a lot more
robust than we have now, a lot more throughput
than I have right now, and seamless access inside
and outside the walls. When I get to that point, we
can talk about what are the things we can leverage
If they want to be a partner and come to me with
integrations to the rest of my infrastructure, solve
my pain points first and then they can definitely
have a seat at the table.
Monica: The first step is coverage and capacity.
Would you say that it?s more coverage, or is it
GM: Capacity. As we go to the more open-space,
the more densified employee footprint inside the
buildings, and more mobile, we are getting rid of
desk phones everywhere. I don?t think soft phones
are going to pan out. People are walking a lot, and
are getting rid of laptops. When you?re walking,
what?s the only device that really works? It?s your
Monica: Is latency much of an issue?
GM: I tend to look a little bit further out. In
working with my application teams, they?re of the
same mindset as I am, that they want the
experience to be the same outside as inside.
They?re building applications for that.
You look at the Google Play store, Apple?s store.
The apps that are being developed don?t care
where they are. They?re built for that user
experience. No matter where you are, they?re
latency tolerant, and we are designing our user-
facing apps the same way.
Monica: What about Wi-Fi Calling? That might
improve the voice quality, but then you?d have to
allow the operators to use your Wi-Fi
GM: The issue I have with Wi-Fi Calling is that I
would need a user to turn on a feature that will be
affecting them even when they are not at work
and I cannot guarantee the experience. If they turn
on Wi-Fi dialing to achieve a good experience at
work but it creates a worse experience for them at
home, we are doing a disservice to our employees
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Monica: What do you think are going to be the
main changes over the next five years?
GM: My main changes are going to be any-device-
to-anywhere. Not force people to come through a
central area or a central location to get to what
they need to. More things in the cloud, more
things distributed, and if you need to take off from
one of my offices and go to a software as a service,
you go directly there. I don?t need to transport you
Monica: You?re saying multiple devices, but also
multiple devices for the same person. It?s not more
types but every person would have multiple
devices at the same time.
GM: It?s more than multiple devices. If you have
one device with 10 different apps on it, each one
of those apps may be going somewhere different. I
don?t want to nail you down because you have one
device and one person, to one point. I want you to
be able to go everywhere direct.
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1080p 1080 pixels (or Full HD)
2G Second generation
3G Third generation
3GPP 3rd Generation Partnership Project
4G Fourth generation
4K 4,000 [pixels]
5G Fifth generation
AP Access point
API Application programming interface
ASA Authorized Shared Spectrum
ATSC Advanced Television Systems
AWS Advanced wireless services
BBU Baseband unit
BIU Base station interface unit
BMS Broadcast/Multicast Service
BRS Broadband Radio Service
BTS Base transceiver station
CA Carrier aggregation
Cat 5 Category 5 [cable]
Cat 6 Category 6 [cable]
CDMA Code division multiple access
CoMP Coordinated multipoint
CPRI Common public radio interface
CQI Channel quality indicator
C-RAN Cloud RAN
CSI Channel state information
D2D Device to device
DAS Distributed antenna system
DC Data center
DMS Device management system
DMS DAS management system
DSn Digital signal n
DWDM Dense wavelength-division
ECGI E-UTRAN Cell Global Identifier
eCSAT Enhanced Carrier Sensing Adaptive
eICIC Enhanced ICIC
eMBMS Evolved Multimedia Broadcast
EMF Electro-magnetic field
EMS Element management system
eMTC Enhanced Machine Type
E-RAN Enterprise RAN
ETSI European Telecommunications
E-UTRAN Evolved UTRAN
FCC Federal Communications
FDD Frequency-division duplex
GPON Gigabit passive optical networks
GPRS General packet radio service
GSM Global System for Mobile
HD High definition
HetNet Heterogeneous network
HIPAA Health Insurance Portability and
HROU High [power] ROU
ICIC Inter-cell interference coordination
ICN Information-Centric Networking
iDAS Indoor DAS
IEEE Institute of Electrical and
IMS IP multimedia subsystem
IoT Internet of things
IP Internet Protocol
IPSec Internet Protocol security
ISM Industrial, scientific and medical
IT Information technology
ITU International Telecommunication
IWPC International Wireless Industry
KPI Key performance indicator
L2ROU Low 2 [watt] ROU
LAA Licensed-assisted access
LAN Large-area network
LBT Listen before talk
LEED Leadership in Energy and
LIPA Local IP access
LoRA Long Range [Wide Area Network]
LROU Low [power] ROU
LTE Long Term Evolution
LTE-A LTE Advanced
LTE-M LTE for M2M
LTE-U LTE Unlicensed
LWA LTE Wi-Fi aggregation
M2M Machine to machine
MAC Media Access Control [layer]
MCS Modulation and coding scheme
MDU Multiple dwelling units
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MEC Multiple-Access [was: Mobile] Edge
MIMO Multiple input, multiple output
MME Mobility management entity
mmW Millimeter wave
MROU Medium [power] ROU
MSC Mobile switching center
mUE Mobile user equipment
NBI North Bound Interface
NB-IoT Narrowband IoT
NEMA National Electrical Manufacturers
NFV Network Functions Virtualization
OBSAI Open Base Station Architecture
oDAS Outdoor DAS
OTDR Optical time domain reflectometer
OTN Optical transport network
OTT Over the top
PBX Private branch exchange
PCS Personal communications service
PDCP Packet data convergence protocol
PDN Plesiochronous digital hierarchy
PHY Physical [layer]
PIM Passive intermodulation
PON Passive optical network
POP Point of presence
QoE Quality of experience
QoS Quality of service
RAN Radio access network
RAT Radio access technology
RET Remote electrical tilt
RF Radio frequency
ROI Return on investment
ROU Remote optical unit
RPL Third-party logistics
RRC Radio Resource Control
RRH Remote radio heads
RSRP Reference signal received power
SDH Synchronous digital hierarchy
SDN Software-defined networking
SGSN Serving GPRS support node
SGW Serving gateway
SINR Signal to interference-plus-noise
SIPTO Selected IP Traffic Offload
SLA Service-level agreement
SON Self-organizing network
SONET Synchronous optical networking
SSID Service Set Identifier
TCO Total cost of ownership
TCP Transmission Control Protocol
TDD Time division duplex
UC Unified communications
UDN Ultra-dense network
UDP User Datagram Protocol
UE User equipment
UMTS Universal Mobile
UTRAN Universal Terrestrial Radio Access
ViLTE Video over LTE
VM Virtual machine
VoLTE Voice over LTE
VoWi-Fi Voice over Wi-Fi
vRAN Virtualized RAN
WCS Wireless Communication Services
WDM Wavelength-division multiplexing
WLAN Wireless local area network
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About RCR Wireless News
Since 1982, RCR Wireless News has been providing wireless and mobile industry news, insights, and analysis to
industry and enterprise professionals, decision makers, policy makers, analysts and investors. Our mission is to
connect, globally and locally, mobile technology professionals and companies online, in person, in print and
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News over other industry publications.
About Senza Fili
Senza Fili provides advisory support on wireless data technologies and services. At Senza Fili we have in-depth
expertise in financial modelling, market forecasts and research, white paper preparation, business plan support,
RFP preparation and management, due diligence, and training. Our client base is international and spans the
entire value chain: clients include wireline, fixed wireless and mobile operators, enterprises and other vertical
players, vendors, system integrators, investors, regulators, and industry associations. We provide a bridge
between technologies and services, helping our clients assess established and emerging technologies, leverage
these technologies to support new or existing services, and build solid, profitable business models.
Independent advice, a strong quantitative orientation, and an international perspective are the hallmarks of our
work. For additional information, visit www.senzafiliconsulting.com or contact us at
firstname.lastname@example.org or +1 425 657 4991.
About the author
Monica Paolini, PhD, is the founder and president of Senza Fili. She is an expert in wireless technologies and has
helped clients worldwide to understand new technologies and customer requirements, create and assess
financial TCO and ROI models, evaluate business plan opportunities, market their services and products, and
estimate the market size and revenue opportunity of new and established wireless technologies. She
frequently gives presentations at conferences, and writes reports, blog entries and articles on wireless
technologies and services, covering end-to-end mobile networks, the operator, enterprise and IoT markets. She
has a PhD in cognitive science from the University of California, San Diego (US), an MBA from the University of
Oxford (UK), and a BA/MA in philosophy from the University of Bologna (Italy). You can reach her at
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