C-RAN and the True 5G

5G Cloud RANWhile people may debate what 5G will be, there are a few key facts that cannot be changed. These facts will shape what 5G will be. Based on this we expect that new winners will emerge who can capitalize on new trends through innovating new solutions. Therefore, aside from the hype that dominates 5G talk, the key is to peel the layers that shroud the fundamentals. Over the last three years of researching the potential for Cloud RAN (C-RAN), I saw all the traits of a disruptive technology lurking in the background (2014, 2015). But with 5G, I think this can all change, and C-RAN will bolt to the foreground in more than one way. Read more of this post

Edging Closer Towards Disruption in Radio Access Networks

Cloud-RANIn past articles [1, 2], I stressed that Cloud RAN is a disruptive technology. There are a few reasons for this, but I think that most critical reason is that Cloud RAN breaks open a pricing structure that’s been in use ever since the wireless industry was created. The current pricing model for base stations is based on a tight coupling between hardware and software that is impossible to separate. So, when a network operator buys a base station, the operator selects how many frequency carriers each sector would support and a corresponding number of remote radio heads. This model becomes obsolete in Cloud RAN where the hardware and software are decoupled. There is no longer a 1:1 relationship between baseband modules and RRHs due to pooling and virtualization. New pricing schemes are now possible as there is more room for operators to optimize the subsystems they need in the network. Cloud RAN not only decouples hardware from software, but also changes the coupling among hardware subsystems. This has profound implications on the future cost structure of wireless networks and operators have taken notice. OEMs looking to challenge the position of the primary entrenched incumbents are leading the charge in Cloud RAN development with a vision to increase their market share. Read more of this post

Are MVNOs the Next OTTs?

MVNOThe wireless market in Canada is on the cusp of changes due to new regulations that open the market for a new breed of MVNO services. Full MVNOs are now possible: they will be able to have their own mobile network codes (MNCs) and provision their own IMSI numbers. Full MVNOs own their core network including all subscriber related entities (HLR or HSS, etc.) while relying on wholesale service provider for the radio access network only. This makes these MVNOs independent at least from a retail perspective from the underlying host wireless carrier. MVNOs will be able to make arrangements with multiple wireless carriers and negotiate their own roaming arrangements with other national and international carriers. However, the regulator stopped short of mandating MVNO models, leaving it in the hands of incumbent MNOs. So the question remains: will these new rules stimulate the market and allow greater vitality in what is now a dull MVNO landscape?  Read more of this post

It’s All Too Good To Keep Talking About The Capacity Problem

TalkingThe capacity problem is at the heart of everything said about the wireless industry. Everybody loves to talk about this problem. To start, it is easy to give examples of exploding data consumption forecasts or quote numbers on mobile applications such as Facebook, Twitter , Instagram and many others. I suspect that the capacity problem makes for a convenient argument for the different players in the mobile value chain to get what they want: it is a nice problem for everyone to have. For service provider side, it is the key to more frequency spectrum which further enhances increases their position in the market and consequently their value.  For solution vendors it gives them the opportunity to raise money, fund development projects and present forecasts for high revenues. For regulators it gives them the opportunity to sell spectrum and raise money. So everyone can benefit from the capacity problem, or so it seems. Read more of this post

Small Cells Progress Report – Challenges and Opportunities.

Small cells I have just released a new research report on the progress of small cell deployments in collaboration with ExelixistNet:  “Small Cell Ecosystem: Challenges and Opportunities.” The report examines mobile operators’ plans and deployment strategies of small cells and backhaul solutions along with vendor and technology preferences. The research is based on experience gathered by operators from market trials of small cells and wireless backhaul solutions conducted to evaluate the ecosystem deployment readiness and impact of small cell roll-out on operator financials and network performance. Read more of this post

Further Enhanced ICIC (FeICIC)

FeICIC LTE-AdvancedGuest post by Faris Alfarhan*

In an earlier post, R10-LTE enhanced inter-cell interference coordination (eICIC) techniques for heterogeneous networks were discussed, along with the concept of small cell range expansion. The purpose of cell range expansion is to offload more traffic from macro cells to small cells and hence achieve larger cell splitting gains. By adding a cell selection bias, the service area of small cells increases and more users are offloaded to small cells. The need for heterogeneous networks interference management schemes stems from the fact that users in the small cell range expansion area are vulnerable to stronger interference signals than useful signals from the associated serving small cell. In the previous post, it was explained how time domain partitioning based eICIC schemes – known as Almost Blank Subframes (ABS) – could be used to control the interference on the data channels in the range expansion region. Further, carrier aggregation based techniques – known as Cross Carrier Scheduling – could be used to control interference on the control channels (such as the PDCCH, PCFICH, and PHICH channels). However, R10 eICIC schemes did not address interference control on cell-specific reference signals (CRS), which cannot be blanked in order to ensure backward compatibility with R8 and R9 UEs. In this post, R11 improvements to eICIC schemes are discussed, along with the shortcomings of R10 eICIC schemes. First, the concept of Reduced Power Almost Blank Subframes (RP-ABS) is explained along with its advantages over ABS. I then discuss the R11 techniques of Further enhanced ICIC (FeICIC) to control the interference on CRS resources. Read more of this post

Trends in Wireless Network Densification

Small Cells - Network DensificationOne of the main trends in radio access network (RAN) is the bifurcation of systems that enable network densification. Today, mobile network operators have more options than ever before for the means of providing service to their subscribers. Alongside the evolution of wireless standards to provide higher spectral efficiency, vendors have unleashed a wide variety of radio access nodes. While the macro cell remains the workhorse, small cells, distributed antenna systems (DAS), distributed radio systems (DRS) and Cloud RAN (CRAN) are systems that will see increasingly wider deployment in the future. Given this, what are some of the trends that we see in this space? Read more of this post