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Small Cells and More at 4G World 2011

Putting the "Win" in Windy City, Chicago's 4G World was the port of call for protocol last week. This year's event featured more small cell products, test and verification solutions, microwave backhaul, timing and synchronization products, and no short...

October 29, 2011
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4G World is the annual fall event dedicated to emerging wireless network technology, held at the McCormick Place Convention Center by the Yankee Group and their partners. Formerly known as WiMax World several years ago, the show itself has evolved with the technology dedicated to wireless internet delivery. This year featured over 300 sponsors and exhibitors, 80 interactive sessions and over 200 speakers. While most of the exhibitors are system and equipment providers, there are a few microwave folks, especially from the test and measurement and backhaul sectors.

4G Test Solutions

Agilent was demoing its new solution for addressing multi-standard radio (MSR) test challenges with the industry’s first MSR measurement application (N9083A/W9083A) compliant with 3GPP Release 9. The MSR measurement application enables one-button, standards-based testing on X-Series signal analyzers per the RF requirements defined in the TR 37 series of the 3GPP Release 9 standard, making it ideal for base stations and base station component manufacturing. MSR capability has also been added to LTE Signal Studio software (N7624B) for signal generation in component test. The embedded application allows co-existing testing, component and base-station test, production pass/fail test.

The company was also showing off their E6621A PXT Wireless Communications Test Set, which was introduced in early September. The test set provides a powerful, common hardware test platform for use across the LTE development lifecycle and is designed for RF characterization, protocol verification and end-to-end application testing of LTE user equipment (UE). This new instrument transforms LTE device verification by minimizing design uncertainty and reducing lab setup time, while maximizing performance and scalability representing a significant breakthrough in LTE UE testing. It incorporates flexible base station/network emulation and RF parametric tests into one integrated unit and extends Agilent’s unmatched portfolio of LTE test solutions for development and verification.

The E6621A PXT hardware is configurable with a number of advanced test and analysis software options, which were also being shown off by Agilent Sr. Wireless Applications Engineer, David Barner. Barner demonstrated how powerful the software was for debugging. The N6051A LTE RF parametric test with test mode signaling supports a suite of LTE RF measurements that may be used for characterization, calibration, and verification purposes, available while on a connection, ideal for the RF engineer. With realistic base station/network emulation, the PXT LTE test set offers a controlled environment which can be used to verify network attach, idle and connected mode operation and functional performance such as throughput. The PXT provides maximum flexibility to configure a range of connection and network parameters so enabling test, stress, and debug of the protocol and data handling capabilities of designs including DL 2x2 MIMO and handovers. LTE protocol logging and analysis are essential tools for debugging interoperability issues inevitable with evolving radio technologies such as LTE.

Anritsu was recently recognized by the Global Certification Forum (GCF) for offering more protocol conformance test cases for LTE terminal equipment than any other test system vendor. Anritsu's LTE protocol test cases are written for the ME7834 mobile device test platform, which is based on the proven MD8430A (LTE) and MD8480C (UTRAN/GERAN) signalling testers. Anritsu now has the most validated protocol test cases in Band 1, Band 4, Band 5, Band 13, and Band 20. These bands are deployed by major operators in North America, Europe, Japan and Korea.

At the same GCF meeting, Anritsu's LTE RF conformance test system, the ME7873L, also became the first to gain 80% validation for Band 5. In addition, it became the world’s first test platform to gain approval for RF test cases for Bands 11 and 18. Anritsu now has more validated RF/RRM test cases in both Frequency Division Duplex (FDD) and Time Division Duplex (TDD) technologies than any other test equipment manufacturer.

Using Rohde & Schwarz equipment, Renesas Mobile was demonstrating the performance of its HSPA+ modem with data rates of up to 42 Mbps, which will allow mobile handset manufacturers to deliver LTE services over 3G. This includes multitasking and high performance video and audio while enabling users to experience a consistent network. The modem’s performance was being demonstrated using the R&S CMW500, a compact solution for fast and precise production testing of current and future wireless devices from basic mobile phones to the most sophisticated PDAs. The multi-technology platform allows users to implement the concept of a lean production line from start to finish using a single measuring instrument to cover all RF test requirements.

In addition to being a general purpose RF power meter and CW generator with List modes for fast calibration of wireless devices, the platform includes vector signal analyzer (VSA) for transmitter verification , vector signal generator (VSG) for expanded receiver testing: ARB mode for short setup times or online mode for complex signals with high data volume, signaling (network emulation) for functional testing, Reference RF power measurement enabled by direct connection of R&S®NRP-Zxx power sensors and easy connection to wireless devices with complex RF architecture by using the integrated RF interface. The entire product portfolio provides comprehensive testing for LTE/LTE-Advanced including LTE signaling function with the R&S®CMW500 Radio Communication Tester and interoperability and conformance testing with the R&S®CMW500 LTE protocol tester. R&S was also using the R&SCMS500 configured with their R&S UPL audio analyzer to demonstrate a test solution for monitoring Voice over LTE (VoLTE).

Spirent announced their new CS8 wireless device design tester targeting engineers designing cellular phones, tablets, data cards and machine-to-machine cellular modules. The CS8 platform provides a wide range of multi-technology testing scenarios for the device development engineer. Multiple test modes tailor the interfaces and functionality to address the task at hand for all stages of the design cycle.

CS8’s RF/Baseband capabilities can easily be expanded to add the world’s most advanced network emulation for protocol and system-level testing, CS8 network emulation includes Spirent’s exclusive network-grade emulated Evolved Packet Core (EPC). This state-machine-based EPC brings realistic IPv4/v6 network-side message responses and timing verification to the lab…without requiring a single line of script. It provides advantages over using a fixed script-based EPC. CS8 boasts multi-cell, multi-RAT capability, integrated MIMO support and purpose-specific interfaces designed to ensure efficiency and optimal testing workflow. The EPC testing solution is already being used by infrastructure vendors to verify their network equipment.

Polaris Networks demonstrated their functional and load test solutions for LTE access and core network elements. This Massachusetts company offers a series of test tools (Functional Testers and Emulators) used by equipment manufacturers and operators to test E-UTRAN and EPC viz., eNB, MME, S-GW and PDN-GW for conformance to 3GPP specifications, feature and load testing. The emulator tools are also used by companies providing solutions for Network Security, Network Planning to test their applications on a simulated LTE network.

Small Cells are Big Topic

At 4G World, a lot of the discussion revolved around lowering the cost of building 4G wireless infrastructure and, in so doing, hastening the rollout of 4G services. To address this concern, Cavium Inc. announced their new “Superchip” specifically designed for 3G / 4G small cell base stations (micros, femtos, picos) and is essentially a "base station on a chip." Unlike in 3G networks where small cells such as femtos and picos are used as “add ons” to fill in service gaps and enhance service quality, in 4G the build out of new classes of small cell base stations figure to play a major role in the construction of network infrastructure, but they need dramatically more computing power. In addition, increasing the cell density through small cell technology is the only way to meet the exploding 4G data throughput demand and deploying thousands of these network access devices necessitates very high integration and dramatic cost reductions for carriers and equipment manufacturers. Cavium claims that the new chip is the industry’s most complete single chip small cell solution and, as such, represents an important development in this direction.

DragonWave®, introduced the company’s new hardened, all-outdoor, zoning-friendly and fully integrated “Avenue” platform. Avenue accommodates a wide range of 3G or 4G microcellular RAN access units and leverages an integrated backhaul antenna array supporting up to three simultaneous backhaul beam paths using frequencies ranging from 2 GHz to 80 GHz to deliver 1.2 Gbps of aggregate, full-duplex capacity. Alternatively, the Avenue can be backhauled via fiber or DSL. This small cell solution allows service providers to quickly scale capacity, increase in-building service coverage and optimize spectrum usage.

The compact design allows it to be easily mounted on street lamps, traffic-light poles or building walls. The completely integrated nature of the Avenue unit addresses zoning-friendliness and ease of installation. RAN base stations integrated into the Avenue can be backhauled over distances up to 4 km/2.5 mi. The Avenue’s ultra-high capacity enables the support of a wide range of network topologies (self-healing rings, constrained meshes, point-to-point/daisy-chaining or multi-point). The DragonWave Avenue solution claims to be the industry’s smallest device, utilizing the industry’s smallest antenna, to integrate microcellular backhaul, third-party base stations, power supply, battery backup, switching, and management in an all-in-one, environmentally shielded enclosure.

Alvarion is best-known as a macro base station vendor specializing in WiMAX and more recently time-division LTE technologies. But as the WiMAX market wanes, the company has been expanding its horizons with a new product initiative called Wireless Capacity and Coverage. At 4G World, Alvarion is making its way into small cell territory by announcing BreezeCell, its first product to emerge from this program. BreezeCell is a new distributed antenna system (DAS) kit, designed for indoor deployments.

The Inside Out Solutions from Powerwave, delivers pinpoint mobile broadband coverage and capacity for both indoors and outdoors use. Powerwave’s wireless portfolio includes active array antennas, picocells and radio heads that enable 4G rollout. Powerwave's Internet Commanded Combiner (iCC) is the first filter combiner that enables deployment of LTE services alongside 3G networks in a matter of days, and provides efficient spectrum and bandwidth management. Meanwhile, the company’s LTE Picocell was just named a finalist for the Best of 4G Awards in the 'Best New Network Infrastructure Solution' category. The compact LTE and Wi-Fi base station delivers up to 15 times greater overall system capacity, which is ideal for areas with high day usage or weak network signals.

Spidercloud announced the industry's first Small Cell Cluster delivering wireless coverage and capacity indoors using a configuration of Ethernet Linked Small Cells. According to the company, the SmartCloud Cluster handled a daily average of 3,000 calls and 50,000 data sessions operating at just 38% capacity. Most importantly, voice quality improved compared to typical commercial macrocell experience and individual users were able to reliably downlink data at 5-10 Mbps and uplink at 2 Mbps – much higher than a typical shared macrocell environment.

Addressing Network Costs

AOptix was featuring their new IntelliMax™, a unique series of wireless products that support 4G mobile backhaul. The newly introduced MB-2000 features an Industry first 2 Gbps CIR with future channel BW scalability to 10 Gbps, representing a major breakthrough in rate & reach. The result is long distance coverage for multi-gigabit Ethernet based wireless transport with the lowest cost/Gbit/km according to the company. This ultra high end solution is made possible with the introduction of 3 key proprietary technologies: Active Beam Steering (ABS) which compensates for tower twist & sway and allows operators to utilize previously unusable real-estate on existing towers (lowering the cost of ownership); Advanced Wavelength Diversity (AWD) which mitigates weather disturbances; and Dynamic Packet Resourcing (DPR), which ensures error free packets. Company spokesperson stated that the MB-2000 can extend coverage range in urban environments out to 10 km compared to the 1 to 2km range of e-band backhaul system.

On the e-band backhaul topic, I met with Gaby Junowicz of Siklu, an Israeli-based company in Chicago to show off their EtherHaul E-band system for the first time in North America. This point-to-point solution handles 4G and LTE backhaul in congested environments and is priced at about a fifth as much as competing solutions, according to company officials. It is compact, low-power, and easy to install.

EtherHaul radio operates in the relatively new and unused E-band wireless spectrum. This delivers an immediate additional cost advantage, since E-band license costs range from free to hundreds of dollars, compared to thousands of dollars for traditional 6-38 GHz licensed bands. The company uses all-silicon design and integration that uses fewer components, significantly minimizes costs and delivers greater reliability. According to Junowicz, sales this year top $5 million mostly in Europe. The company has been used in over 1,000 links (the leading number of E-band links in Europe), all in private and enterprise networks. The company is currently proving its capabilities for mobile backhaul under non-ideal weather conditions with trial operations in India during the monsoon season. Look for entry into the US market this upcoming year as well as products at 60 GHz.

Another Israeli company, Ceragon a new wireless backhaul solution for 4G/LTE mobile networks. provides high-capacity wireless backhaul solutions with more features at the lowest cost. At 4G World, Ceragon announced the release of FibeAir® IP-10Q, a high-density, wireless backhaul solution optimized for Ethernet & IP/MPLS aggregation networks. Designed to provide up to 4 Gbps of traffic, and support up to four carriers in a single rack unit, the high-density FibeAir IP-10Q enables operators to deliver high network availability, low latency and low jitter.

FibeAir IP-10Q features industry advanced traffic optimization technologies,enabling an ultra-high capacity, flexible and cost-optimized wireless packet backhaul solution. Its innovative frame cut-through technology also provides extremely low latency for delay-sensitive applications, with up to 70% reduction in frame delay compared to other available solutions. The device enables operators to meet strict subscriber service level agreement (SLA) requirements through its no single point of failure (SPoF) design, and is optimized for migration from SONET/SDH aggregation networks to packet networks. This enables easy upgrade for legacy multi-carrier wireless systems with the flexibility of maintaining radio units, antennas and cabling.

RAD Data Communications introduced their ETX-5300A, a 10G Carrier Ethernet Access Aggregation Platform for mobile backhaul, SLA-based (service-level agreements) wholesale services, Ethernet business services, and more. The platform promises to replace four separate pieces of equipment with a single platform. RAD was also talking about their microwave 4G/LTE mobile backhaul solutions and how it addresses backhaul challenges such as timing and synchronization.

On the topic of timing and synchronization, Symmetricom a leading provider of precise time solutions for the communications, aerospace/defense, IT infrastructure and metrology industries was also in attendance at booth # 2716. As networks migrate to 4G/LTE, timing and synchronization requirements have been much stricter. Timing and synchronization are vital to effectively deliver voice, data, video services, location based services and application, and E911 across networks. Symmetricom advanced timing technologies, atomic clocks, services and solutions are used by communications service providers and network equipment manufacturers to governments and their suppliers worldwide, to build more reliable networks and systems. The company’s products support today's precise timing standards, including GPS-based timing, IEEE 1588 (PTP), Network Time Protocol (NTP), Synchronous Ethernet and DOCSIS(R) timing. At 4G World the company highlighted their first-of-its-kind synchronization solution for the telecom industry as it drives towards standardization around LTE platforms.

In collaboration with Aviat Networks, Symmetricom has successfully conducted tests over 10 hops while guaranteeing synchronization in a microwave network. Microwave backhaul is usually deployed in multiple hops from the aggregation point to a cell site. Maintaining the signal across a large number of hops is truly an achievement. For more information on the results of the IEEE 1588v2 synchronization over packet microwave networks deployment, download the application note developed with Aviat Networks.

SAF Tehnika launched a 100 Mbps Full Duplex Licence Free microwave radio - SAF FreeMile. This Full Outdoor radio is for Ethernet packet data and E1 voice transmission, designed and manufactured to operate in licence-free frequency band 24GHz. The radio system, which is a new product for the North American market, combines features like interference-free operation, high availability despite bad weather conditions, Carrier grade full duplex capacity with no cost of licensing and quick installation. In the USA as well as in Canada, SAF Tehnika offers point-to-point microwave radio systems: Freemile, CFIP Lumina and CFIP-106 Full Outdoor Radios as well as CFIP PhoeniX Split Mount systems operating in 6, 7, 11, 13, 15, 18, 23, 24 and 38 GHz frequency bands. CommScope’s new active antennas, part of its expanding portfolio of 4G network solutions, have been installed in conjunction with a multi-site LTE trial from a leading North American wireless network operator. This constitutes a big step toward the wide implementation of LTE technology and, in the implementation process, will make LTE accessible to more users by lowering the cost of cell site equipment, maintenance costs and energy consumption.

Addressing Traffic Demands with Spectral Efficiency

A recurring theme among suppliers is the desire to expand bandwidth capacity and increase spectrum allocations in critical areas with quick and cost-effective solutions. Mobile operators are increasingly turning to microcellular underlay networks to augment over-burdened macro-cellular networks. An impediment to deploying cost-effective underlay networks has been the backhaul required to deliver capacity to the lamp post or light standard where these microcells are situated, as well as providing the infrastructure (power, environmental, switching, etc.) to support such deployments.

According to Jennifer Pigg, Yankee Group Vice President, Network Research, “Yankee Group’s Mobile Operator clients expect to deploy 10-15 or more microcells for each macrocell in urban centers in order to meet anticipated coverage and capacity demands over the next three to five years. The cost structure for deploying and maintaining these tens of thousands of microcells must be completely different from that of a macrocell. Mobile operators are demanding flexible solutions that can accommodate a multitude of backhaul topologies, and that are compact and easily installed to quickly and effectively meet the capacity demands of burgeoning mobile traffic.”

ISCO INTL introduced its new “PROTEUS® 4G” spectrum conditioning system for 4G / LTE eNodeB Base Stations. The system conditions the 700MHz RF Spectrum in order to increasing coverage area and data transfer rates. The Proteus 4G acts as an intelligent “front end” installed at eNodeB base stations applying the company’s patented digital signal processing to improve performance as measured, for instance, in the key RIP (Reverse Interference Power) and thermal noise power metrics. Essentially, as RIP and thermal noise increase, coverage area and data transfer rates decrease – negatively impacting data throughput and causing subscriber devices to “power up” in order to connect with the eNodeB, thereby reducing battery life.

Spectrum conditioning also promises to extend coverage range by improving the signal to noise ratio. During drive tests, with co-channel interference present, connectivity could not be established beyond 1.5 miles. “The Proteus 4G extended the coverage area of the cell site, allowing connectivity in excess of two miles with expected downlink and uplink data rate performance.“ claims CEO Gordon Reichard. “To date testing with major LTE network operators has revealed a 20 percent increase in uplink data rates and a 15 percent increase in cell coverage. “

Proteus 4G PurePass digital signal processing provides spectrum conditioning across 5, 10, 15 or 20MHz of channel bandwidths and accounts for the time domain structure of LTE, which is different than 3G CDMA and UMTS. In addition, PurePass recognizes the complex varying power spectral density of LTE in the frequency domain measuring at high resolution within the resource block.

While spectrum conditioning will be critical to delivering the data rates LTE promises, it will become even more important to existing 3G networks that will remain in place and operational for at least the next three to five years. UMTS and CDMA will continue to carry voice traffic and provide coverage in areas waiting for LTE coverage. Spectrum conditioning can increase capacity by maximizing the performance of 3G. Therefore, a network operator can delay or avoid the capital expenditure of having to increase capacity by deploying an extra carrier to serve more customers. Spectrum Conditioning can also increase data transfer rates to minimize the impact on the subscriber experience when falling back to 3G.

Recent Articles by David Vye

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