Sunday, 7 February 2016

The Art of Disguising Cellular Antennas

When I did a blog post 'Disguising Small Cells in Rural areas' last year, many people were surprised to see these things. So here is another post showing how the antennas looks like and how they have to be disguised to blend in with the environment.

The above pictures shows fake date trees (with dates) near Koutoubia mosque, Marrakech, designed to blend in with the surroundings. In fact I have been told that these fake date trees are common in the Middle East and North African countries.

The above picture is from Dubai, showing similar palm tree. Source unknown.

The above picture, courtesy of Andy Sutton on Twitter shows a cell site near Blandford Forum. I hope you can spot the fake tree on top right.

Another one, courtesy of Andy Sutton on Twitter shows a cell site between motorway M56, J10 & 11 in Cheshire. Single operator but could be shared, single frequency band, x-pole with 3 cell sectors. Only two of the possible 3 cell sectors connected here. Pointing up and down motorway hence 4 feeders.

Another one courtesy of Andy Sutton on Twitter. Its been disguised to not look out of place unless someone is observing very carefully.
All three are fake trees and each is a separate cellular installation. The location is Lancashire, off the A6 between Slyne and Bolton-le-Sands. They are all different operators, left to right, O2, T-Mobile, Orange - although two will become one as part of EE of course.

Modern Art and Cellular Antenna, courtesy of Andy Sutton on Twitter.

What will happen when we transition to 5G, where we will have a lot more antennas because of MIMO (massive or not). China Mobile is researching into Smart Tiles, which are antennas that can be hidden inside Chinese characters. See the following for example:

With more antennas becoming commonplace in the urban environment, operators and vendors will have to keep up coming with innovative ways to disguise the antennas and hope no one notices.

See Also:

Saturday, 30 January 2016

SDN & NFV lecture

I have been meaning to add this interesting lecture delivered by Dr. Yaakov Stein of RAD at IETF.

The video, which cannot be embedded, is available here. If you cant wait to get into the main presentation, jump to 19.40 on the time bar at the bottom.

The slides from the presentation are embedded below.

Assuming that you understand NFV and SDN well, have a look at another interesting whitepaper that was published by Signals Research group, "Bending Iron – Software Defined Networks & Virtualization for the Mobile Operator", available here.

Thursday, 21 January 2016

IET Lecture: 5G – Getting Closer to Answers?

I was fortunate to be able to hear the IET Appleton lecture last week. The good thing about these lectures are that the speakers get plenty of time to talk about the subject of interest and as a result they can cover the topic in much greater depth.

Some interesting tweets from the evening:

Here is the video:

As I was sitting in the front, I managed to ask a question - "5G is going to be evolution and revolution. Will it be revolution first then evolution or vice versa". If you cant wait to hear the answer, you can jump to 1:21:30 in the video.

The answer also ties in nicely with my Linkedin post on '5G: Mine is bigger than yours'. 

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Interesting gadgets from CES 2016

Here are some gadgets from the recently concluded Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2016. These are all collected from the tweets and there is a Youtube video below if you are interested. There are just too many interesting things to list but do let me know which ones are your favourites.

Saturday, 9 January 2016

5G Spectrum Discussions

While most people are looking at 5G from the point of new technologies, innovative use cases and even lumping everything under sun as part of 5G, many are unaware of the importance of spectrum and the recently concluded ITU World Radio Conference 2015 (WRC-15).

As can be seen in the picture above, quite a few bands above 24GHz were identified for 5G. Some of these bands have an already existing allocation for mobile service on primary basis. What this means is that mobile services can be deployed in these bands. For 3G and 4G, the spectrum used was in bands below 4GHz, with 1800MHz being the most popular band. Hence there was never a worry for those high frequency bands being used for mobile communication.

As these bands have now been selected for study by ITU, 5G in these bands cannot be deployed until after WRC-19, where the results of these studies will be presented. There is a small problem though. Some of the bands that were initially proposed for 5G, are not included in this list of bands to be studied. This means that there is a possibility that some of the proponent countries can go ahead and deploy 5G in those bands.

For three bands that do not already have mobile services as primary allocation, additional effort will be required to have mobile as primary allocation for them. This is assuming that no problems are identified as a result of studies going to be conducted for feasibility of these bands for 5G.

To see real benefits of 5G, an operator would need to use a combination of low and high frequency bands as can be seen in the picture above. Low frequencies for coverage and high frequencies for capacity and higher data rates.

As I mentioned in an earlier blog post, 5G will be coming in two phases. Phase 1 will be Rel-15 in H2, 2018 and Phase 2, Rel-16, in Dec. 2019. Phase 1 of 5G will generally consist of deployment in lower frequency bands as the higher frequency bands will probably get an approval after WRC-19. Once these new bands have been cleared for 5G deployment, Phase 2 of 5G would be ready for deployment of these high frequency bands.

This also brings us to the point that 5G phase 1 wont be significantly different from LTE-A Pro (or 4.5G). It may be slightly faster and maybe a little bit more efficient.

One thing I suspect that will happen is start of switching off of 3G networks. The most commonly used 3G (UMTS) frequency is 2100MHz (or 2.1GHz). If a network has to keep some 3G network running, it will generally be this frequency. This will also allow other international users to roam onto that network. All other 3G frequencies would soon start migrating to 4G or maybe even 5G phase 1.

Anyway, 2 interesting presentations on 5G access and Future of mmWave spectrum are embedded below. They are both available to download from the UK Spectrum Policy Forum (SPF) notes page here.

Further reading:

Saturday, 2 January 2016

End to end and top to bottom network design…

A good way to start 2016 is by a lecture delivered by Andy Sutton, EE at the IET conference 'Towards 5G Mobile Technology – Vision to Reality'. The slides and the video are both embedded below. The video also contains Q&A at the end which people may find useful.

Videos of all other presentations from the conference are available here for anyone interested.

Saturday, 19 December 2015

ADS-B to enable global flight tracking

One of the things that the World Radio Conference 2015 (WRC-15) enabled was to provide a universal spectrum allocation for flight tracking. What this means in simple terms is that once completely implemented, flights will hopefully no longer be lost, like MH370. It will now be possible to accurately track flights with satellites across nearly 100% of the globe, up from 30% today, by 2018.

To make you better understand this, see this video below:

Automatic Dependent Surveillance (ADS) is a surveillance technique in which aircraft automatically provide, via a data link, data derived from on-board navigation and position-fixing systems, including aircraft identification, four-dimensional position and additional data as appropriate. ADS data is displayed to the controller on a screen that replicates a radar screen. ICAO Doc 4444 PANS-ATM notes that air traffic control service, may be predicated on the use of ADS provided that identification of the aircraft involved is unambiguously established. Two main versions of ADS are currently in use:

  • Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) is a function on an aircraft or surface vehicle that broadcasts position, altitude, vector and other information for use by other aircraft, vehicles and by ground facilities. It has become the main application of the ADS principle.
  • Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Contract (ADS-C) functions similarly to ADS-B but the data is transmitted based on an explicit contract between an ANSP and an aircraft. This contract may be a demand contract, a periodic contract, an event contract and/or an emergency contract. ADS-C is most often employed in the provision of ATS over transcontinental or transoceanic areas which see relatively low traffic levels. 

The ITU press release on this topic:

The frequency band 1087.7-1092.3 MHz has been allocated to the aeronautical mobile-satellite service (Earth-to-space) for reception by space stations of Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) emissions from aircraft transmitters.

The frequency band 1087.7-1092.3 MHz is currently being utilized for the transmission of ADS-B signals from aircraft to terrestrial stations within line-of-sight. The World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC-15) has now allocated this frequency band in the Earth-to-space direction to enable transmissions from aircraft to satellites. This extends ADS-B signals beyond line-of-sight to facilitate reporting the position of aircraft equipped with ADS-B anywhere in the world, including oceanic, polar and other remote areas.

WRC-15 recognized that as the standards and recommended practices (SARP) for systems enabling position determination and tracking of aircraft are developed by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the performance criteria for satellite reception of ADS-B signals will also need to be addressed by ICAO.

This agreement follows the disappearance and tragic loss of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 in March 2014 with 239 people on board, which spurred worldwide discussions on global flight tracking and the need for coordinated action by ITU and other relevant organizations.

For more details see:

Saturday, 12 December 2015

LTE-Advanced Pro (a.k.a. 4.5G)

3GPP announced back in October that the next evolution of the 3GPP LTE standards will be known as LTE-Advanced Pro. I am sure this will be shortened to LTE-AP in presentations and discussions but should not be confused with access points.

The 3GPP press release mentioned the following:

LTE-Advanced Pro will allow mobile standards users to associate various new features – from the Release’s freeze in March 2016 – with a distinctive marker that evolves the LTE and LTE-Advanced technology series.

The new term is intended to mark the point in time where the LTE platform has been dramatically enhanced to address new markets as well as adding functionality to improve efficiency.

The major advances achieved with the completion of Release 13 include: MTC enhancements, public safety features – such as D2D and ProSe - small cell dual-connectivity and architecture, carrier aggregation enhancements, interworking with Wi-Fi, licensed assisted access (at 5 GHz), 3D/FD-MIMO, indoor positioning, single cell-point to multi-point and work on latency reduction. Many of these features were started in previous Releases, but will become mature in Release 13.

LTE-evolution timelinea 350pxAs well as sign-posting the achievements to date, the introduction of this new marker confirms the need for LTE enhancements to continue along their distinctive development track, in parallel to the future proposals for the 5G era.

Some vendors have been exploring ways of differentiating the advanced features of Release-13 and have been using the term 4.5G. While 3GPP does not officially support 4.5G (or even 4G) terminology, a new term has been welcomed by operators and vendors alike.

I blogged about Release-13 before, here, which includes a 3GPP presentation and 4G Americas whitepaper. Recently Nokia (Networks) released a short and sweet video and a whitepaper. Both are embedded below:

The Nokia whitepaper (table of contents below) can be downloaded from here.

Monday, 7 December 2015

ITU Workshop on VoLTE and ViLTE Interoperability

ITU recently held a workshop on "Voice and Video Services Interoperability Over Fixed-Mobile Hybrid Environments,Including IMT-Advanced (LTE)" in Geneva, Switzerland on 1st December 2015.

The following is the summary of that workshop:

I also like this presentation by R&S:

All the presentations from the workshop are available online from ITU website here.