Fact Check: Adding Capacity in an E-RAN System

August 24, 2015

We have encountered a number of incorrect opinions about how to add capacity to an E-RAN installation. It’s time to clarify the concerns, and set the record straight.

Adding capacity to an E-RAN installation is done by increasing the size of backhaul connecting it to the mobile core. Further, the contemporary Ethernet Network Termination Equipment “NTE” that are implemented by Tier One operators, adding capacity is performed by an OSS system by increasing the logical rate on a 1Gbps Ethernet physical port. There is no need to visit the building, add additional Radio Nodes and cabling, or install new cards in a chassis.

In the balance of this post, we review the E-RAN technical characteristics that support the approach of increasing backhaul to add capacity to an E-RAN.

E-RAN Technical

  • Each SpiderCloud Radio Node (SCRN-310) offers 2 cells (sectors) of capacity, and supports up to 128 active users.
  • Up to 100 SCRN-310s can be connected to a Services Node. The Services Node supports over 10,000 subscribers.
  • The number of Radio Nodes in a building is based on coverage. Each radio node covers 750-1000 sq. m. (7,500-10,000 sq. ft.).
  • A single 20Mhz wide LTE carrier can deliver up to 150Mbps of downlink to a mobile device.
  • The fronthaul network supporting the cloud of Radio Nodes associated with a Services Node is typically a 1Gb PoE+ link to an Ethernet VLAN with a 10Gbps backbone that interconnects the switches.

To make sense of this, typical commercial structures in the USA and Europe allocate anywhere from 15-25 sq. m. per person (150-250 sq. ft.) and, for purposes of this Fact Check, we’ll use a density of 10 sq. m. per person. This means that the maximum population supported by a single RN-310 with 750 sq. m. of coverage will be 75 people – of which only a small amount will be consuming capacity from their serving Radio Node at any moment in time.

Clearly, there is a huge amount of RF link capacity available to serve the mobile devices in this example. Note that each RN provides more capacity to a 1,000 sq. m. area than many DAS (or remote radio head systems) provide to a 10,000 sq. m. building. We shared, in this post, our view of spectrum re-use and how the E-RAN is analogous to the wired network revolution that was led by the emergence of 10Base-T and Ethernet switches.

In our experience, there is rarely a situation in which an operator has to add a Radio Node due to RF resource contention.

Now, let’s look at the backhaul that connects the Services Node to the mobile core. When an E-RAN system is viewed from end to end, the sizing of the backhaul is generally the bottleneck in any performance scenario. What limits the capacity of an E-RAN system is the backhaul that the operator delivers. If the operator delivers 100 Mbps of backhaul to an E-RAN with 20 RNs, it will operate at <5% of its capacity. If an operator wants to add capacity to an E-RAN, all they need to do is to increase the backhaul coming into the building.

Fact Check Recap:
Question: How do you add capacity to an E-RAN?
Answer: Increase the size of the backhaul as-needed. No truck rolls or on-site work required.

To our readers, if you have additional questions or areas of interest around implementation, please contact us. We’re happy to Fact Check what you may have been told.

– Art King, SpiderCloud Wireless, Director of Enterprise Services & Technologies

Twitter: @EMobilityInside
Visit our Enterprise IT site @ http://SpiderCloud.com/EInsider

The Sober Reality of Small Cells

March 22, 2013

Mobile operators and vendors alike are awakening to the sober reality of the complexity involved in deploying 10s and 100s of hundreds of small cells in a very dense indoor and outdoor area. One cannot simply forget about 3G and “skip” to 4G – nor forget about Wi-Fi as an integral access technology.

Beyond the marketing hype, not all “small cells” are the same. This is no different than the Wi-Fi market 10 years ago. You simply do not deploy a Linksys where you need an Aruba system, or an Airespace system where Netgear does the job. The same market segmentation that took place with Wi-Fi over a decade ago, is now taking place in the emerging market of small cells.

A mobile operator cannot afford to deploy several access points where one solution can do the job, especially when competing for the lucrative medium to large enterprise market. Enterprises show a strong willingness to switch mobile operators for better coverage. The Market Opportunity for mobile operators in US and Europe is $100 billion for enterprise services. The business case for various small cell approaches was also covered during the panel Network Offloading during MWC. The pragmatic solution for operators and medium to large enterprises is a multi-access small cell system of 3G+4G+Wi-Fi that is an integral part of a larger network that can be deployed rapidly, and easily, and guarantee reliability.

Leveraging mobile operators for services beyond basic coverage and capacity, enterprises can save 35% a year by adopting such managed and hosted services, totaling $60 Billion in cumulative IT savings between 2014-2020. Why the importance of in-building coverage? Spectrum – it is like oil, and today this valuable licensed spectrum is a largely under-utilized asset indoors. Small Cell systems can help an operator re-use up to 50% of spectrum already owned.

Our five-year+ strategic focus on small cells as a system powered by the Enterprise LAN, interference mitigation, soft-handoff, multi-mode 3G/4G+Wi-Fi, and enabling services beyond coverage and capacity – to make deployments inside medium to large enterprises possible – is now being validated as big and small players are starting to come into our market.

Making and scaling a multi-access small cell system that is an integrated part of a mobile operator’s network – is not easy. A SpiderCloud system is deployable by a mobile operator in just days using SON, and is proven to handle over 100,000 data sessions and handoffs on a daily basis while providing reliable voice and data coverage for hundreds to thousands of employees with just one connection to the mobile core network.

It’s clear that there is tremendous interest and traction for multi-mode access using a scalable small cell system (>100 small cells with soft handoff and central coordination) to deliver reliable mobile services indoors for enterprise customers of any size.  In addition to performance metrics of the SpiderCloud scalable small cell system, operators and partners are now engaging us in “beyond coverage and capacity” planning with enterprise services focused on PBX and Cloud-based PBX integration, context-aware and location applications, security and compliance, and Wi-Fi as a service. We know the enterprise concerns, challenges and requirements. “Enterprise Insider” highlights Enterprise CIO and IT’s priorities and requests for Mobility Applications and Cloud Services (MACS) from mobile operators – as business customers transition from a wireless to a mobile enterprise.

What we do know is that multi-access Small Cells (3G+4G+Wi-Fi – as a market) is fast becoming a reality. Not all small cells are the same.

– Ronny Haraldsvik SVP/CMO
Twitter: haraldsvik

Around the World… in 88 Meetings

March 8, 2013

Last week, SpiderCloud Wireless attended, and actively participated, at the annual Mobile World Congress trade show in Barcelona. Though we miss the old location at Fira Montjuic, the new conference facility at Fira Gran Via proved itself a worthy venue. GSMA put on an impressive event again. Our hats off to Mike O’Hara and team!  See the Wrap Up Video.

We hosted 88 meetings and engagements during the 4 days. In addition, SpiderCloud Wireless was part of a fortunate few private companies invited to speak. We had 3 speaker slots on Tuesday, February 26:

  • Network Offloading” panel @ Mobile World Live TV
  • “What Enterprise IT Wants…” @ Small Cell Forum Pavilion
  • “Smaller But Smarter” small cell CEO panel (Mike)

Several themes emerged from MWC13.

1. The physical borders between mobile and service provider networks and enterprise IT networks are starting to “blur.” Ericsson, Juniper, Intel, IBM and Cisco were among the big firms positioning SDN and virtualization initiatives (including DPI, policy, optimization, etc.)

2. A new round of Smartphone OS wars are emerging. Mozilla, Ubuntu and Jolla are coming on strong and see an opportunity to disrupt a growing duopoly of Apple iOS and Google Android. Mozilla Firefox received support by 23 operators and partners.

3. Small Cell Networks and Integration of Wi-Fi also dominated the topics.  Small cells are now viewed as more mature and becoming a real market. As Needham Co. puts it: “small cells and hetnets remain one of the most popular topics at MWC, there is also a welcome sense of sobriety to hetnet discussions, following two years of relatively limited deployments. The complex reality of deploying hundreds, if not thousands of small cells in a geographically constrained area, as well as the lack of capacity constraints on many early stage 4G networks, has resulted in the small cell market generally moving slower than envisioned, when the hype cycle began two years ago.”

Rethink Wireless & Maravedis commented: “Most operators are interested in the elements involved and making active preparations, so this year saw the debate move from theory and hardware, to real world implementation issues such as self-optimizing networks, Wi-Fi integration and optimized back office platforms.” There was also the recognition that SON will have a critical role when it comes to the deployment of small cells, especially on a large-scale basis.

Signals Research Group stated: “In-building deployments will need SON/HetNet on steroids since in addition to managing the relationships and interference coordination between adjacent cells on the same floor, SON/HetNet will need to work in the vertical plane, or between two or multiple floors.”

“Challenges that are being addressed by equipment providers include how to backhaul the cells, site acquisition challenges, how to manage interference between both small cells and the macro network, or if fresh spectrum needs to be allocated to small cells, and integration of small-cells with Wi-Fi. Privately held SpiderCloud offers a smart small-cell alternative (focused mainly on indoor coverage applications) with its controller-based self-optimizing network architecture.”

It’s clear that there is tremendous interest and traction for multi-mode access using a scalable small cell system (>100 small cells with soft handoff and central coordination) to deliver reliable mobile services indoors for enterprise customers of any size.  In addition to showcasing our performance metrics with the scalable small cell system, many meetings also focused on scaling requirements for small cell deployments and “beyond coverage and capacity” planning with enterprise services focused on PBX and Cloud-based PBX integration, context-aware and location applications, security and compliance, and Wi-Fi as a service.

In their MWC wrap up, Deutsche Bank commented: “The challenges solved by SpiderCloud are much greater for multi-story buildings, given that interference issues are three dimensional instead of two dimensional, as with traditional layouts. Given the increase in efficiency seen by Vodafone and the significantly lower total cost of SpiderCloud¹s solution compared to that of a traditional DAS system, we think the company could see a meaningful ramp in deployments with carriers this year.”

Besides scalability and services, of great interest, was also the findings from 3 recent studies:

  • Valuable licensed spectrum is a largely under-utilized asset indoors: Quantifying the in-building coverage and capacity constraints of an outdoor macro network that is used to provide in-building mobile data services – a research report by Signals Research Group. read more >
  • Enterprise Mobility Services: Market Opportunity for Mobile Service Providers – a market analysis by Exact Ventures that highlights a $100 billion 2020 emerging market opportunity for mobile operators. The research shows that enterprises can save 35% a year by adopting such operator-delivered managed and hosted services, totaling $60 Billion in cumulative savings between 2014-2020. read more >
  • Enterprise IT Coverage & Capacity UK satisfaction survey, which identified concerns with in-building service and willingness to switch mobile operators for better coverage. read more >

We enjoyed positive coverage from our time in Barcelona, and look forward to meeting customers, partners and our industry friends at one of our upcoming industry engagements.

As for us, we already look forward to Mobile World Congress 2014 and continued success for all the small cell vendors.

– Ronny Haraldsvik SVP/CMO
Twitter: haraldsvik

Part 1 of 5: Mobile Networks need to transform to handle large amounts of signalling and data traffic generated by smart devices inside the Enterprise

July 21, 2011

The advent of the Apple 3G iPhone and proliferation of wireless computing platforms are driving a new wave of mobile broadband service demands. Users are no longer satisfied with voice services only, and multimedia connectivity via mobile devices has become the new benchmark for every day interactions. As demand for multimedia interaction increases, the per-user bandwidth consumption also increases. The focus is no longer simply on improving mobile coverage for voice services; mobile operators need to find new ways to improve wireless capacity where end users consume mobile broadband services.

Existing mobile networks provide wide area services and broad geographic coverage outside, but suffer from the disadvantage that as the number of indoor subscribers increases, the overall network performance for all subscribers will experience degradation and compromised service quality. This degradation is accentuated when subscribers consume a lot of capacity while indoors at work. Serving high capacity indoor subscribers while maintaining or improving the quality of the network seen by outdoor subscribers is a significant challenge for Mobile Network Operators (MNOs). With mobile data traffic doubling each year and currently representing 30% of the ARPU, MNOs need a viable, cost-effective and highly scalable indoor wireless system to penetrate enterprise segments to capture new customers, while improving the overall network capacity experience for all subscribers.

Limitations of existing technology solutions

Existing technology solutions range from the re-configuration of the macro cellular network and the addition of dedicated picocells, to the deployment of stand-alone femtocells designed primarily for residential use. These approaches do not scale to the demands of an enterprise deployment for various reasons. The re-configuration of the macro cellular network or the addition of dedicated picocells (with or without Distributed Antenna Systems, known as DAS) are both commonly used methods for providing additional coverage with an emphasis on voice services. Both of these methods in essence copy the existing macro network and direct it towards, or physically move it indoors. The decision for the mobile operator regarding which method to use is largely influenced by cost of deployment. The picocell approach requires that the same installation, commissioning and optimization procedures be applied, with some installations further requiring the use of DAS to meet indoor voice coverage requirements. DAS systems are essentially static deployments and any changes, such as adding or moving antennas to address new customer needs, are costly and complex. Although both approaches help address coverage issues, they are not scalable, do not solve the voice and data capacity issues and are costly on a per-square foot and per point of presence (PoP) comparison. Moreover they do not offer any benefits in terms of local data off-loading or reducing cost of backhaul links as all traffic still needs to be routed through the operator’s core.

An alternative approach is the use of multiple stand-alone femtocells or Femto Access Points (FAPs). Femtocells are low capacity network elements designed primarily for residential use. For the enterprise, a different and more scalable architecture is needed. There are many parallels to the use of femtocells with the issues encountered with the introduction of Wi-Fi into the enterprise: seamless handoff, scalability, security, RF interference mitigation and management, just to name a few. The requirements of licensed spectrum are stringent and the use of a mobile network operator’s spectrum requires a different set of features and a highly scalable architecture.

SpiderCloud Wireless has created an Enterprise Radio Access Network (E-RAN) class of systems for the delivery of cellular broadband services for the “Era of Capacity” for scalable enterprise deployments. The SmartCloud® architecture is a new system to enable this process of delivering targeted capacity at the point of demand and consumption –constructing the networks of the future “inside-out”. SpiderCloud Wireless is founded on the premise that without a centralized “controller-based” architecture, small cells deployed inside cannot scale to meet either the capacity and coverage needs of medium and large enterprises or the operator requirements in the context of manageability and core network integration.

Mobile Networks need to transform to handle large amounts of signalling and data traffic generated by smart devices inside the Enterprise. In the following blogs we’ll discusses the technical advantages of the E-RAN system architecture and highlight the limitations in deployments of current indoor cellular solutions.

Tassos Michail
Director of Product Management