Under pressure: tackling railway connectivity in 2016 (downloadable guide)

Railway connectivityWireless connectivity on trains is set to become a key area of focus for the wireless industry over the coming years. On-board connectivity remains a significant technical challenge; providing connectivity to people within a fast-moving object that often encounters mobile blackspots is inherently difficult. However, pressure is rising from governments and passengers to improve the current levels of wireless service available on trains.

Currently, enhanced on-board wireless solutions face two major barriers. The first is how to enable cellular connectivity. The second is how to secure sufficient capacity for on-train usage and the necessary backhaul where on-train Wi-Fi is installed. While the technologies are available today to solve these challenges, the business case for moving connectivity along remains largely elusive.

rail-connectivityNow though we are seeing some interesting moves in the market that may help to break the commercial deadlock we have seen in recent years. In particular governments around the world are now attempting to ease some of the pressure by investing in connectivity for trains. The UK government is investing £50m to ensure passengers benefit from free Wi-Fi by 2017. The state government of Victoria, Australia, has committed $40m to tackle mobile coverage blackspots across the region’s Geelong, Ballarat, Bendigo, Seymour and Traralgon lines.

Although these developments are welcome, ultimately the ‘right’ solution needs to work for train operators, mobile network operators and rail passengers alike. All industry stakeholders now need to work together to produce business cases that can benefit every party involved.

At this time of shifting market dynamics Real Wireless has put together a short guide assessing the current situation with regards to wireless on trains along with our independent expert recommendations for ensuring connectivity remains on track.

Solving the Wi-Fi challenge on trains

4479165212_390daa988d_oIt’s been just over a year since the government announced its ambitious target to have free Wi-Fi on trains by 2017. While the intention is obviously a good one (who doesn’t want connectivity on trains?) there are still significant barriers in place that are hindering the country’s changes of getting anywhere close to that target.

I was recently at an event called Going Underground a couple of weeks ago discussing the ins and outs of connectivity on trains. What’s clear from that event is that there are technical challenges with on-board Wi-Fi that won’t go away. Wi-Fi’s access technology “Carrier Sense Multiple Access – Collision Avoidance” (CSMA-CA) is not designed for high-density environments, such as busy commuter trains in rush hour with high capacity demand caused by a large number of concurrent users. In other words, when everyone on a train is trying to use on-board Wi-Fi at the same time to stream live sport or the latest Game of Thrones episode, we drive Wi-Fi into its limitations.

The technical limitation in such a high usage scenario lies in the way the Wi-Fi access points and devices interact with each other. To avoid data collisions, devices “sense” the Wi-Fi channel — listening to see if another device is transmitting data. Once a device sees that the channel is busy, it backs off to avoid collision of data, and a counter starts to count down before the device checks again to see if the air interface (the channel) is available. So, when too many users try to transmit data, devices start to go through a downward spiral of repeatedly backing off and trying again, thereby reducing the AP efficiency by 50% or even much more depending on the number of users trying to access it — resulting in less capacity per access point for more concurrent users.

Peak hour trains on busy commuter routes in particular take a triple whammy when it comes to on-board Wi-Fi:

  1. The sheer number of people trying to access a single access point overloads the system
  2. The sheer amount of bodies in one train can attenuate the signal between the access point and devices, rendering it poor (meaning low efficiency) to useless
  3. Peak trains tend to be full of commuters whose data needs tend to be far greater than non-commuters, which, again, overloads the system

Small cells, in particular femtocells, might be a better solution than Wi-Fi because they are more efficient when handling a high number of concurrent users and high traffic — but that still doesn’t solve the the backhaul challenge. Performance is always limited to whatever the backhaul can achieve, which is typically 4G. Hence, if there’s no mobile coverage, the whole on-board connectivity system — whether it’s Wi-Fi or femtocell based — is useless. Connectivity systems could use satellite backhaul for rural locations, but that in itself is a very expensive option. Alternatively, connectivity systems can use on-board repeaters, which don’t need backhaul and bring the signal outside the train to the users inside. On-board repeaters, though, still rely on reasonable outside coverage.

However, none of these technical challenges are insurmountable, with the exception of the inherent Wi-Fi technology challenges.

We do believe that the main barrier to enhancing on-board connectivity is the business model. We also believe that the requirement for trains should be on-board connectivity and capacity, independent of specific technology (such as Wi-Fi). At the moment, mobile network operators don’t have a revenue incentive to cover railway tracks or install on-board equipment because in a world of fixed and all-you-can-eat data packages, the average revenue per user (ARPU) doesn’t increase with incremental coverage and capacity on trains.

Therefore, the business case is the biggest bottleneck at the moment to improving on-board connectivity. If the government truly wants to provide Wi-Fi on 90% of journeys by 2018, it will have to manufacture a business case through regulation in order to kick things along.

Our own research a few years ago found that a clear business case could exist if the industry looks beyond Wi-Fi to mobile connectivity as a whole. We also found that on-board equipment deployment is cheaper than improving outdoor coverage to such a level that users inside the train could be served from outside. A business case would therefore have to clearly list the benefits to multiple parties, including advertisers (amongst many others), who would be able to clearly see the opportunity for ad revenue based on the length of passenger journeys, and rail companies, who could use the connectivity to improve day-to-day operations to become more efficient.

MWC 2016 conclusions

Now the dust has settled from Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2016 and everyone has hopefully recovered, it’s a good time to look back on the big stories from the show this year. It’s easy to get caught up in the buzz of the show, but the big stories at MWC are a great indicator for where the wireless industry is focusing its attention.

So what caught the eye of Real Wireless’s experts this year?

5G
As expected, 5G grabbed most of the headlines at the show, with Real Wireless CTO Simon Fletcher giving a number of presentations on the topic — including one that drew together our work on the EC’s 5G socioeconomic report, with the outcomes of last summer’s FWIC conference.

We found many vendors claiming to be 5G ready or compliant, essentially a marketing trick but an important one for those keen to demonstrate they are completely up to date with developments in 5G (or what they believe 5G is) in this fast-paced market.

Some particularly interesting demos included those that highlighted current developments in 5G, for example the 5GIC/University of Surrey 5G demo on the Cobham stand, demonstrating how a massive multi-antenna array can serve many connected IoT users within a cell. The demo could scale to show the impact of more simultaneous IoT users in a cell and what the required throughput would be to serve them. Another demo saw 1 Gbps LTE throughput based on the aggregation of five channels of 20 MHz, each supporting 2 x 2 MIMO streams and 256 QAM based on LTE Advanced.

These demonstrations are still examining the technology capabilities and more in-depth analysis would be required in future to determine the more practical impacts in these environments such as analysing the most appropriate propagation models and impact of clutter and terrain at frequencies above 24 GHz.

There are encouraging signs of nascent engagements with verticals, though not fully linked to 5G, with efforts being directed towards establishing common technology platforms. We highlighted before the show that the industry needs to play its part in liaising more closely with vertical industries to ensure 5G reaches its full potential. Regional administrations such as the European Commission were vocal on needing to see meaningful evidence of progress on this if they are to justify their level of investment to their citizens.

Has the industry demonstrated enough progress?

Our thoughts are that verticals have made a good start, but must do more to define what 5G will mean for them. After all, it’s the verticals themselves who are going to benefit most from 5G, so it makes senses for them to be involved as much as possible. Our job at Real Wireless is to bridge the gap between the technical and the business aspects, which is what we’ve been doing through numerous workshops with the European Commission.

LAA, LTE-U and MulteFire
LAA LTE, MulteFire and LTE-U featured prominently from a number of vendors — LTE in licence-exempt spectrum and LTE — Wi-Fi co-existence was the topic of much discussion throughout the week.

We were made aware of a trial in Nuremberg, Germany, which apparently attracted visits from many MNOs who are keen to see LAA LTE in action. We also saw some manufacturers starting to offer 3.5 — 3.7 GHz TDD Wi-Fi or LTE solutions, driven mainly by the 3.5 GHz band / Citizens Broadband Radio Service rules that the FCC adopted in April 2015.

The demonstrations we saw were mainly concerned with obtaining the best possible performance from these technologies, but this leaves many questions unanswered regarding how to ensure “fairness” when Wi-Fi remains the most densely deployed technology in the unlicensed bands.

Small cells
For yet another year, small cells have still not seen the levels of takeup analysts predicted, which could be a risk to vendors that are increasingly being pressured to demonstrate a return on investment.

That said we continue to see some genuinely interesting innovations in the sector, including CommScope (who acquired Airvana in 2015) re-using spectrum over multiple radios within the same cell, cells that offer four times more capacity than before, and IP Access’s innovative small cell infrastructure sharing approach. The Small Cell Forum also presented its annual update including a focus on the enterprise market, reflecting the trends we’ve seen over the last 6 months.

The missing trend
Ahead of the show we released a report on two of the biggest issues facing the industry this year; 5G and the IoT. Both are at very different stages of development but, as we explained, 2016 will be a pivotal year if either is to be a success — and the industry needs to make some big decisions if they are to reach their potential.

While 5G was clearly one of the strongest trends, the noise around IoT was not on a similar level. As we’ve seen with small cells, lots of noise around a topic at MWC does not necessarily translate in to real world development and maturity, so this is not necessarily a sign that the trend is in danger. However, it does raise questions over whether it has lost some of its steam in recent months. In the light of various proprietary and non-cellular approaches continuing to grow their deployment footprints; is the operator community really confident the NB-IoT solutions will come to market quickly enough, within the right regulatory environment, to create a competitive advantage?

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Real Wireless managing consultant Oli Bosshard (left) and principal consultant Saul Friedner (right) at MWC 2016

Future of the mobile industry: network operators must increase capacity without irritating customers with higher prices and data caps

At the end of October, Real Wireless hosted a breakfast meeting with Bloomberg to discuss what the future holds for the mobile industry.

Around 40 Bloomberg subscribers from across a number of sectors, including financial institutions, telecom vendors, analysts and operators attended the event. The morning’s talk featured a presentation from Real Wireless’s director of technology, Professor Simon Saunders, who provided a compelling overview of what the future shape of the mobile industry will be — and what the implications of this are for operators.

The challenge at hand
In particular, the presentation highlighted how MNOs now face the dual challenge of delivering major capacity increases and improving their earnings while avoiding customer churn through price increases and data caps. This challenge is set against a backdrop of increased competitive pressures from disruptive new-style players — like Uber and Netflix — that are adopting completely new technology and business models to attract customers away from established competitors.

Growth in mobile demand over the next 15 years is a given, even if the exact rate of growth varies widely between forecasts. Ambitious predictions state that mobile demand will grow to 30 times present levels by 2030, while conservative estimates place growth at 23 times. Whatever the exact rise, meeting demand will depend on many factors — particularly how efficiently mobile operators can supply capacity.

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But as growth continues to increase exponentially, revenues remain largely static, squeezing operator margins and in turn impacting capital available for investment.

Facing up to the task
To address these challenges, Simon outlined several potential options available to operators who wish to maintain current standards of mobile connectivity while keeping pace with demand.

One option available is for operators to try and reduce demand themselves by increasing prices and capping data volumes, which would almost certainly prove unpopular with consumers. Operators could also charge differentially according to need through daily or hourly ‘pay-as-you-use’ fees, or attempt to compress data to ease capacity strains.

The ideal option though would be to reduce the cost of delivery while increasing quality. This approach would involve operators combining different spectrum bands, technology (for example enhanced modulation and coding, carrier aggregation and antennae techniques) and topology (for example small and macro cells) in certain ways and to varying degrees to meet the varying levels and patterns of demand.

The importance of small cells
Small cells in particular could play a vital role in the future of the mobile industry. By offloading subscribers from macro cells in busy areas, they can offer a better throughput and quality of experience at a significantly lower cost than macro cells. Operators will find they are able to keep their tariff prices low, whilst touting the benefits of their enhanced service to subscribers.

Past Real Wireless projects have demonstrated how the benefits of small cells align with market drivers and, when rolled out intelligently by operators, can deliver a positive return on investment. Capacity-driven projects in urban areas can yield benefits of up to $48.6m, with a total cost of ownership of $29.8m and a return on investment of 136%. Coverage-driven projects, meanwhile, can save operators who lack low-frequency spectrum between $2.8m–$7.2m while achieving equivalent coverage as expensive macro cells.

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Automated Wi-Fi systems for better QoE
Operators can also save money and reduce mobile capacity strains by taking advantage of automated Wi-Fi. Our calculations across 10 global cities show that operators could be $17.9 billion better off in a mixture of cost savings and additional revenues by using automated systems to enhance Wi-Fi quality of experience. This approach enables operators to offer seamless hand off to Wi-Fi and back on to the network given certain signal strength, capacity and optimisation metrics. However, the operation support system (OSS) and the business support system (BSS) must be set up to manage the traffic across the different networks.

For example, a mobile operator in New York that has 25% mobile market share could save $71m. Using those savings, the operator can reinvest in expanding capacity without having to increase prices for consumers. It’s a win-win situation.

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There’s no doubt that MNOs have some stern challenges ahead — and it’s all being driven by insatiable consumer demand. Operators need to act now if they’re to make life easier for themselves in the next few years and avoid a public backlash on price increases.

MoD spectrum auction — business as usual or time for new entrants?

1280px-Tropo_Scatter_Microwave_System_AntennaThe recently announced MoD spectrum auction is the culmination of 10 years’ work, numerous reports and even more consultations — some of which I’ve been fortunate enough to be involved with.

It’s taken a lot of effort to get to this point and, as one of the first countries to auction off public spectrum assets, it’s a process that is being closely watched both at home and abroad.

The details of the auction have already been covered in good detail here and here and — while what’s on offer clearly isn’t going to result in a new, nationwide mobile network — we’re likely to see it being used to add capacity to existing networks in busy city centres.

The spectrum to be auctioned has some associated and additional complexities for operators to contend with, including coordination with RAF and naval bases and a much smaller device ecosystem compared to 800 MHz and 2.6 GHz.

The 2.3 GHz spectrum will be adjacent to other MOD services. As a result, new mobile services will need to both protect these existing services and also manage potential incoming interference from MOD deployments, all without impacting the QoS for users.

The mobile operators will almost certainly put in bids nonetheless. Having invested hundreds of millions in purchasing 4G licenses just over two years ago that they are yet to recoup, investment in further spectrum rather than network rollout may be challenging for some mobile operators.

But if operators didn’t bid how else could it be used?

One potential model might be the ‘small cells as a service’ approach that has been discussed for some time, but as of yet has never really got off the ground. This would allow someone, potentially a provider with existing fibre assets, to offer a small cell network over a city centre or business district and charge operators for access. Given the challenges holding back urban small cell deployments, it’s a model that many are pushing for and the FCC’s move to promote shared access for small cells in 3.5 GHz may end up driving this model in the UK.

Businesses involved in smart city or vertical applications could also be interested, particularly in the 3.4 GHz band given the issues with mobile device compatibility. The 3.5 GHz spectrum could encourage new entrants or new services from existing fixed line players, however the business case for these models is not straightforward, as existing owners of spectrum in this band can testify.

With no coverage obligations and no focus on encouraging new entrants, it is difficult to predict how this auction will develop. The varied block sizes in each band of spectrum and a number of issues with coexistence may put off one or two of the established players that have other higher priorities, instead encouraging new entrants or business models from fixed-line operators. Regardless of the outcome it’s an exciting time for the industry and great to see the spectrum finally being released to the market after many years of hard work.

Wireless technology and commercial property: why should property developers care?

CommIn 2015, mobile users — including both you and I — expect to be able to use our mobile devices and laptops wherever we are.

More than this though, we expect to receive the same level of service, functionality and, increasingly, data speeds, regardless of the environment we are in.

This has big implications for property developers and others that provide commercial property. While most people have been aware of how important mobile connectivity has been within their buildings for business tenants, in the past this has typically been basic voice and SMS access.

In the past developers and building owners typically found that there is adequate coverage and service for these technologies inside their buildings with minimal additional effort; the external mobile network could penetrate their building and serve their tenants to a sufficient level.

However, as mobile data connectivity (and the expectations of users of these services to receive good data speeds) has spread, the need for dedicated infrastructure inside a building to meet these needs has also grown.

It’s also no longer sufficient to rely upon Wi-Fi alone to provide data connectivity, with residents expecting 3G and 4G devices to work inside a building as well as they do outside.

Mobile operators, meanwhile, are becoming increasingly reticent to fund the rollout of this infrastructure for all but the very largest of their corporate customers.

It is therefore increasingly expected that the building owner themselves will invest in the infrastructure required to provide mobile services to people inside the building.

We’ve therefore created a guide that helps outline the wireless need — and business case for installation — that modern commercial property developers face. It outlines how wireless can improve current business models and practices, helping to both attract and retain tenants through enhanced connectivity.

After all, it would seem completely illogical to construct a commercial building that did not include a water or electricity supply, as no business would become a tenant. As mobile adoption amongst consumers and businesses becomes so universal, it’s time wireless connectivity was treated the same.

The guide ‘Wireless technology and commercial property’ is available free of charge.

Auctions and preparation for WRC ’15 key topics at European Spectrum Management Conference 2015

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Real Wireless attended the 10th annual European Spectrum Management Conference last week in Brussels, which is a key event on the spectrum management calendar. The well-attended conference covers the most relevant topics in spectrum management with representation from across the industry including regulators, vendors, operators and industry associations. The conference is worthwhile to gain a sector status update from a broad cross sector of the industry. The two-day event is divided into a number of sessions in which a particular relevant topic is discussed by a panel of industry representatives that varied depending on the discussion.

Day 1

In the first sessions, the panel discussed the future of the 700 MHz band and considered the development of a blueprint for the benefit of users and consumers in Europe. Keynote speeches about the impact of this on spectrum policy at the European Commission, RSPG and BEREC was highlighted. Talks from both the broadcast industry and mobile industry presented their respective cases for using the band, which demonstrated how key stakeholders would be affected by the transition. It was clear in some countries such as Italy, which is a heavy user of the 700 MHz band for DTT viewers and broadcasters, will be affected. In contrast other countries such as the Netherlands would not be so affected and could benefit from a swift move to mobile services.

A session on offloading discussed how Wi-Fi and small cells have helped and will continue to help to ease congestion on macro networks, which now includes LTE-LAA. The session provided an overview of how different methods including satellite can contribute to easing network congestion. However, there was no mention of the difference in costs for these solutions, which would have helped demonstrate which solutions would likely offer the most cost-effective solution.

The second half of the afternoon included breakout sessions on auctions and spectrum awards best practice — which I was allocated — and backhaul. These sessions were interactive and lively particularly the spectrum auction session given that the German multi band spectrum auction was going on in parallel.

Day 2

The second day commenced with a session on WRC ’15 common ground, areas of disagreement and likely outcomes. Presentations from Africa, Europe and China provided a broad overview of the impact each of the key agenda items would have on these regions. Notably there was common agreement and support for 700 MHz allocation for mobile services and some disagreement between sectors in relation to coexistence with mobile and satellite in C-Band amongst others.

The second session on delivering a world-leading mobile ecosystem in Europe was interesting because it covered current issues facing the mobile industry today — namely how mobile operators can overcome declining revenues from subscribers and limited funding for network investment at a time when Europe plans to lead in 5G. There were comparisons with the model used in the US and Canada in which auction proceeds and revenues are still increasing.

The third session discussed innovative technologies and policies to improve spectrum efficiency, which included presentations from regulators, operators and advisors. It covered the different innovative methods currently used for licensing and releasing spectrum. For example in Sweden they no longer apportion spectrum via exclusive licensing, instead focusing on better management and sharing. In the US the FCC described its approach to sharing the 3.5 GHz spectrum for low-power access. Other talks mentioned the challenges and complexities of sharing for PPDR and the satellite/fixed links in the C-Band.

The final session addressed the changing face of spectrum management between 2005 and 2025. A panel responded to statements and questions about where spectrum management we will be in 10 years’ time. This session required audience participation by voting against a set of predetermined questions. The key questions sought to address the issues include the largest influencers in spectrum management and what methodologies will be in place to continue the development of spectrum management. Overall it was felt that in 10 years. the European Commission would have the largest influence and that we would be in a similar position to where we are now but with some changes in approach.

Real Wireless’s view of the conference

Overall the event provided useful interaction with spectrum management colleagues within Europe and beyond. The topics and material were interesting with lively debates and reactions from industry demonstrating that spectrum management is fundamental to the continuous evolution and success of wireless technologies. We look forward to participating in at the 11th annual spectrum management conference and providing support and advice to the sector.

Real Wireless report on key costs in virtualising small cells

Last week at The Small Cells Summit in London, Small Cell Forum announced their release 5.1 document suite which is the first phase of its work on small cell virtualisation. Alongside the Forum’s own work to assess the technical benefits of the virtualising of small cells in cellular networks, Real Wireless examined the key cost elements in deploying and operating small cells in urban areas that would be most sensitive to a move to a more virtualised network architecture. Core to this assessment was understanding both wireline and wireless transport options to small cell sites and considering how these options reduce and costs potentially increase as architectures move from traditional distributed RAN (DRAN) LTE networks today towards classical cloud RAN (CRAN) architectures with remote radio heads and CPRI interfaces at the network extremes with strict latency requirements in the order of 250us and bandwidths in the order of 2.5Gbps.

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Key findings from the study were:

  • Our results challenge the traditional view that dark fibre is prohibitively expensive. On a five-year TCO basis dark fibre costs can be commensurate with managed fibre given recent falls in dark fibre prices.
  • Most transport options today can meet bandwidth and latency requirements up to and including a MAC/PHY split with latency requirements of 2 to 6ms if the centralised processing is done at a local macrocell.
  • The CPRI/ORI case of the most challenging virtualisation split considered is supported only by Sub-6 GHz and dark fibre in 2015 but could be supported by all other transport options by as early as 2020 (except copper). However, we note that most wireless options will only support these requirements over short links and with good line of sight and that managed fibre products do need to evolve from packetised services offered today.
  • Across the transport options surveyed, the cost increase for supporting CPRI split beyond a MAC/PHY split was most dramatic for managed fibre and microwave (assuming these will support CPRI by 2020).
  • Across the transport options surveyed, the lowest five-year TCO for a CPRI split was found for Sub-6 GHz with $32k versus a managed fibre CPRI of $95k in 2020.
  • The virtualisation cost, although very sensitive to whether NFV is done at a macrocell or data centre, is still a very small cost in the bigger scheme of the total TCO of a small cell site and has only a marginal impact compared with the transport connection to the small cell site.
  • The power cost is also very small (in the range of $100/year) and has little impact on the overall TCO and has little variation between transport options.

The full report is available at: http://scf.io/en/documents/158_-_Business_case_elements_for_small_cell_virtualization.php

Study Finds Major Cost Advantages in New Enterprise LTE Wireless Approach

Analysis finds Cloud RAN small cells save 69% of costs vs. DAS

Airvana, a leading provider of small cell solutions, and Real Wireless, independent expert advisors in wireless technology, today announced a study revealing that a Cloud RAN small cell solution can reduce costs by 69%, compared to traditional distributed antenna system (DAS) solutions.

The Real Wireless study concluded that Cloud RAN (or C-RAN) Small Cells were less expensive in all scenarios considered, including multi-operator deployments where DAS has previously been considered superior to small cells.  The study examined the use of C-RAN LTE small cells as an alternative to LTE DAS in both upgrades of existing DAS and in new “greenfield” DAS deployments.   Both large and small building deployments were analyzed, and both active and passive DAS.

The full white paper, exploring the analysis and results in detail, is available at: www.airvana.com/c-ran-economics/.

Cloud RAN (C-RAN) architecture achieves performance and economic benefits by centralizing “baseband” and scheduling functions– the core processing by which the system allocates wireless resources among users and services.  Airvana’s OneCell, which recently won the GSMA’s Best Mobile Technology Breakthrough award at Mobile World Congress 2015, was used as the basis of the comparison to DAS.  It uses a C-RAN architecture and goes even further by tightly coordinating the LTE access points throughout a building to behave as a single cell, eliminating interference and handovers. As such, C-RAN small cells share many of the positive attributes of DAS that have been the preferred indoor wireless solution for large enterprises and public spaces. Due to its high costs, however, DAS is practical for use in only a tiny fraction of enterprise buildings.

Real Wireless was commissioned to conduct the study due to their extensive experience in real-world in-building wireless solutions. The study authors have been responsible for the design and installation of hundreds of in-building systems. As a result Real Wireless was able to take a holistic view of a rollout. Not only were equipment costs taken into account, but also related costs such as cable materials, installation labor, project management, design and recurring operating expenses – in all over 90 line items for each scenario.

Professor Simon Saunders, Real Wireless director of technology, led the study team. “While we have long seen the potential for enterprise small cells, this is the first time a definitive cost comparison has been conducted. Significant savings are encountered even for multi-operator situations and smaller buildings, heralding potentially explosive growth on the tiny (<2%) penetration of dedicated wireless solutions in office buildings to date.”

The analysis found that many of the savings of the OneCell C-RAN approach derive from its simplified “Wi-Fi-like” deployment model, using standard Ethernet LANs for in-building distribution rather than fiber/coax cabling and remote radio heads.  This approach generated significant savings in solution design, cabling materials, installation labor, and project management. It also improved ongoing flexibility to add and redistribute capacity in response to changes in user demand.

“The realization that enterprises were under-served by legacy solutions motivated us to develop OneCell,” said Richard Lowe, president and CEO, Airvana. “The rigorous analysis by Real Wireless confirms the value of C-RAN small cells. OneCell will make quality indoor LTE service affordable to a much broader enterprise segment.”

Busy city technology the solution to remote wireless coverage for 1 billion worldwide

  • Real Wireless shows how urban area small cell technology combined with satellite backhaul can be repurposed to provide rural and remote coverage
  • Use of outdoor small cells can reduce costs to affordable levels in most of the world
  • Real Wireless also launches new “Wireless for Good” initiative with Télécoms Sans Frontières (TSF) the first beneficiary

June 30th 2014. Cambridge, UK: Technology developed to provide capacity in busy urban environments could extend coverage into rural areas worldwide at a fraction of the usual cost. Real Wireless has found that the cost of providing coverage to 500 million people in remote areas can be reduced to affordable levels by using repurposed metrocell style technology, resulting in potential savings per person around 50% over macrocell based approaches.

Recognising the significant economic and social benefits that wireless coverage offers, Real Wireless has also announced a new initiative to support the delivery of wireless to remote and rural areas. Unveiled today at the Future of Wireless Conference, the ‘Real Wireless – Wireless for Good’ initiative consists of both funding and pro bono assistance, with Télécoms Sans Frontières the first beneficiary.

Mobile coverage has been proven to offer significant social and economic benefits, but there are disparities both around the world and within the UK. Traditional, macrocell based approaches have worked well to deliver coverage for the majority in developed nations but there are still hundreds of millions of people excluded as costs become prohibitively high. A GSMA report by Deloitte found that just a 10 per cent rise from 2G to 3G penetration increases GDP per capita growth by 0.15 percentage points.

At the conference in Cambridge, Real Wireless Director of Technology Professor Simon Saunders explained how technology developed to provide capacity in busy city centres can be repurposed to provide coverage in remote areas for a fraction of the traditional cost.

“There’s a strong international correlation between income density and mobile take-up and, where populations are clustered into villages and small towns, there’s a clear opportunity to provide cost-effective coverage with smaller cells,” said Prof. Saunders. “This is the technology that has been developed to provide capacity in busy urban areas but using it in rural or remote areas makes a lot of sense.

“Combined with a new generation of satellite technology and associated spectrum for backhaul, costs can be reduced to around one-tenth of the traditional cell cost. Our estimates suggest that such technology could then economically improve mobile service to one billion people worldwide.”

The Real Wireless – Wireless for Good Initiative has an objective of maximising the social impact of appropriate, sustainable wireless connectivity. Real Wireless will contribute targeted funds to selected initiatives that meet this objective. Alongside this it will also seek initiatives to contribute advice and expertise on a pro bono basis. To suggest projects or organisations that could benefit from this initiative, contact Real Wireless at info@realwireless.biz

About Real Wireless
Real Wireless delivers independent, informed and innovative advisory services in every aspect of wireless, from the technical to the commercial. It works with mobile operators, governments, venues, building owners and regulators to bridge technical and commercial domains to help its clients get the best from wireless. With experts in every aspect of wireless and a proven track record, Real Wireless is one of the world’s leading wireless advisory firms.

Its clients include Ofcom, Wembley Stadium, The ECB, BAA, The European Commission, major network operators and many others.

For more information visit www.realwireless.biz
Twitter: @real_wireless

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