Enabling the indoor digital economy: introducing a new multi operator small cell solution designed with the neutral host model in mind

Huawei LampSite 3.0 - The first digital in-building cellular system for multi-operator sharing

Read this article to learn:

  • About the Huawei small cell portfolio and worldwide deployments to date
  • Emerging market trends - data demand growth, user experience, indoor coverage needs and LTE evolution
  • How the neutral host business model can make widespread small cell deployment more likely
  • The process of small cell infrastructure deployment
  • How the LampSite 3.0 can facilitate the development of an indoor digital economy

The Future Network, a new sister company to TowerXchange, recently attended the UK launch of Huawei’s latest multi operator small cell which has been designed to enable to development of the indoor digital economy through the facilitation of the neutral host model. We have written up three presentations given by Ray Williamson, Director MBB Evolution, Europe Product Management; Mayank Kapadia, European Product Line Management; and Daniele Barbieri, Indoor Connected Solutions to present the LampSite 3.0, Huawei’s new multi-operator indoor small cell solution.

Huawei’s global footprint is immense and they have gained some important insights during their work in small cells. Huawei currently work with over 150 operators across 500 different networks and have deployed over 650,000 indoor pico RRU LampSite solutions, and 100,000 outdoor small cells. When surveyed, their operator partners noted five main reasons for deploying small cells: 43% cited speed (of roll-out), 18% cited the importance of network evolution, 14% cited capacity and spectrum efficiency gains respectively, and the remaining 11% employed small cells as a coverage solution.

Huawei have identified the following market trends to tailor their newest offering:

1. Unlimited data leading growth in the next five years

Unlimited data plans, and EU roaming will drive the need for indoor coverage. Finland was the first country to introduce unlimited data plans and noticed that for the first time mobile data volume exceeded fixed line. They also saw fixed line subscriptions decrease year on year (2Q15-2Q16). Unlimited data plans are now making a comeback across the EU.

2. To ensure user experience, no edge is a must

Demand for video and virtual reality applications is strong and set to continue. Video experience should be consistent, with less loading and stalling and higher resolutions. Edge user experience is essential. The LampSite can be used at the macro cell edge to offer an additional 1.5Mbps capacity (compared to the macro cell’s 150Mbps).

3. Indoor coverage is evolving to capacity

The indoor user experience is challenged. Each physical barrier that the radio signal has to pass through reduces the amount which is conducted – glass (windows) reduces RF by 20%, brick (external walls) by 10% and concrete (internal walls) by a further 6.3%. Technological innovation means that there are now multi-band and multi-operator solutions available to provide 5-bar coverage in indoor areas.

The Huawei Small Cell portfolio includes an indoor capacity and coverage solution for large and medium venues e.g. transport hubs, stadia, shopping malls, and medium to large enterprises with LampSite, a solution for targeting specific indoor scenarios e.g. tunnels with Single DAS, an indoor coverage option for small enterprise buildings using Pico cell; and an outdoor solution for the creation of hotspots to boost coverage and capacity e.g. on a busy commercial street or at a tourist spot with Micro cell.

Digital infrastructure has evolved from analogue antenna systems to pico RRU units, and from single operator to multi-operator small cell solutions, but business models must also evolve to allow the facilitation of indoor coverage. Huawei suggest that the natural leaders of this evolution are the MNOs or other neutral hosts players, stressing that the key point in driving indoor coverage is the ownership or funding for the system, and they offer a fully end-to-end managed service to MNOs or towercos looking to deploy their solution.

As the concept of small cells and network as-a-service gains traction, working with a third party in deploying small cell architecture becomes increasingly appealing to operators or neutral hosts looking to deploy indoor small cell networks. Knowing that the initial evaluation, planning, design, deployment, optimization and operation are in safe hands is a must for any potential network host.

The top three challenges for indoor coverage digitalization as identified by Huawei are:

1. Ensuring ROI: Typical costs for deploying indoor coverage solutions in large venues run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. On average, stadium deployment costs are over US$500,000, metro stations are approximately US$400,000, shopping malls are almost US$300,000, and airports are the most expensive at almost US$700,000. Return on invested capital can take up to seven years in the case of large venues, five years for enterprise zones, four years for commercial zones and three years for transport hubs.

2. Improving user experience: Increased demand for services such as video, virtual reality, cloud storage and faster download speeds are putting increased pressure on already stretched mobile networks.

3. Site acquisition: Difficult entry permissions, and high entry and rental costs on large venues make the establishment of a digitalized indoor economy challenging, however accurate planning to identify hotspot need ensures precise investment can be made.

The process of small cell infrastructure deployment

Step 1: Network evaluation – accurate site selection improves ROI


Step 2: Site survey – digital records improve delivery efficiency

A site survey report is produced using data collected by terminals on basic site information, nearby building information and analysis of test data on the radio environment.

Step 3: Planning and design – smart design and ROI analysis

At the high level, coverage planning and cost analysis, and capacity planning based on traffic analytics will be produced and solution requirements and component location and cable routing map will be arrived at.

At low level, a digitalized modeling and 3D simulation will be produced, the LampSite automatic configuration will be installed, culminating in a plan view and system diagram.

Step 4: Integrated deployment – visual management leads to rapid and high quality network deployment

Regular reports of staff, materials, progress and quality are produced until ultimately a completion report is generated.

Step 5: Network optimization – efficient tests, optimization guides and effect evaluation

Thorough data analysis of coverage, KPIs and interference is conducted remotely, and radio environment testing is done at the terminal. Optimizations are suggested and coverage, data services and KPIs are compared of before and after network deployment.

The LampSite 3.0

The LampSite 3.0 is the evolution of the Huawei’s LampSite 2.0 solution and has been specially developed in response to enterprise demand for new revenue streams and the fact that indoor mobile broadband from macro sites is not sustainable or compatible with current usage. Current figures show that more than 70% of network traffic is generated indoors, and that approximately 75% of this is carried by the macro layer, and with data demands increasing – the GSMA estimates an increase in demand growth per subscriber in Europe from 1.8Gb to 12Gb by 2020, and cityscapes changing – there are 455 new tall buildings planned in London alone according to the New London Architecture survey. Guaranteeing customers have reliable, optimal mobile signal is increasingly becoming an irrefutable point of competitive differentiation for enterprises.

In a recent British Chamber of Commerce survey it was found that 70% of firms often experience mobile coverage ‘not-spots’. Many have been impeded by a complete lack of mobile coverage, and some experience ‘partial not-spots’, in which coverage is available from a handful of networks, but not all.

Unlimited data tariffs are back, and the scrapping of EU roaming charges means the drivers for public Wi-Fi are diminishing, leading to new service requirements, new challenges, and new revenue opportunities.

Technologies like the cloud which were seen as niche just a few years ago have matured to now underpin much of the UK business infrastructure. According to the Confederation of British Industry, over the last twelve months, increases in investments in cloud technology have increased by 73%, in mobile technology by 79% and in security by 71%.

Huawei’s vision of creating an indoor digital network to enable the indoor digital economy to flourish continues to evolve. Its latest multi-operator small cell incorporates four frequency bands (900 MHz, 1800 MHz, 2100 MHz, and 2600 MHz), 240MHz of total bandwidth and accommodates up to four operators. Crucially, this solution has been designed with the neutral host model in mind in order to increase the addressable market. The solution will improve operational efficiency, facilitate easy site acquisition and enable CAPEX and OPEX sharing. Baseband architecture is shared and is connected through fibre to the RHUB, then Ethernet cabling connects to the LampSite.

This business model can be extended through a platform called ‘Service Anchor’ using  mobile edge computing to digitize existing civil infrastructure and facilitate the development of smart malls, smart stadia, smart factories, smart transportation and smart hospitals. Further applications extend to the creation of new vertical and consumer industries e.g. public services, disaster handling, security and defense, behavior analysis, map applications, business operations.

Huawei are opening their doors to partners from across the telecom infrastructure value chain in order to facilitate the development of the indoor digital economy, and are calling MNOs, towercos, policy makers, venue owners, app developers, solution providers and systems integrators to join forces as the digital neutral host model gains momentum.

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