July 12, 2017 —
M/C Partners, a Boston-based telecom private equity firm, has formed Neutral Connect Networks (NCN), which purchased of DAS Communications and 5 Bars. M/C Partners is NCN’s lead investor and has committed up to $30 million to fund the firm’s continued expansion.
“We are excited to have the opportunity to combine these two leading players in the small cell arena to create Neutral Connect,” Brian M. Clark, M/C managing partner, said. “M/C Partners has a long and successful heritage in the wireless industry, and we believe that the small cell opportunity represents a massive shift in the network architecture of mobile carriers, which we are keen to participate in.”
Telecom executive Paul McGinn was hired as CEO of the newly formed NCN. McGinn was most recently the director of business development at Vertical Bridge and previously the CEO of CIG Wireless. He has also worked with TCP Communications and SBA Communications.
“This transaction brings together two complementary neutral host operators, and the combined business will have a broad geographic presence across the United States,” McGinn said.
McGinn has hired Brian Porter, former vice president of in-building at Ericsson, as the senior vice president of sales and operations for the new company. Porter has 17 years of wireless-industry experience with such companies as STI Brasil, American Tower, FiberTower and Spectra Site.
DAS, founded in 2007 by Tyler Kratz, has built and continues to operate multiple wireless networks at strategic venues in Boston and New York.
California-based 5 Bars deploys DAS systems in the sports and entertainment sectors, with deployments in numerous large stadiums and casinos. 5 Bars’ DAS team will play a role in the new company, and John Clarey, 5 Bars’ former CEO, will continue as an investor in NCN.
“The financial commitment from NCN and M/C Partners provides 5 Bars the needed resources to continue to build and operate the large projects it has in its pipeline.” The terms of the all-cash transaction remain confidential.
July 13, 2017 —
In March, the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) awarded AT&T a contract to build the first nationwide public safety broadband network for emergency first responders. The network will use Long Term Evolution (LTE) high-speed wireless data technology on frequencies in the 700-MHz band. Eventually, the network will supplant the use of existing public safety frequencies. As the FirstNet network evolves, public agencies and building owners will have to assume the burden of bringing network coverage indoors at venues so first-responder radios will work in all locations. In many instances, jurisdictions will require in-building coverage. The following information explains the convergence of public safety frequencies in connection with the new FirstNet standard and the requirements for systems that support the network’s wireless coverage inside buildings.
Despite the current use of lower frequencies in the range of 150 MHz to 900 MHz to support public safety radios, the in-building coverage challenge remains unsolved. Even at these low frequencies, building construction materials can block outdoor radio signals from penetrating indoors. Underground areas, such as basements, are impossible to cover from the outside; outdoor radios dominate the airwaves; and energy-efficient, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)-certified buildings make matters worse. In the United States, LEED-certified buildings enclose 2.5 billion square feet, and this year, approximately 45 percent of nonresidential building construction will be green (environmentally friendly).
As a result, in-building wireless systems are a must for ensuring clear and consistent radio coverage for building occupants and first responders. Many local governments mandate the use of in-building wireless systems for public safety systems in buildings larger than a certain size, but even existing systems will be in for a revamp as the FirstNet network comes online.
Existing public safety networks and radios operate in several public safety radio communications frequency bands, including the 150-MHz, 450-MHz and 800/900-MHz bands. In effect, the United States is a patchwork quilt of public safety communication networks. With the advent of the FirstNet public safety broadband network, these will all begin to converge around 700-MHz LTE. LTE is now the dominant technology used in commercial cellular networks, but a lot of work is being done to further make use of LTE’s benefits. The results also will affect FirstNet LTE.
For example, mobile operators are always looking for more radio-frequency spectrum to expand bandwidth and provide their users with faster throughput. Once they have derived all the capacity they can with new cell sites, sector-splitting and carrier aggregation, the next thing is to consider using unlicensed spectrum to further expand available bandwidth. LTE in unlicensed spectrum (LTE-U), licensed-assisted access (LAA), and MulteFire computer software and firmware offer ways to use unlicensed spectrum that will deliver bandwidth more from current technology.
LTE-U protocol enables mobile operators to increase bandwidth in their LTE networks by using the unlicensed frequency bands in the 5-Hz range — bands that Wi-Fi devices also use. Licensed-assisted access is the name given to the Third-Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) effort to standardize the use of LTE in Wi-Fi frequency bands. LTE-U is an implementation of LAA. The MulteFire LTE technology developed by Qualcomm operates solely in unlicensed spectrum and uses self-organizing functionality; LAA aggregates unlicensed spectrum with an anchor in licensed spectrum.
Unlicensed LTE protocols will play a significant role in boosting LTE bandwidth and throughput while serving as a key component for connecting the internet of things (IoT). Ideally, in order to speed deployment and deliver an economical solution, public safety, wireless IoT devices, and cellular services will all operate on a converged network (see Figure 1).
FirstNet’s public safety broadband network will make use of the same LTE network, so it’s possible that, in some cases, the 700-MHz public safety frequency may already be supported by some in-building wireless systems (although the frequencies used for the FirstNet network are not the same as the 700-MHz frequencies in use by cellular carriers today, so this would be true in a limited number of cases). In many instances, however, it will be necessary to rip and replace existing in-building wireless systems to facilitate the support of the FirstNet network.
What does this all mean for those considering buying or upgrading an in-building wireless system? There are three basic requirements:
1. Support 700-MHz FirstNet frequencies while still supporting existing cellular and IoT frequencies. Ideally, the solution should support public safety, cellular and IoT frequencies in a single system. This will simplify both deployment and maintenance, while keeping costs down. A truly wideband distributed antenna system (DAS) can support any frequency from 150 MHz to 2700 MHz, so it could support many different frequencies with a single layer of equipment, including 700-MHz FirstNet communications. And, this solution could seamlessly support future services.
2. Use fiber infrastructure. Many current DAS solutions use coaxial cabling or a hybrid architecture that combines fiber and coax cabling. An all-fiber infrastructure is easier and less costly to deploy, and often it can make use of fiber-optic cable already in place in the building.
3. Have a simple architecture. Many DAS products have a dizzying array of parts because of their inherently narrowband architecture, making it difficult for information technology (IT) staff to both deploy and maintain them. Building owners and contractors should look for DAS solutions that mirror IT data infrastructure with a limited number of system elements so it is familiar and easy to understand.
Meeting the FirstNet Challenge
The move toward FirstNet public safety infrastructure represents both a challenge and an opportunity for building owners. The challenge is that many in-building wireless systems will have to be upgraded or deployed because some existing systems support other frequencies, but not the 700-MHz frequencies the new FirstNet network will use, and some buildings lack any kind of indoor coverage solution. But the good news is that the need to support the new public safety broadband network offers the chance to deploy a single, converged in-building wireless system that supports all wireless traffic. The FirstNet network will take several years to roll out. It is not too early now to begin planning how to support it.
James Martin is vice president of operations at Zinwave. Prior to joining Zinwave, Martin was senior manager at TE Connectivity (formerly ADC/LGC Wireless) for more than 16 years. His leadership helped TE Connectivity emerge as a top-tier DAS manufacturer in the wireless space. Early in his career, he was employed at Hughes Network Systems and was responsible for the design, deployment and optimization of more than 500 macro cell sites across the southeastern United States. During this time, he was also instrumental in defining the first small cell systems designed and deployed by Hughes Network Systems. Contact James Martin at firstname.lastname@example.org
July 3, 2017 —
SK Telecom and Samsung Electronics have completed an end-to-end trial at 3.5 GHz using Samsung’s 5G virtualized core, virtualized RAN, Distributed Unit (baseband unit and radio unit) and test device that are based on the latest 3GPP 5G NR standards elements.
Results achieved were speeds over 1 Gbps and latency of 1.2 millisecond, which was achieved by reducing the transmission time interval (TTI) down to 0.25 millisecond, or about one quarter of 4G LTE’s transmission time. In addition to the latency improvements, carrier aggregation allowed them to achieve a channel bandwidth of 80 megahertz, while 20 megahertz is the maximum channel bandwidth for LTE, which made consistent gigabit performance possible.
Samsung said virtualization played a significant role in the trial’s success. New applications and functions for services can be deployed with Mobile Edge Computing (MEC), according to the OEM.
SK Telecom and Samsung have been exploring 5G communications in the 28 GHz band, which enables the fast transmission of large volumes of data across wide bandwidths. On the other hand, 3.5 GHz offers a broader, more stable, network coverage area.
June 29, 2017 —
Nextivity is now shipping the Cel-Fi QUATRA in-building enterprise wireless system in North America, as well as globally. Cel-Fi QUATRA is designed to be a scalable, low-cost, easy-to-deploy active DAS in-building wireless buildings up up to 200,000 square feet.
Nextivity was founded in 2006 with the goal of alleviating carriers’ in-building coverage issues using a smart processor-controlled signal booster. After gaining funding from Goldman Sachs, Nextivity built and shipped its first off-air cellular booster product to a nationwide operator in Ireland the next year. Today, Nextivity ships multiple products with coverage up to 15,000 square feet into multiple tiers of the in-building wireless industry for various sizes of buildings used by businesses and residences.
The Cel-Fi QUATRA stands as a significant step forward for Nextivity as it enters the hotly sought after enterprise market for buildings up to 200,000 square feet, known as the middleprise. QUATRA can use either an off-the-air cellular signal or a small cell as the donor signal. The flexibility of the hybrid QUATRA allows the enterprise to light up the building with cellular coverage, while it waits for delivery of the small cell.
“We have an understanding of signal sources and how those signals, which bring capacity, get distributed around an environment in such an optimum fashion that you can do it economically and provide access to that capacity throughout the building,” said Warner Sievers, CEO, Nextivity.
A single QUATRA system consists of a network unit and four coverage units or remotes. The network unit connects to the carrier’s network either through a built-in antenna, an external antenna or, alternatively, a small cell provided by the carrier. The network unit is connected to the remotes via CAT5e cable, which carriers power as well as the cellular signal. Each remote broadcasts the same frequencies creating a super cell, eliminating the need for handoffs.
For larger areas, multiple QUATRA systems can used together to cover an area up to 200,000 square feet.
QUATRA supports WCDMA, HSPA+, LTE (FDD) wireless technologies, up to 100 dB in system gain in each band simultaneously.
The in-building DAS/small cell OEM market is heavily populated with major companies, such as Nokia, Ericsson, CommScope, SOLiD, Corning, Axell, Zinwave, JMA Wireless, ipAccess and SpiderCloud. To compete, Nextivity is entering the market with a more economical product.
Sievers said, “With the pre-existence of reasonably sophisticated in-building classes of technology, we thought there was a strong existing market need for a cost-efficient, time-efficient product.”
And then there was the shift from the carrier-funded installs of costly, sophisticated in-building wireless systems in major venues to an enterprise-funded model for middle-size enterprises.
“We wanted to build a product that would make the transition easier for the enterprise and less burdensome for the operator to redirect the cost to the enterprise,” Sievers said.
June 27, 2017 —
An analysis of the small cell market conducted by Mobile Experts concludes that the market is evolving rapidly. Kyung Mun, a senior analyst, said small cells will become an integral part of mobile networks as operators make the move toward hyperdense networks with 5G services.
Technology choices range from frequency-division duplex/time=division Long Term Evolution (FDD/TD-LTE) modulation, unlicensed and licensed-assisted access LTE (LTE-U/LAA), LTE and wireless local area network aggregation (LWA), Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS), and even carrier Wi-Fi (self-organizing and self-optimizing Wi-Fi). The study found that although major mobile infrastructure suppliers, including Ericsson, Huawei and Nokia, take larger shares of the carrier outdoor segment through macro-parity small cells that take advantage of macro footprints, smaller companies, such as Spidercloud and Airspan, are finding success in enterprise and indoor segments at several Tier 1 mobile operator accounts.
By 2022, Mobile Experts predicts small cells’ revenue to triple, reaching more than $4.5 billion over the forecast period. Mun said that although the overall market includes residential femtocells, the growth for nonresidential small cells is more dramatic.
“We expect carrier and enterprise segments to grow at more than a 30 percent compound annual growth rate from 2016 to 2022,” he said.
DAS and Wi-Fi
The long-suffering mobile network and Wi-Fi service at the Las Vegas Convention Center now works well, thanks to an $18 million upgrade by Cox Business and InSite Wireless Group.
Hugh Sinnock, vice president of customer experience for the venue operator, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, said the indoor DAS and Wi-Fi system boasts more than 2,200 access points and a capacity equal to 14 cell towers. During the International Wireless Communications Expo (IWCE) conducted in March, Sinnock spoke about the installation.