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Category Archives: LTE

Virtual EPC Takes Root in Rocky Mountain WISP Network

By J. Sharpe Smith, Senior Editor

Software-based distributed evolved packet cores and innovative infrastructure-as-a-service business models my facilitate the deployment of everything from LTE fixed wireless and mobile networks in rural areas to in-building wireless in mid-sized enterprises.

Last week ExteNet Systems announced that it has deployed a Part 96-ready fixed wireless LTE-based network for Peak Internet, which provides broadband internet services to residential, small business, enterprise and government customers in Colorado Springs and Pike’s Peak.

ExteNet deployed a software-based distributed evolved packet core (EPC) with Nokia’s Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS)-ready LTE radios on the premises of Peak Internet to enable the service over the licensed 3.65 GHz band with a future, software-only upgrade path to the 3.5 GHz CBRS band. The deployment includes a will support future mobile roaming services for Tier 1 providers.

It is not ExteNet’s first foray into fixed wireless. Last September, it announced a similar deployment with a Cal.net, which provides broadband Internet services to rural communities in the Sierra Nevada foothills ranging from the northeast to the southeast of Sacramento.

In the past WISPs had to depend on WiMAX, Wi-Fi and some other proprietary wireless technologies, operating in the Part 90 spectrum. But things are changing for these mostly small, rural operators as LTE becomes more pervasive and affordable.

Five or six years ago, ExteNet, which is known for distributed antenna systems and distributed network systems, began mapping out what would be the next area of growth beyond the booms in wireless coverage and capacity. The next phase would be functionality, they decided.

“We needed typical core functionality to be distributed closer to the edge of the network,” said Tormod Larsen, ExteNet chief technology officer. “It couldn’t be based on expensive proprietary hardware, so we found a partner to develop a flexible software-based solution that resides on standard hardware platforms. We went to the rural markets with this scalable, software-driven effective packet core to enable WISPs and other operators to develop their LTE networks.” Additionally, a radio access network (RAN) vendor neutral approach was chosen, allowing the customer to choose its preferred RAN vendor.

ExteNet is making LTE more affordable by offering it on an infrastructure-as-a-service basis, distributing intelligence and control to the internet at the edge of the network and not in a carrier’s centralized core. ExteNet typically partners with the operator and offers them an economical avenue to purchase the EPC and the RAN equipment as an infrastructure as a service (IaaS) solution.

“The management platforms for Ericsson and Nokia can be expensive,” Larsen said. “ExteNet invests in the technology and requires long-term agreements from its customers. We spread the cost over multiple customers.”

ExteNet Systems Partners with Illinois Valley Cellular to Enable 4G LTE Connectivity

ExteNet’s game plan goes well beyond wireless internet service providers to bring enhanced broadband wireless connectivity to rural cellular carriers and building owners. Last October, the ExteNet announced a partnership with Illinois Valley Cellular (IVC) to enable 4G LTE broadband connectivity for north central Illinois.

ExteNet’s localized packet core served as a replacement to IVC’s hosted core approach, which greatly reduced backhaul costs and reduced latency by up to 75 percent. Additionally, it will eventually support mobile roaming services for Tier 1 providers while being 5G ready.

“Our combined EPC with our small cell and distributed network technology will help rural carriers compete with the tier-one carriers from a cost perspective,” Larsen said.

In the future, Larsen thinks the IaaS business model the virtual EPC will allow ExteNet to market CBRS private LTE systems to building owners in-building wireless systems or municipalities for IoT applications.

J. Sharpe Smith
Senior Editor/eDigest
J. Sharpe Smith joined AGL in 2007 as contributing editor to the magazine and as editor of eDigest email newsletter. He has 27 years of experience writing about industrial communications, paging, cellular, small cells, DAS and towers. Previously, he worked for the Enterprise Wireless Alliance as editor of the Enterprise Wireless Magazine. Before that, he edited the Wireless Journal for CTIA and he began his wireless journalism career with  Phillips Publishing, now Access Intelligence. 

As T-Mobile Turns on 600 MHz, Rural Towers Are the Early Winners

With characteristic bravado, T-Mobile began lighting up its 600 MHz LTE network in August, switching on a Nokia transmitter on a rooftop in Cheyenne, Wyoming. T-Mobile’s 600 MHz LTE network rollout will initially be in rural America and other markets where the spectrum is already clear of broadcasting. By the end of the year, an additional 600 MHz sites are slated for locations in Wyoming, Northwest Oregon, West Texas, Southwest Kansas, the Oklahoma panhandle, western North Dakota, Maine, coastal North Carolina, Central Pennsylvania, Central Virginia and Eastern Washington.

Jennifer Fritzsche: The broadcast incentive auction will supply T-Mobile ample low-band spectrum at a reasonable price and will open door for a possible merger. Our sense is discussions with tower operators to help with 600 MHz spectrum deployment are already ongoing. We do not see [T-Mobile] capital investment on this spectrum band to go into slowdown mode – even if a [Sprint / T-Mobile] merger is announced.

Ron Bizick: T-Mobile has been very aggressive in acquiring spectrum positions, which will lead to the need for new towers, as well as locating on existing towers. They fully intend to be competitive with AT&T and Verizon. That’s great for the tower industry.


LTE Lab Trial Sets Gigabit Speed Record

By The Editors of AGL

Verizon, Ericsson and Qualcomm Technologies continue to push the LTE speed envelope breaking the Gigabit speed barrier. The companies achieved an industry first with commercial silicon and network infrastructure with 1.07 Gbps download speeds using the Qualcomm Snapdragon X20 LTE Modem during an Ericsson lab trial.

This 1.07 Gbps achievement builds on Verizon’s recent announcement about Gigabit LTE with support for License Assisted Access (LAA). Also of significance, the 1.07 Gbps speed was achieved using only three 20 megahertz carriers of (Frequency Division Duplex using separate transmit and receive frequencies) spectrum, achieving new levels of spectral efficiency for commercial networks and devices. These efficiencies will enable the delivery of the Gigabit class experience to more customers and lead to new wireless innovations.

The companies achieved the 1.07 Gbps industry milestone by using 12 simultaneous LTE streams, which allow for up to 20 percent increase in peak data rates and capacity with a corresponding improvement in average speeds. Ericsson’s Radio System and LTE software, in concert with a mobile test device based on the Snapdragon X20 LTE modem, enabled these high speeds.

The lab tests also used 4×4 MIMO per carrier, 256 QAM per carrier, which enables customer devices and the network to exchange information in large amounts, delivering more bits of data in each transmission.


As T-Mobile Turns on 600 MHz, Rural Towers Are the Early Winners

By J. Sharpe Smith

With characteristic bravado, T-Mobile has begun lighting up its 600 MHz LTE network, switching on a Nokia transmitter on a rooftop in Cheyenne, Wyoming.

T-Mobile’s 600 MHz LTE network rollout will initially be in rural America and other markets where the spectrum is already clear of broadcasting. Those deployments and other network upgrades will increase T-Mobile’s total LTE coverage from 315 million Americans today to 321 million.

By the end of the year, an additional 600 MHz sites are slated for locations in Wyoming, Northwest Oregon, West Texas, Southwest Kansas, the Oklahoma panhandle, western North Dakota, Maine, coastal North Carolina, Central Pennsylvania, Central Virginia and Eastern Washington.

In an ex parte meeting with FCC personnel, T-Mobile officials said they expect to have at least 10 megahertz of 600 MHz spectrum ready for deployment across “more than one million square miles” by the end of this year, including “hundreds of thousands of square miles” of rural areas.

T-Mo CTO Neville Ray applauded the speed of the deployment effort in the 600 MHz frequencies.

“This team broke every record in the books with the speed of our 700 MHz LTE deployment, and we’re doing it again. T-Mobile is effectively executing in six months what would normally be a two-year process,” said Ray said. “We won’t stop … and we won’t slow down!”

The operator is using “low-band” spectrum won in the government broadcast incentive auction concluded earlier this year, and yesterday’s announcement came two months after the carrier received its spectrum licenses from the FCC.

The speed of T-Mobile’s rollout is no accident. In February 2016, T-Mobile, in conjunction with Broadcast Tower Technologies and Hammett & Edison, set out a plan to maximize the resources needed to move the TV broadcasters from the band and rollout the needed technology.

T-Mobile worked with Nokia, Qualcomm, Samsung and LG to ensure the right transmitter and handset technology would be available when the rollout began. It is also collaborating with the FCC and broadcasters such as the Public Broadcasting System to quickly clear the spectrum.

Moreover, T-Mobile worked with Electronics Research to make sure that adequate broadcast antennas and installation crews would be available for the TV stations’ move to new spectrum. Antenna production capacity was increased by 800 percent by the end of 2016, and production began at the end of the auction when new channels were assigned to broadcasters.

Additionally, T-Mobile went above and beyond the FCC’s spectrum clearing requirements of the auction winner, committing to pay for new low-power facilities used by local public television stations that are required to relocate to new broadcasting frequencies because of the auction.

J. Sharpe Smith is senior editor of the AGL eDigest. He joined AGL in 2007 as contributing editor to the magazine and as editor of eDigest email newsletter. He has 27 years of experience writing about industrial communications, paging, cellular, small cells, DAS and towers. Previously, he worked for the Enterprise Wireless Alliance as editor of the Enterprise Wireless Magazine. Before that, he edited the Wireless Journal for CTIA and he began his wireless journalism career with Phillips Publishing, now Access Intelligence.

Will LTE, the IoT and FirstNet Improve 9-1-1 Caller Location?

July 20, 2017 — 

Wireless handsets that can connect with internet of things access points may improve indoor location accuracy for 9-1-1 calls. LTE technology may help call centers enable texting. And, the FirstNet network may extend video and other imagery from 9-1-1- calls to first responders.

By Don Bishop

When someone places a call to 9-1-1, the call-taker needs to know the caller’s location — and quickly. It is usually the first or second question the call-taker asks, according to Brian Fontes, CEO of the National Emergency Number Association. The association, which identifies itself as NENA: The 9-1-1- Association, is a membership organization of people who work in 9-1-1- call centers and others who seek to improve 9-1-1 emergency number service.

Brian Fontes, CEO of the National Emergency Number Association. Photo by Don Bishop

“We live in a connected world, and it is going to become more connected with the internet of things,” Fontes said, speaking during a conference session at the Las Vegas Convention Center in March. “We need a sea change from what has previously been done to identify the location of someone placing a 9-1-1 call.”

Fontes recalled that in the 1990s and early 2000s, 9-1-1 systems used two methods of automatically determining a caller’s location when the call came from a wireless device. One involved direction-finding using intelligence in the network, along with radio signal triangulation with the cell phone and cell towers. The second, which came later, used the Global Positioning Service earth-orbiting satellites to provide locations, which used more intelligence in the handsets, although some intelligence remained in the network. But, Fontes said, callers remain tethered to their service provider, and therefore to whomever the service provider is, in turn, tethered to, to provide location accuracy.

The most recent efforts to improve location accuracy move beyond the world of the carrier, Fontes said. He reported that, even though the FCC rules are placed upon the wireless service providers, the most current rules enacted by the FCC take a look at indoor location. Fontes cited the statistics that there are 240 to 250 million wireless calls to 9-1-1 annually, 70 to 80 percent of or which are wireless. He said that more than 50 percent of U.S. households are wireless-only homes, not counting offices and other locations. “The number of calls coming from indoor locations is certainly a factor to be dealt with when you’re trying to locate somebody making a 9-1-1 call,” he said.

Fontes said that wireless carriers, NENA and Association of Public Safety Communications Officials (APCO) have agreed to steps that carriers can take to look beyond their networks to improve location accuracy. “That’s a big risk, because once you move outside of a network, the control that the carriers have slips away,” he said. “And yet, the requirements for location accuracy imposed by the FCC are imposed on the carrier. So now, what can be done and what is being done?”

Wireless devices connect through a variety of technologies, including Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, sensors and beacons. Fontes explained that within their environment, wireless phones have the capability of interacting with many other wireless access points that can provide better location capabilities.

“Earlier, I checked to see how many Wi-Fi hotspots in the convention center my phone was detecting,” he said. “I think there are about a dozen, maybe 14. Each of those has various levels of strength that provide some capability of determining where I am vis-à-vis those hotspots. In addition to that, we should take a look at the advent of beacons and sensors. The price of beacons and sensors is decreasing, making it much more affordable to be included in a variety of products.”

Fontes spoke of the possibility of having sensors dispersed in a transient type of environment to provide some location capabilities for a particular event.

Fixed Location and Address

He said he bought a microcell to use in a secondary residence to improve wireless coverage. The microcell registered with the wireless carrier’s database, providing its fixed location and address, which greatly improves 9-1-1 location accuracy. “As part of the agreement with the carriers, the FCC recognized and codified in its regulations the use of a database that’s being developed by the carriers to provide that list, the National Addressing Database, whether it’s Wi-Fi hotspots, picocells, beacons or sensors,” Fontes said.

As the database becomes more populated, Fontes said, the capabilities of working to improve location accuracy for the individual advances remarkably, particularly in comparison with the technologies of location accuracy — whether network-based solutions or GPS — especially indoors.

Outdated Voice-centric Service

Fontes said that in large part, technology from the previous century supports 9-1-1 service, and that means it is voice-centric. “How ridiculous is that?” he asked. “The voice call is the start of a series of responses in the public safety family of services that provides the response to emergency situations.”

With the eventual establishment of a nationwide public safety broadband network based on Long Term Evolution (LTE) high-speed wireless data technology, Fontes said the goal is to provide seamless links among the smart technologies that all of us have at our fingertips, smart technology in the 9-1-1 center and the smart technology used by the field responders via the new network. The new network is being built by AT&T under a contract awarded by a federal agency, the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet).

LTE technology supports video and texting. Fontes said that when an audio-visual component is added to any type of communication, it is possible for experts to pick up cues that others’ eyes may not detect. “When that 9-1-1 call comes in — perhaps it’s a horrible situation in a school or a mall or whatever — with a video and voice component, you may be able to push that video, that voice off to others who are experts in detecting what’s going on in the environment, while the 9-1-1 professional is dealing with what needs to be addressed in the dispatch context.”

Fontes said texting is critically important. He said only 10 to 15 percent of 9-1-1 centers enable texting. “We have 37 million to 42 million Americans who are deaf, hard of hearing or speech-impaired who rely on texting,” he said. “In addition to that, we know of unfortunate situations where texting would be safer than speaking — whether it’s a mass incident type of a situation, such as a mass shooting, or domestic violence.” He said in such situations, a caller with texting might be better able to survive than if the caller had to use voice.

21st-century Technology

“We have a long way to go,” Fontes said. “It’s politics. It’s money. The easiest part of all of this is technology. I’m grateful for all of those who have worked so hard to improve the technological capabilities that enable field responders to respond to emergencies with greater information, and for the standards work that’s being done by all of these organizations. I hope that in the context of what is happening in public safety at large, we as a nation will improve our next-generation 9-1-1 to make it in fact 21st-century technology.”

Brian Fontes spoke on March 27 at the International Wireless Communications Expo’s Network Infrastructure Forum during the in-building wireless session moderated by the author.