May 22, 2017 —
MulteFire technology creates new wireless networks by operating Long Term Evolution (LTE) high-speed wireless data technology as a standalone system in unlicensed or shared spectrum. The MulteFire Alliance, a membership organization that defines and promotes MulteFire technology for small cells operating solely in unlicensed spectrum, completed the MulteFire Release 1.0 specification in January. The Alliance is an open, international organization dedicated to support the common interests of its members, developers and users in the application of LTE and next-generation mobile cellular technology in configurations that use only unlicensed radio spectrum.
With MulteFire deployment, private and public vertical venues, vendors in the internet of things (IoT) vertical market, businesses and property owners can create, install and operate their own private or neutral-host MulteFire network in the same way that they do with Wi-Fi. MulteFire technology incorporates high-quality LTE services and functionality supporting voice and data IP services locally, independently as a private network or interworking with existing mobile networks to provide secure, seamless service as a neutral host — or both.
Today, in-building neutral host wireless solutions are common in the context of Wi-Fi and distributed antenna system (DAS) deployments and are occasionally employed in macro-cell environments. However, the neutral-host option — a common deployment serving subscribers from multiple operators — has rarely been adopted in the deployment of licensed-band small cells. MulteFire technology has the potential to unlock the adoption of small cells and enable neutral-host deployments on a much larger scale.
New Business Opportunities
MulteFire technology creates new business opportunities that allow new markets with specialized needs to benefit from the LTE technology and ecosystem. These vertical markets include large enterprises, sports and entertainment businesses, health care services, identity management vendors, public venues (malls, airports), hospitality businesses, transportation services, machine-to-machine (M2M) applications, IoT applications, seaport management, gas detection, manufacturing, logistics providers and the public sector (first responders, smart grids, military bases and barracks, universities, hospitals and education authorities). Each of these vertical markets can create customized applications and quality of experience (QoE) for its users.
The standalone LTE system is suitable for any radio-frequency spectrum band that requires over-the-air contention for fair sharing, such as the global unlicensed spectrum band at 5 GHz or shared spectrum at 3.5 GHz in the upcoming Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) band in the United States. MulteFire’s 4G LTE technology is tightly aligned with 3GPP standards and builds on elements of the 3GPP Release 131 and 3GPP 142 specifications for licensed assisted access (LAA) and enhanced licensed assisted access (eLAA), augmenting standard LTE to operate in global unlicensed spectrum. Enhancements, such as listen-before-talk (LBT), have been designed to efficiently coexist with other spectrum users, such as Wi-Fi or LAA.
The LTE-based technology enables the full range of LTE services including VoLTE (voice), high-speed mobile broadband (data), user mobility and IoT optimizations. It promises LTE-like performance with the simplicity of Wi-Fi-like deployments. As with mobile networks, MulteFire technology enables full mobility as a user walks around a building; the technology enables seamless handover between small cells as required. MulteFire technology will also interwork with external mobile networks to provide service continuity when users leave the area where MulteFire service is available.
The standalone LTE network deployment can operate anywhere, without additional regulatory approval, costly spectrum or specialist expertise. It uses many of the sophisticated features designed into LTE to deliver high performance, seamless mobility and resilience, even in highly congested environments. As with Wi-Fi, multiple MulteFire networks can co-exist, overlap, or be friendly neighbors in the same physical space.
MulteFire technology unleashes enormous potential for the wide adoption of small cells, especially indoors. Additionally, it could form a useful multi-operator solution for building owners at a lower cost than today’s DAS by acting as a neutral host or single-operator enterprise solution.
The following are the MulteFire technology’s key performance advantages, thanks to the use of LTE technology:
Its end-to-end architecture extends from general design to support for various deployment modes. Its radio air interface, including frame structure and uplink transmission scheme make use of eLAA robust anchor carrier design, LBT design, and key procedures such as random access procedure, mobility, radio resource management (RRM) measurement and paging.
The better radio coverage that MulteFire technology provides retains LTE’s deep coverage characteristics in an unlicensed band, targets control channels to operate at cell-edge SINR of −6 dB and adds a 5 dB to 6 dB link budget advantage over carrier-grade Wi-Fi.
Its enhanced capacity in denser deployments offers significant gains (~2X) over the 802.11ac baseline, and it makes use of LTE link efficiency and media access control (MAC).
The seamless mobility the MulteFire technology delivers brings carrier-grade LTE mobility to unlicensed and shared spectrum, supports backward and forward handover (as Rel. 12), and provides seamless and robust mobility between MulteFire nodes themselves for all use cases and when moving between a MulteFire radio access network (RAN) and a macro network, depending on deployment model. It provides service continuity to wide-area networks (WANs) when moving to and from a neutral-host deployment.
MulteFire technology has increased robustness because forward handover enables recovery when radio link failures occur. It also has enhanced radio link failure triggers, and it uses LTE mature self-organizing network (SON) techniques.
Owning and operating a MulteFire network that uses unlicensed spectrum has many benefits, whether it is deployed as a standalone network or interworks with existing mobile networks. The use of the LTE-based technology provides secure, seamless service and the MulteFire deployment can act as a neutral host that offers voice over LTE (VoLTE), high-speed mobile broadband and LBT, all with LTE-like performance. Additionally, MulteFire technology’s Wi-Fi-like simplicity makes it a powerful tool for any organization that does not require hiring expert implementers.
MulteFire systems can operate anywhere, even in congested Wi-Fi and LTE environments where they can co-exist and overlap. A MulteFire system seamlessly hands over between small cells as necessary to provide users with better mobility and to ensure that they stay connected to their information. When a user leaves the MulteFire network area, the MulteFire equipment interworks with external mobile networks to provide service continuity.
Moreover, there are a number of specialized customers that require high reliability, safety and mass connections with ubiquitous coverage. MulteFire technology will build a solid foundation for future smart connection in vertical scenarios, including broadband and IoT. The first specification release, Release 1.0 is a testament to the merits of deploying cellular technologies in unlicensed and shared spectrum.
MulteFire Release 1.1 is expected to be released in late 2017. It will have new features for optimized IoT and further enhancements for coverage, spectrum efficiency, mobility, and shared spectrum. Looking ahead, MulteFire technology will continue to be enhanced with new features that introduced in phases and target enriched scenarios, services and additional spectrums.
With permission, this article uses extensive passages from the MulteFire Release 1.0 Technical Paper from the MulteFire Alliance. For more details and to request a copy of the MulteFire Release 1.0 Technical Paper, visit www.multefire.org/specification/release-1-0-technical-paper-download/.
March 14, 2017
A recent story on Bloomberg Technology had an ominous headline, “A World Without Wi-Fi Looks Possible as Unlimited Plans Rise.” This is an interesting story. The premise that unlimited data will kill Wi-Fi is a bit premature. As Mark Twain said, “The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated,” so are the reports that Wi-Fi is on it’s deathbed.
As we all know the unlimited data plans aren’t really unconditionally unlimited and I really can’t see the carriers handling the data tsunami and offering truly unlimited (beyond 10 gig) without some stuff way beyond 4G mods, and until 5G is strongly in place (and much of that will be higher frequencies which do not propagate all that well). So the model of where all this data will end up is still not clear. The unknown here is streaming media and there is a lot of speculation around exactly how, what and how streaming media will actually play out. Even I am not sure exactly how it will end up.
This is one of my biggest issues with sites like Bloomberg. While they did they talk to the Wi-Fi Alliance and I’m sure the alliance mentioned Wi-GIG, nothing was said about it. They also should have talked to someone at the IEEE 802.xx working group, or the Multimedia-Grade Wi-Fi Working Group. They go to sources that, I believe, aren’t really deeply in the loop.
They did interview Kyung Mun, an analyst at researcher Mobile Experts. I know Kyung (he lives up near me and is going to do a thought leader piece for me next issue), and talked to him about the article. He said he mentioned Wi-GIG and its importance future, but they didn’t quote him on that. Perhaps that did not fit into the Bloomberg’s Wi-Fi death spiral narrative.
Right now, Wi-Fi is being used for three primary platforms – offload of data on macro networks, fill-in of poor coverage zones and local networks such as stadiums, homes, and office complexes, etc. To replace that with one of the other options isn’t all that viable yet, considering the ubiquitous deployment of Wi-Fi. I highly doubt that LTE-U or some other scheme is going to replace Wi-Fi in areas such as The Edge, and high-traffic areas/periods that require densification, and the others, any time soon.
To replace such Wi-Fi solutions will require either frequency manipulation schemes, or more likely small cells. And the Wi-Fi models, so far, haven’t shown to be a money making model in most cases (especially for the carriers). So the carriers will either have to eat the costs or find a way to monetize them. What makes them think LTE-U will be any different (particularly in no coverage zones)?
Second, there is still the issue of Wi-Fi/LTE-U interference that hasn’t been resolved yet. Thirdly, not all data is fit for phones or tablet. I cannot see me writing articles on my phone or a tablet. So will the hotels, stadiums and coffee shops give up Wi-Fi? I doubt it. I see tons of peeps in coffee shops working on laptopsThe model of charging for Wi-Fi access died a long time ago so users are used to “free” network access in such cases. And if LTE-U is available on laptops, will it be free?
The Citizen Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) initiative is a long way from becoming an universal option and even though it plays at lower frequencies with better propagation, now the interference issue raises its head.
Sure, some people are going to stop using Wi-Fi, if their unlimited plan works for them – at least in some cases. I don’t have the security worries about unsecured connection because I have electric condoms all over my stuff. In the end, Wi-Fi is going to evolve and live along side of LTE, LTE-License Assisted Access, LTE-U and CBRS, ad infinitum. Exactly how, though, is yet to be figured out…
January 14, 2016 — This will be a watershed year for a number of vectors. It will, finally, see some actual physical deployments, or technological integration of new or emerging platforms. It will be a critical year in setting both the stage, and the pace to achieving those lofty goals of 2020.
Here is what this editor thinks will be happening in 2016:
LTE will one of those platforms that will see an uptick in deployment in 2016. Carriers will accelerate the pace of LTE and LTE-A on 4G networks.
There are improvements coming on LTE as well, like T-Mobile’s wideband LTE/extended range LTE, and Verizon’s XLTE. Also, the unlicensed version of this technology, LTE-U and LAA will see traction this coming year. The issues between these technologies and Wi-Fi will also see progress.
Other emerging technologies such as network function virtualization (NFV) and software define networks (SDN) will see significant technological progress. Not much will happen in actual deployments for a couple of years, even if there are some service providers claiming fixed scheduled deployment. There are still a lot of issues with interworking among vendor solutions, security and throughput.
To be workable, virtualized networks require network management and security solutions. And 100 gig pipes. Today, virtual appliances are facing performance challenges at such high data rates.; It isn’t a problem in the physical realm, but to make NFV operational, even at 100 gig speeds, means transferring physical solutions to virtualized environments. There is reason to be optimistic in 2016/2017 but realistically, 2018 is a better bet for deployments.
SDN is solid but integrating these networks is going to be a bigger issue than many think, especially with older analog equipment still out there. This cumbersome stitching together of various parts of the equation has delayed real deployments as has the lack of controllers and real SDN hardware.
But the challenges are being overcome and they are staging for deploying functioning networks in 2017/8. That will be the mission in 2016 – to make them all play nice and figure out how to deploy and integrate them.
June 18, 2015 — Verizon told the FCC it plans to deploy unlicensed LTE (LTE-U) where bandwidth demand outstrips licensed spectrum capacity, namely in the 5-GHz band, according to comments filed at the agency last week. And it will look at other bands in the future, such as 3.5 GHz.
“In these areas, Verizon will deploy LTE-U on low-power small cells. Customers served by LTE-U will enjoy all the advantages of ‘standard’ LTE, including fast download speeds and seamless coverage when moving between cells,” Verizon wrote.
While wireless carriers remain loyal to Wi-Fi technology, the consensus of them went on the record supporting LTE-U and License Assisted Access (LAA), or at least opposing FCC regulation of the technologies.
T-Mobile, which was the first carrier to promote Wi-Fi calling, wrote, “Consistent with the FCC’s own philosophy, carriers should be allowed to use an ‘all of the above’ approach for such network capacity expansion and management.”
Carriers assured the FCC that wireless industry standards being developed for LTE-U and LAA would suffice for interference abatement. Because of the success of Wi-Fi and the carriers’ dependence on it, the wireless industry would have no impetus to deploy unlicensed LTE that would harm existing unlicensed technology.
“Verizon also has a particular interest in ensuring that new uses of unlicensed spectrum do not degrade existing unlicensed operations, because it has put Wi-Fi into hundreds of millions of its smartphones, tablets, mobile hotspots, and FiOS routers,” Verizon wrote. “Unlicensed spectrum has been such a tremendous success because operators have voluntarily developed sharing mechanisms that respect one another’s legitimate uses of spectrum.”
Because Verizon will deploy LTE-U in the 5-GHz band, where Wi-Fi and other important unlicensed technologies are present, the carrier will design the network to avoid harming other unlicensed operations.
“Verizon’s equipment will comply with all Commission rules for operations in the 5-GHz band, including technical specifications that limit the size of LTE-U cells in the same way they limit the sizes of Wi-Fi hotspots” Verizon wrote.
Unlicensed technology that uses LTE protocols will provide additional capacity in areas where carriers have licensed LTE spectrum, according to AT&T, providing a cost-effective and spectrally efficient way to help address wireless data demand.
May 28, 2015 — As much activity as I see in the 5G space, I think the industry is getting around to figuring out exactly what 5G is and what it isn’t. A good sign is the level of activity that has started to pop up. For example, Nokia has a new white paper that presents some interesting data on 5G. The paper highlights what Nokia calls “10 rules for 5G deployment” based on extensive studies of high-density deployments of wireless networks in Tokyo and Madrid.
The research indicates that “an LTE-based HetNet can cope with the capacity demands up to a thousand times greater than was common in 2010. However, to meet capacity needs beyond that, small cells using 5G frequency bands will need to be deployed with an LTE macro/HetNet overlay.”
That makes a lot of sense to me. But more than that, it is a technologically feasible. So this is one sign that the industry is starting to look at 5G more realistically.
Another vector that points in the same direction is the white paper released by GSMA, a global wireless association, which is pretty grounded in the reality of wireless.
The paper, “Understanding 5G: Perspectives on Future Technological Advancements in Mobile,” is a look at what applications cannot be realized with present generation technologies, such as LTE flavors and 4G generational enhancements. And it makes sense. Some applications, such as augmented reality, virtual reality, tactile Internet, and autonomous driving, for example, will need much better “margins” than 4G. Such metrics include end-to-end round-trip latency in the sub-1 ms, area, and greater than 1 Gbps of downlink bandwidth. That reads applications like 3D, gaming, telemedicine, and intelligent transportation systems. Another notch in 5G reality check belt.
Finally, we are seeing movement in the standards vector of 5G. It is no secret that the wireless landscape of tomorrow will require higher data rates, massive device connectivity, more system capacities, reduced latency, energy savings, and high security. There are other requirements, but one gets the picture.
What will loom large for small cells is that the more data capacity you take off your network, the better it performs. That is a script written for small cells. So that being said, the implication is that 5G will a have to have a set of co-dependent standards that work together, seamlessly, and across all spectrum and technologies. Large order, but considering what is at stake, and that it is virtually impossible to design a single technology standard that will perform reasonably well from sub GHz to 80 GHz, i.e. 3.5 GHz Wi-Fi vs. 60 GHz Wi-Fi (WiGig). Also, the design of future radio technology will have to undergo some serious changes. Radios will have to be a lot more frequency agile than they are now. They will have to be able to negotiate everything up to 80 GHz, maybe even higher.
Things in the research end are popping to address that. For example, the 5G Innovation Centre at the University of Surrey, which includes leaders in academia and industry, is hard at work in the 5G space. So is NYU Wireless, widely recognized as one of the wireless industries best brain trusts. Researchers there are gathering data from New York City using prototype base stations and mobile units that they hope will help in the development of 5G channel models. And, the EU and South Korea signed a deal to work on 5G deployment.
Overall, 5G is way ahead of where it was last year at this time. And most of it is in the reality wheelhouse, and much of the hype has calmed down. Time to get on with serious 5G business.