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/.