Week 3 Pre-MWC: radio innovation, backhaul innovation, virtualisation

Week three of pre-MWC, another packed week for news from the mobile network equipment sector. Find out what you need to know before the main event starts.

I wrote here that I’m not convinced this consolidation of product messaging (it’s the messaging, rather than the actual product cycle, that I think is so concentrated) is a help or a hindrance to understanding what the hell’s going on in the market.

Is this a blizzard creating a white out – obscuring the path ahead, or is this a useful concentration of information, allowing us to compare and contrast across vendors? The problem is, some vendors feel they must have an NFV story, even if that’s sketchy as yet, or an SDN story, or a big data story, or whatever – and that leads to a sense of homogeneity that in turn makes it harder to work out what’s actually going on.

I sense that some companies reluctantly hitch on these “major industry trends”, thereby swelling the already pregnant belly of industry buzz. It’s nobody’s fault, and there’s nothing anyone can do about it.

In the meantime, check out the below, and our last (last week) two (two weeks ago) weeks’ worth of round ups, and you should be heading to MWC pretty well prepared for what’s ahead.

1. Small Cells > DAS: NSN > Ericsson? FlexiZone controller
NSN has taken its FlexiZone architecture indoors. The system, in which local small cells were managed by a hub controller, was first designed by Motorola (then NSN) for outdoor metro applications.

By putting software on its Flexi Multiradio 10 Base Stations NSN is aiming to let operators control indoor and outdoor small cells in the same area from the same controller. The solution is also being positioned as a direct macro-cellular DAS replacement, by enabling the installation of remote LTE or WiFi nodes on whatever physical connection is available.

See this as an extension of NSN’s Het Net strategy, and a tacit “we got there first, and better” reply to Ericsson’s Dot Radio.

2. Small Cells + DAS: Alcatel-Lucent and TE Connectivity
Al-Lu and TE have developed and released a common digital interface between the Al-Lu’s mobile Ultra-Broadband access portfolio and the TEFlexWave DAS. Alcatel-Lucent will provide a CPRI interface that plugs directly into the FlexWave universal host, providing interoperability between the Alcatel-Lucent lightRadio Baseband Unit (BBU) and TE Digital DAS.

The idea is that integrated cellular and DAS solutions can greatly reduce infrastructure and support costs.

See this as a big score for these two vendors in providing a forward path for DAS installations, based on the Cloud RAN interface CPRI. What does it mean for Al-Lu’s own sales of its remote radio heads and lightRadio? Al-Lu said it sees it as adding DAS from TE to its own portfolio.

3. MIMOTech – Small cell backhaul at V-Band (E-Band on its way)
MIMOtech announced the launch of StarLink 60G, a millimeter-wave radio link optimised for short-range small-cell backhaul in urban network deployments.

The StarLink 60G operates in the 57-66GHz frequency band (V-band), providing point-to-point Gigabit Ethernet connectivity. Features include a patented automatic antenna alignment technique. Channel bandwidth is scalable from 56MHz up to 250MHz with flexible modulation from QPSK to 64QAM and hitless Adaptive Modulation (HAACM). MIMOtech plans to release a 70/80GHz product later this year to complement the StarLink 60G.

4. Backhaul and fronthaul part 1: Dragonwave
Dragonwave launched Harmony Eband, a compact, low energy consumption radio operating in, as its name suggests, the E-Band at 70-80GHz. As well as applications in mobile backhaul Harmony Eband delivers what Dragonwave claims is the industry’s first uncompressed CPRI transport mode, enabling wireless fronthaul.

Eband can apply up to 64 QAM to achieve throughput of 2.6Gbps full duplex in 500MHz mode. Additionally, Harmony Eband features the DragonWave Reach Extender, which leverages Waveform and Modulation Adaptivity (WMA) and MIMO to extend the radio’s reach and deliver 3-7 KM links with high availability.

Greg Friesen, vice president, Product Management, DragonWave, said, “Because it meets the capacity and latency requirements required to support fronthaul, macro backhaul and small cell aggregation, and is LTE synchronisation ready, we view the Harmony Eband as an extremely viable and cost effective transport option for today’s networks.”

5. Backhaul and fronthaul part 2: ADVA Optical Networking
Adva launched AnyCell Connectivity – an optical WDM-based approach designed to be able to connect a wide variety of cell and traffic types over backhaul and fronthaul connections to the same solution.

AnyCell Connectivity is based around three elements: performance-assured Carrier Ethernet backhaul, time and phase synchronisation and managed optical fronthaul, using wavelength division multiplexing (WDM) technology. The idea is to enable operators to flexibly connect macro cells, small cells and remote radio heads (RRHs) to a common.

6. Next gen part 1: NTT: Active antenna
NTT DOCOMO said it has carried out Japan’s first field test of an active antenna system, demonstrating a 4 dB reduction in electrical loss compared to conventional antennas. Such an increas in power efficiency could enlarge the coverage range of base stations 1.7 times, the carrier said.
The active antenna system for the field test was developed by Tokyo-based Nihon Dengyo Kosaku.

NTTDoCoMo said: “The new antenna integrates multiple antenna elements, each equipped with a small transceiver, which enables installation in confined spaces and assures continued coverage if one or more of the transceivers fails. Also, whereas electrical loss occurs in the connection between a separately located remote radio head (RRH) and a conventional antenna, as well as within the conventional antenna itself, integrating an RRH with each antenna element will result in more efficient operation.

“Further, the active antenna system’s compatibility with MIMO transmission technology should help to raise efficiency when deploying LTE-Advanced, and later 5G, network technologies.”

7. Next gen part 2: LTE-A: NextG-Com: protocol stack for relay nodes
NextG-Com announced the availability of ALPS 521, a Release 11 compliant UE protocol stack designed for easy integration of relay node (RN) backhaul functionality with an existing eNodeB (eNB) solution. Relays are an element of LTE-Advanced (LTE-A). ALPS 521 provides a s platform for the integration and verification of the interactions of relay functionalities to Release 11 specifications such as impact of R-PDCCH and ePDCCH, CoMP, and relay interactions.

See this announcement as evidence of the ecosystem moving towards solutions that enable the adoption of LTE-A features into network equipment.

8. Next Gen part 3: Full Duplex: Kumu
Wireless Full Duplex – a recent development out of Stanford University – allows a radio to simultaneously transmit and receive overlapping signals using a single frequency channel.

Kumu said that it has developed technology that cancels Self-Interference, the “unwanted” energy that leaks into a radio’s receiver while transmitting. As a result of the cancellation, the receiver hears no noise from its transmitter, freeing it to cleanly receive external signals. So, Kumu says, a radio using Kumu’s self-interference cancellation technology can transmit and receive at the same time on the same frequency.

Kumu Networks will be performing the first ever live demonstration of Full Duplex “operating in the real-world” at MWC. (That’s if you think MWC is the real world, of course).

9. Visibility part 1: CarrierIQ: Low cost data analytics
CarrierIQ, the company that got into difficulties in late 2011 when it endured allegations of potentially enabling breaches of user privacy, is back in the game with iQ xPlore SmartStart . The software, which is linked to CarrierIQ’s Mobile Service Intelligence Platform, is intended to help operators better understand Wi-Fi usage, reduce roaming costs, optimizse application portfolio, and deliver better network coverage and performance by pinpointing the cells where coverage or voice and data performance is subpar.

Network, service and application assurance and visibility is a key current issue in the market, with a clutch of acquisitions and mergers taking place across the sector. The end goal is to enable operators to run networks more efficiently, and in a more customer-focussed manner.

10. Visibility part 2: Ixia: Visibility Architecture
Ixia, swollen by its acquisition of Net Optics, has bundled up its range of weapons into what it is terming a new Network Visibility architecture that incorporates physical and virtual Taps, bypass switches and network packet brokers, application and session visibility solutions, and an integrated management platform.

As we said above…network, service and application assurance and visibility is a key current issue in the market, with a clutch of acquisitions and mergers taking place across the sector

11. Visibility part 3: Polystar: Application Recognition Monitoring
Polystar said it can now monitor, track the usage, performance and network impact of more than 1600 individual applications. This allows operators to monitor and report on IP connectivity performance, accessibility, latency and throughput for specific application categories such as: Web, Audio/Video, IM and Peer-to-Peer, as well as for individual applications such as YouTube, Facebook, Netflix and iTunes.

As we said above…network, service and application assurance and visibility is a key current issue in the market

Virtualisation enables segregation of traffic from different small cells, with the ability to apply different policies and feature sets.

12. Virtual Security for Small Cells: Clavister
Clavister will use MWC to launch an LTE Small Cell Security solution for mobile network operators that operates as virtualised environment running on x86 Intel Architecture based platforms.

Based on the company’s Virtual Security Gateway next-generation firewall (NGFW), the solution provides authenticated, encrypted connectivity from multiple small cell base stations to 4G and LTE mobile cores.

When deployed on an operator’s LTE network, the Gateway acts as an IPsec termination point from multiple small cell base stations, providing authenticated and encrypted connectivity to the mobile network core. Furthermore, Clavister says virtualisation enables segregation of traffic from different small cells, with the ability to apply different policies and feature sets.

13. Cloud and NFV part 1. Huawei
Huawei took the wraps of Cloud Edge – with the announcement of virtualised Evolved Packet Core (vEPC), virtualised Multi-Service Engine (vMSE), and Cloud Management and Orchestration (MANO). This is a further part of the vendor’s SoftCOM strategy, which is the name it gives to anything along the lines of virtualisation, software functions and SDN. See this, alongside the following two releases, as the beginning of the delivery of virtualised network functions, as promised by the industry a year ago.

14. Cloud and NfV part 2: Cisco
Cisco announced its Evolved Services Platform (ESP) – an overall virtualisation and orchestration software platform based on Openstack and Open Daylight (SDN) protocols.

The vendor also released two service modules on the platform, one of which was Cisco Virtualized Mobile Internet that includes the Quantum Virtualized Packet Core, Virtual Gi-LAN capabilities and the Cisco Quantum Services Bus.

Cisco said that virtual functions can be purchased as a separate module and run in a network over general computing. Virtualised functions orchestration then enables all the different capabilities to work in a “networked” or “service chaining” approach.

15. Cloud and NFV part 3: Alcatel-Lucent.
Al-Lu also announced its its first virtual functions and cloud platform based on OpenStack. Read the full story here.