Get in Sync with 5G

 

The ever-growing demand for mobile connectivity is driving a transformation in wireless technology. Without a doubt, the most significant shift happening right now is the adoption of 5G. Next-generation 5G technology allows enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB) to deliver faster speeds across a wide coverage area, opening the door to a wide array of innovative and profitable new use cases — from automated factories and autonomous vehicles, to smart homes and cities.

Many of the new applications that 5G technology enables rely on more stringent performance and lower latency than previous mobile generations were capable of delivering. Achieving these technical requirements, however, requires a fundamental change in how the network uses radio frequency (RF) spectrum. Evolution to 5G introduces new, larger spectrum bands that exclusively use Time Division Duplexing (TDD), versus the Frequency Division Duplex (FDD) timing sequence that legacy mobile communications technologies employ.

Additionally, network operators are building out more dense cell sites in order to deliver sufficient coverage, capacity, speed, and performance in 5G, making it crucial that all the radio access network (RAN) elements and user devices are seamlessly synchronized with each other. Furthermore, 5G also takes advantage of advanced RF optimization technologies, such as massive MIMO, dynamic spectrum sharing (DSS), beamforming, and carrier aggregation, which require accurate timing for proper operation.

Taken together all of these technical complexities contribute to a critical need for precise timing and synchronization in 5G networks.

Timing is Everything

A key difference with TDD spectrum usage is that both the uplink (UL) and downlink (DL) signals are transmitted on the same frequencies, as opposed to the FDD method that uses separate, paired frequency blocks to transmit and receive traffic. 5G technology relies on TDD bands to provide support for larger channel bandwidth and asymmetrical UL / DL channels to make more efficient use of valuable 5G spectrum.

Yet, with both uplink and downlink data transmissions on the same frequency, there is a much greater chance of interference, with any lack of synchronization between UL / DL frames making matters worse. That means that exact time and phase alignment between base stations is required in order to prevent signal interference and dropped calls with TDD. In fact, 5G new radio (NR) specifications introduce very stringent restrictions on TDD transmissions, with an absolute time synchronization margin of just 1.5µs, compared to a margin of 10µs in the previous FDD LTE environment.

These requirements are particularly important when accommodating new use cases. While many service providers typically follow a standard 80/20 rule for downloading and uploading content, this network parameter is likely to cause congestion as traffic patterns change, increasing the odds of interference. For example, faster 5G speeds are expected to continue driving more uplink traffic, such as cloud storage, or the practice of uploading selfie photos and videos in crowded entertainment venues.

 

To accommodate the need for precise synchronization with TDD, 5G networks use a highly accurate timing sequence called the Precision Time Protocol (PTP) that shares the same time reference from end to end throughout the network. The PTP function maintains time, phase, and frequency synchronization from the network core to the edge of the service provider’s network. This helps to ensure good quality of experience (QoE) for subscribers using the outdoor macro network.

Get in Sync

But what about service indoors where roughly 80 percent of all mobile voice and data traffic occurs? For those commercial buildings, multi-dwelling units (MDUs), and enterprise offices with a distributed antenna system (DAS) deployed in-building, the PTP assurance of 5G timing and synchronization ends where the DAS begins. To provide reliable 5G service and ensure QoE for indoor subscribers, in-building DAS infrastructure needs to support the timing sequence of TDD.

With the SOLiD ALLIANCE DAS platform 2W, 5W, 20W and Multi-Power Remote Optical Unit, synchronization occurs at the remote unit on the edge of the network, not at the system headend. Likewise, the edgeROU fiber-to-the-edge remotes synch at the edgeHUB typically located in the independent distribution frame (IDF) closet on each floor.

By synching closer to the mobile device, our system provides improved timing and synchronization for seamless connectivity, reducing dropped calls and interference in-building. Additionally, if a sync detection module should fail, the area of impacted coverage is minimized. Alternatively, other systems that sync at the headend can suffer from an extra delay caused by the distance from where they sync to user devices, as well as being vulnerable to total outages, resulting in a poor subscriber experience.

The SOLiD DAS platform not only matches exacting timing and synchronization to improve service quality — similarly to how user devices operate — but our DAS technology also minimizes latency in 5G and LTE networks. SOLiD ALLIANCE DAS minimizes latency by using analog RF over fiber, eliminating the need for analog to digital and digital to analog conversions, which can add significant signal delay and latency.

To learn more about how to get in sync with SOLiD, visit www.solid.com/us/products/alliance-das.


Bringing True 5G Vision into Focus with the C-Band

The evolution to 5G is moving at a blistering pace.  In fact, the adoption of 5G is happening faster than any previous generation of mobile communications technology.  Yet we still have not realized the true vision of this new mobile technology.  In the U.S., this is primarily due to a shortage of suitable radio frequency spectrum.

To achieve the full potential of 5G, mobile network operators (MNOs) require broad, dedicated channels, ideally 100 MHz or larger.  The 5G standards permit channel bandwidths up to 100 MHz in frequency range 1 (FR1) below 6 GHz and up to 800 MHz in frequency range 2 (FR2) above 6 GHz, typically higher mmWave spectrum from 24 to 40 GHz.  All major network operators possess licenses in FR2, but building a network to provide ubiquitous coverage with mmWave is cost-prohibitive due to the very short transmission distances at high frequencies.  Therefore, FR1 bands large enough to support 100 MHz channels are the best alternative to provide wide-area 5G coverage that also offers true 5G capabilities.

Except for the 2.5 GHz BRS band used by T-Mobile, each of the legacy bands previously used for 3G and 4G typically provide just 10 to 40 MHz of bandwidth to each network operator, so they could not support 100 MHz channels.  As a result, the initial 5G deployments in the U.S. did not enable wireless service providers to maximize their networks' speed and capacity. Still, they did enable coverage maps showing large areas of 5G coverage.  Finally, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released additional spectra in the C-Band 3.7 to 3.98 GHz and 3.45 to 3.55 GHz to enhance the MNO's 5G capabilities.  The U.S. C-Band is a sub-set of the frequency band identified as n77 by the global 3GPP organization that spans 3300 MHz to 4200 MHz.

C-Band will offer significant improvements over the previously released millimeter-wave spectrum for wide-area 5G network deployments.  The n77 spectrum has already been used in 5G networks for two to three years by MNOs worldwide, and most 5G networks operate in this mid-band spectrum.  Here in the U.S., however, MNOs just recently started switching on their C-Band 5G networks after intense negotiations with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) over concerns about interference with airplane radar altimeters.

Now that the U.S. Tier One service providers are using C-Band in their 5G networks, it's important to ensure that existing mobile communications infrastructure is compatible — including your in-building distributed antenna system (DAS) equipment.  For building owners, enabling seamless 5G connectivity is crucial to keeping tenants happy as more subscribers adopt this next-generation technology and MNOs begin to turn off previous mobile generations.  And for those enterprises wanting to benefit from the latest innovations such as IoT connectivity, analytics powered by machine learning, and smart manufacturing, 5G private networks are the answer to achieving this as smoothly and efficiently as possible.

Learn the ABCs of C-Band

The C-Band was previously reserved for satellite TV transmissions. Still, with advanced digital encoding methods, the satellite companies can "repack" their broadcasts into the upper portion of the band to free up the lower portion for 5G.  Interestingly, after auctioning the frequency licenses last year, the FCC is making C-Band available in two phases as they clear the spectrum.  This means that MNOs' timeframes for the availability of 5G in the C-Band will vary considerably depending on their licenses, with roll-outs extending from early this year to the end of 2023 and different portions of the band being used in various markets.  In other words, the overall deployment picture is far from simple.  For example, one MNO received an initial spectrum allocation this year that will shift 80 MHz higher within the band in 2023.

C-Band offers greater capacity with an increased channel size, but the coverage area will be reduced or require more output power to achieve the same footprint as previous frequencies.  Additionally, the C-Band spectrum offers just one-fourth of the legacy mobile communications bands' signal propagation characteristics because it spans higher frequencies.  As a result, achieving the same coverage footprint with C-Band will require a higher effective output power from the antenna.

Likewise, the higher frequencies also do not penetrate building materials as well as lower frequencies.  This means that coverage from outdoor networks is less likely to provide service inside buildings.  On the plus side, in-building coverage systems, such as Distributed Antenna Systems (DAS), will have less outdoor network interference to overcome.

A dedicated in-building system can provide reliable C-Band coverage, but the interior building materials impede these higher frequencies.  In comparison to legacy mobile communications frequencies at the same power level, indoor C-Band coverage is roughly 15 percent per antenna.  For example, an antenna providing a little more than 1,000 square feet of coverage for a 4G 20 MHz channel in the legacy Advanced Wireless Service (AWS) band would cover a little more than 150 square feet with a 5G 100 MHz channel in the C-Band, assuming an office environment with sheetrock walls.

If you have an existing 4G DAS, it may or may not support the new frequencies.  However, even if it does, it will certainly require amplifiers that provide 4 to 10 times more output power to match the existing footprint.  Yet providing higher power is not feasible if the existing system already uses high output power amplifiers.  Under that circumstance, use an overlay system for the higher frequencies, engineered for specific coverage requirements.  With the SOLiD Link Budget Analysis tool, you can easily analyze factors unique to your deployment to maximize capacity and coverage.

SOLiD ALLIANCE DAS provides a modular high output power C-Band remote and a lower power fiber-to-the-edge (edgeROU) solution for overlay applications.  The modular high output power (20W) remote supports all 380 MHz of licensed C-Band and Auction 110 spectrum with up to 2x2 MIMO in one chassis.  The edgeROU also supports the full C-Band with 2x2 MIMO and is available with integrated antennas or external antenna ports.  These options enable at least three approaches to add C-Band to your coverage infrastructure.  The high-power remote may be integrated with your existing DAS on a remote-by-remote basis if the existing remotes are 2W or 5W.  The edgeROU with integrated antennas may provide a complete overlay solution as simple as deploying Wi-Fi.  The edgeROU with external antenna ports may integrate with your existing DAS at each antenna location either with the existing antenna, if appropriate, or by replacing the antennas with a model that supports both legacy bands and the C-Band.

All of SOLiD's C-Band amplifiers support the full instantaneous and occupied bandwidth.  Full band capability ensures that the system will support the initial spectrum allocations and later transitions when satellite incumbents release the upper end of the band in 2023.

To ensure that your in-building DAS platform is ready for 5G service in the C-Band, select a solution that supports the full C-Band frequency allocation from day one, with multiple output power options to meet the unique needs of your venue.

Transition to Tomorrow

As 5G advances and new frequency bands become available, in-building wireless systems need to keep pace or be left behind.  Today's building tenants and enterprise employees expect excellent quality of service everywhere, even indoors, and 5G is no exception.  Are you ready to support the C-Band to take advantage of the true 5G promise?

To learn more about how to upgrade your in building DAS system to fully realize 5G, watch our webinar “Are you ready for 5G mid-band?”


Supply Chain

Adapting to the New Normal to Fix a Broken Supply Chain

Supply Chain

No matter what industry you are working in right now, odds are you’ve experienced at least some impact from supply chain constraints during the past couple of years. When the world economy tried to reboot after being essentially shut down for more than 18 months, we all learned the hard way how interconnected the global supply chain truly is and how much that affects all of us.

Now, as we navigate the ‘new normal’ sparked by the global COVID-19 pandemic, new patterns in supply and logistics are emerging and changing how we predict shifting demand. Some of these patterns will be temporary, while others will set a new baseline for years to come. In other words, business-as-usual is a thing of the past; at least for now.

A Cloudy Forecast

Well-informed, long-range forecasting continues to be critical during this ongoing supply crisis. To date, our ability to work very closely with our customers on forecasting their demand for products means that SOLiD has not had to disappoint our customers by failing to meet delivery deadlines. However, it would seem that others are not doing as well in this regard, because some of their customers are coming to us with demand for products.

On the one hand, this is a good problem to have because we love to work with new customers. On the other hand, the fact that they did not forecast demand with us in advance means that excess inventory could become depleted. Those system integrators who can’t get equipment as needed because their usual DAS provider can’t deliver could find themselves in a situation where they recognize significantly reduced revenue for the fiscal year.

One thing is certain: supply chain diversity has never been more important. If your usual DAS provider has let you down this year, give us a call to discuss diversifying your sourcing with SOLiD.

Trust is a Two-Way Street

Of course, product demand forecasting is a collaborative relationship built on honesty and commitment. If a network operator or system integrator says they need equipment on a particular date, they need to be prepared to take it. Don’t expect your supplier to sit on the inventory when other customers are ready to take it now.

It’s crucial that we all work together to understand immediate market needs and service priorities. Fixing the broken supply chain requires a better understanding of which changes in customer demand mix are short-lived and which represent a “paradigm shift.” These insights are a key element of integrated business planning (IBP), capacity planning, and capital planning processes.

Supply of Patience

Clearly, the normal way of doing business simply isn’t happening right now. But because today’s global supply chain is so inextricably interconnected, we can’t just insist that “the hole is in the other side of the boat” — we will all sink together regardless. For example, the prolonged shortage of components such as semiconductors has resulted in lead times exceeding a year, with component suppliers demanding upfront payment. That means tying up capital investments in product delivery for as long as two years instead of the typical 3 to 4 months, requiring us to take on considerable risk.

Yet, despite the current situation, SOLiD is succeeding thanks to our close working relationship with good customers and partners. Careful collaboration on demand forecasting and delivery allow us to maintain clarity despite a cloudy forecast, as we all stock up on plenty of patience and perseverance for the long haul. To learn how to confidently diversify your sourcing with SOLiD to achieve your revenue goals, contact your local SOLiD sales representative, or visit solid.com/us/contact.


SOLiD Unveils New ALLIANCE 5G DAS In-Building Solutions for C-Band

Flexible and powerful wireless solutions unleash seamless 5G mobile coverage indoors, providing access to fully occupied C-Band spectrum

SOLiD, the leader in cellular in-building mobile coverage, today introduced two new SOLiD ALLIANCE 5G distributed antenna systems (DAS) in-building connectivity solutions uniquely designed to support the C-Band spectrum (3.7-3.98 GHz), with add-on options for the mid-band Auction 110 spectrum (3.45-3.55 GHz). The new DAS remote units support the full C-Band frequency allocations, enabling mobile network operators (MNOs) and third-party operators to maximize coverage and capacity to deliver a true 5G experience indoors from day one.

As U.S. Tier 1 service providers build out wide-area 5G networks using the C-Band spectrum to enhance capacity and speed for a better user experience, network operators need to update legacy DAS systems to support the new bands indoors. While the FCC is making the C-Band spectrum available in multiple phases through 2023, the modular ALLIANCE DAS platform supports the fully occupied C-Band spectrum now, providing future-ready coverage capability to optimize return on investment and minimize disruption.

SOLiD ALLIANCE C-Band DAS remotes leverage fiber-to-the-edge, as well as SOLiD’s leading high-power technology, to deliver outstanding quality of service with faster speeds, higher bandwidth, and lower latency. SOLiD ALLIANCE C-Band equipment is available in low-power Fiber2Antenna and high-power Fiber2Coax configurations, offering design flexibility to efficiently match the coverage footprint of legacy DAS deployments while compensating for C-Band’s reduced signal propagation.

The ALLIANCE Fiber2Antenna edgeROU 4040 platform includes support for integrated or external antennas, providing 2x2 Multiple-In Multiple-Out (MIMO), and includes options to add the new Auction 110 spectrum for overlay deployments or four sub-3GHz bands for greenfield deployments. The ALLIANCE Fiber2Coax HROU 4000 remote has external antenna ports, expansion bays to add amplifiers supporting the Auction 110 spectrum, and the capability to provide single input or 2x2 MIMO in each band.

“SOLiD continues to pave the way forward by providing innovative, next-generation DAS equipment that enables network operators to reap maximum benefits from valuable new C-Band spectrum for enhanced in-building connectivity,” said Slavko Djukic, vice president, Product Line Management and Technology, SOLiD Americas. “With full support for the entire C-Band spectrum from day one, as well as multiple power output and configuration options, SOLiD ALLIANCE C-Band DAS remotes provide the ultimate performance and flexibility to meet the unique needs of any building or event venue, delivering a truly differentiated 5G experience.”

For more information about the new ALLIANCE 5G DAS in-building solutions for C-Band, visit: www.solid.com/us/resources.


Middleprise DAS

What is DAS And What Does it Mean For the Middleprise?

Middleprise DAS

When it comes to running your business, you demand only the best services and technologies for your customers, employees, and partners. That includes the availability of seamless communications services throughout your building or campus. With today’s busy lifestyle, constant connectivity is an absolute necessity, otherwise business simply doesn’t work.

However, neighboring buildings and other obstacles can restrict cellular radio frequency (RF) signals from reaching your buildings. Plus, modern building materials are more dense and energy-efficient than in the past, including increased use of LEED certified materials and reflective surfaces such as ‘Low-E’ glass, restricting outside mobile communications signals. Compounding this issue is the fact that walls, furniture, and cubicles tend to block or diminish the RF signals that do penetrate your building. All of these factors degrade the mobile device connectivity inside your building, resulting in weak signals or frequent dropped calls indoors.

Stuck in the Middle

Businesses of all kinds are facing many economic and logistical challenges these days, draining budgets and squeezing profits. If you operate a middleprise business, such as healthcare, hospitality, higher education, or commercial real estate, the pressure is only intensifying as we navigate a ‘new normal’ sparked by the global COVID-19 pandemic.

Mobile voice and data communications are increasingly essential to your employees, building tenants, and visitors. When you factor in the needs of public safety professionals, reliable 24x7 connectivity can become a matter of life and death. Yet, despite your need for reliable mobile connectivity, the major telecom service providers only provide in-building infrastructure to cover very large venues exceeding 500,000 square feet of space.

Keeping up with communications technologies can be confusing, as the state-of-the-art continues to change rapidly. For example, growing adoption of 5G is driving more demand for data on the go, as well as the introduction of new RF spectrum, such as CBRS and C-Band, to enable more network capacity. Likewise, increasing reliance on the internet of things (IoT) and ‘smart’ building technologies means that the number of devices continuously connected to the mobile network is skyrocketing with no end in sight.

Luckily, there is a simple, affordable way to ensure seamless, in-building mobile connectivity that is ideal for the middleprise, allowing you to take charge of your company’s future.

A Future-Ready Investment

With the installation of a distributed antenna systems (DAS) in your building, you can enable dedicated, reliable, in-building coverage for 4G/ 5G cellular connectivity and emergency communications, all supported by the same platform. The SOLiD ALLIANCE 5G DAS offers unprecedented mobile communications from the rooftop to the basement — and on every floor, in every room, and around every corner — to improve productivity, ensure customer satisfaction, and increase property values.

The patented SOLiD ALLIANCE fiber-to-the-edge DAS system is an easy-to-install, in-building, multi-operator solution that delivers reliable cellular coverage throughout any building, campus, or venue. The ALLIANCE 5G DAS platform efficiently pushes more power through the in-building cellular network to blanket a larger coverage area with stronger signals and fewer antennas. As a result, employees, building tenants, and visitors will experience unmatched signal strength, faster data speeds, and best-in-class communications.

With our FIBER2ANTENNA edge technology, you can benefit from improved speed and capacity, as well as increased deployment flexibility, security, and efficiency. Yet the ALLIANCE DAS platform is low cost and easy to install, with an inconspicuous, low-profile design that mounts on the wall or ceiling. Plus with a scalable platform, you can benefit from expanded capacity as needed. The ALLIANCE edgeROU solution supports up to eight bands over a single fiber strand, and works with every frequency band used for cellular communications, two-way radio, paging, and public safety.

By investing in ALLIANCE 5G DAS equipment, you can ensure seamless in-building connectivity with faster speeds, higher bandwidth, and lower latency. Plus, our modular platform allows you to optimize your investment by deploying what you need today, and expanding in the future as needed. This unique future-ready design also protects your investment from technological changes, like the migration to 5G, by enabling incremental upgrades to avoid expensive rip and replace scenarios.

Secure Return on Investment

Poor connectivity is no longer acceptable for today’s business. Secure your business future with unmatched bandwidth and coverage for the middleprise, while benefiting from reduced complexity, scalability for the future, and cost-efficient deployment and management. To learn more, visit: https://solid.com/us/industries/in-building-cellular-coverage-for-the-middleprise.


Smart Transit Mobile Connectivity

How Smart Transit Systems Meet Rising Demands for Mobile Connectivity

Smart Transit Mobile Connectivity

It’s estimated that there are now many more smartphone subscriptions than people in the world, and the rise of mobile communications is not slowing down anytime soon. As more network operators roll out 5G networks, an insatiable demand for streaming video and mobile data is fueling ever faster growth, while creating more network congestion. Yet expectations continue to skyrocket for seamless mobile connectivity anytime, anywhere.

The delivery of pervasive cellular communications is particularly challenging in high-capacity environments like subways, train stations, and airports. These hard-to-serve areas have stringent environmental, space, and reliability requirements that are further compounded by the need for scalability to serve dense crowds of commuters during peak travel times.

No matter which mobile network carrier they subscribe to for service, today’s transit passengers expect to stay connected with business associates, friends, family, and streaming media, as they attempt to get on-the-go updates. Even more importantly, transit staff and public safety personnel also rely on wireless networks to do their jobs and maintain a safe environment, whether in a crowded train or airline terminal, or throughout a subterranean subway.

This driving need for a seamless mobile experience is why many of the world’s busiest airports and subways rely on SOLiD distributed antenna system (DAS) solutions for smart transit connectivity.

Always-On, Everywhere

When transit passengers amass in a crowded terminal or underground subway, cellular signals become blocked and local wireless networks are easily overloaded by data and voice calls. These capacity constraints and poor connectivity lead to degraded quality of service, missed calls, dropped connections… and disgruntled passengers.

With SOLiD's modular in-building DAS equipment in place, subscribers’ phones automatically search for the mobile signals emitted by the DAS, achieving fast, dependable, and continuous connectivity just as if they were outdoors. In fact, we support uninterrupted mobile connectivity for some of the world’s largest transit systems, including New York City’s MTA subway, the London Underground, and many major U.S. airports.

Because every leg of a subway and wing of an airport terminal or train depot is different, SOLiD customizes solutions to suit each deployment. From narrow underground tunnels to expansive passenger terminals with high ceilings and other wide-open areas, our flexible modular platform provides broad coverage and high capacity in a small footprint that scales easily. Plus a wide range of technologies are supported, including 5G, Internet of Things (IoT), and Private Cellular Networks leveraging the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS).

Our innovative DAS and Optical Network solutions are designed to cost-efficiently address the dynamic demands for voice, data, and public safety communications in high-traffic venues while optimizing resources. For example, SOLiD's neutral-host DAS supports multi-operator commercial cellular and public safety services on a single modular platform requiring just one strand of fiber.

Smart Transit Gets Real

Transportation needs are continually evolving. As transit authorities embrace technology to enhance the smart transit experience, they need to stay informed about evolving communications solutions as well. To help them prepare for next-generation mobile connectivity, SOLiD is showcasing 5G for transportation systems at the 2022 Smart Transit East congress, March 15-17 in Boston. Leading a panel of experts from Boingo Wireless and C Squared Systems, we will engage in an informative workshop to discuss real-world opportunities and best practices for transportation authorities to enable 5G communications — above ground, underground, within all stations, and across all platforms.

Whether it’s streaming a movie or webinar in the terminal, or a quick text on the subway platform, commuters everywhere expect seamless, high-capacity mobile service as an integral part of their daily lives. Are you ready to meet the need for always-on connectivity? To learn more, join us at Smart Transit East or visit www.solid.com/us/industries/transportation.

 


Mid-Band Spectrum Goldilocks

Why Mid-Band Spectrum is Key to 5G Growth

Mid-Band Spectrum Goldilocks

Advancements in communications technology enable ever faster, seamless mobile connectivity to satisfy the insatiable demand for data.  To keep up, the FCC recently held yet another auction for RF spectrum licenses — the agency's third-largest spectrum auction ever, in terms of the amount generated in winning bids.  The new spectrum that the FCC released, which encompasses 3.45–3.55 GHz, is known confusingly as Auction 110, Andromeda, and Lower n77.

The Auction 110 band occupies a slice of the RF spectrum in the mid-band.  The mid-band spectrum available for mobile communications in the United States spans roughly 2.5 to 4.2 GHz.  Because the mid-band supports larger channel bandwidths without sacrificing reach, they are considered ideal for 5G services, offering an optimal mix of speed, capacity, and coverage that is particularly well-suited to densely populated areas where connectivity demands are high.

Winners and Losers

Due to the significant potential to improve 5G service delivery with the mid-band spectrum, there is a battle brewing for supremacy among leading mobile network operators (MNOs).  In the latest skirmish, the big winners who walked away with the most spectrum licenses were AT&T and DISH Network, followed by T-Mobile, US Cellular, several private equity companies, and regional telecom service providers.

The Auction 110 license winners plan to begin transmitting over these new bands later this year and into 2023 as the race to deliver new 5G services heats up.  We anticipate unusually rapid deployment, with the initial emphasis on high-capacity macro networks.  However, before they can take advantage of the new spectrum, MNOs first need to purchase and deploy a new radio infrastructure capable of broadcasting signals in the 3.45–3.55 GHz band.

On the other hand, most subscribers will not need to purchase new 5G devices, as currently available smartphones operating in the C-Band support the full n77 bands, including the mid-band Auction 110 spectrum.  In fact, for the average mobile subscriber, 5G is perceived to be a monolithic service that should just work no matter what bands the service provider is using for transmission.  And that means they expect excellent quality of service everywhere, even indoors.

Win the In-Building 5G War

As the FCC continues to release additional spectrum to meet the demands for 5G, MNOs and third-party operators need to keep pace with the latest technology or miss out on revenue.  Likewise, when legacy in-building wireless systems cannot upgrade to support the new spectrum, infrastructure replacement is the only recourse to provide 5G mid-band signals in-building.  This rip and replace scenario is an expensive and time-consuming prospect for those enterprises and building owners with outdated distributed antenna system (DAS) equipment.

Fortunately, SOLiD's modular in-building DAS equipment upgrades quickly and easily to support new spectrum bands.  In addition, the scalable SOLiD ALLIANCE Fiber2Antenna 5G DAS solution has the mid-band covered with advanced fiber to the edge technology.  This architecture is convenient to overlay legacy systems that do not offer modular upgrades or support mid-band frequencies.  SOLiD's modular and scalable solutions cover all of the mid-band,  including 2.5 GHz, C-Band, and the recently released Auction 110 band.  Whichever bands an MNO requires, they won't miss out on delivering lucrative 5G services to indoor subscribers.

Moreover, SOLiD provides the entire bandwidth in each frequency band to allow for maximum channel size, increasing speed and capacity.  And because the SOLiD solution covers the whole band, all of the MNOs are covered, whether they won licenses at the lower end of the mid-band spectrum or the upper end. In other words, when MNOs, third-party operators, and building owners deploy SOLiD solutions, they can achieve the best in-building coverage available, allowing them to dominate the battlefield and win the mid-band war.


How to Maximize In-Building 5G Coverage and Capacity

Tomorrow’s business will run on 5G networks, with new opportunities enabled by private enterprise networks, IoT connectivity, and faster mobile data speeds.  An estimated 725 million 5G devices will be sold worldwide this year.  As communications service providers (CSPs) increase the rollout of 5G services, seamless coverage everywhere is an absolute necessity, including indoors.  Unfortunately, modern building materials block or degrade cellular signals, particularly at higher frequencies.  When your building’s tenants or employees frequently experience weak signals or dropped calls, the results are detrimental to your business.

The key to a seamless 5G experience throughout your building is to maximize network capacity and coverage.  And one of the most efficient and effective ways to accomplish that is with an indoor distributed antenna system (DAS) that enables carrier aggregation.  The process of carrier aggregation (CA) combines multiple frequency blocks (called component carriers) to support wider transmission bandwidths, increasing the peak data rate per user, maximizing spectrum efficiency, and boosting the overall network capacity and throughput.

Aggregating component carriers means that 5G devices use multiple frequency bands.  Essentially, CA technology is like having a wider pipe to accommodate more traffic flowing through it.  As a result, mobile network subscribers working or living in the building enjoy faster download and upload speeds, less video buffering, and fewer dropped calls.

Carrier Aggregation

Optimize 5G Carrier Aggregation

While 4G/ LTE networks support CA, 5G provides even more bandwidth per user.  5G CA supports even more component carriers, plus dual connectivity that allows user devices to transmit and receive data across multiple frequency bands simultaneously.  However, not all in-building wireless solutions provide the bandwidth to take advantage of the latest 5G advancements.

As the leader in multi-carrier DAS solutions, SOLiD offers the broadest available support for carrier aggregation, aggregating more bandwidth across more frequency bands in a more versatile solution.  The SOLiD ALLIANCE 5G DAS platform offers the capability to aggregate across up to eight bands over a single fiber, supporting the 5G frequency bands currently used by the top CSPs in the U.S. — even when each CSP aggregates spectrum from a different combination of bands.

Pay-As-You-Grow Capacity

Unlike bandwidth-constrained competitive infrastructure, the scalable SOLiD ALLIANCE solution offers the flexibility of a pay-as-you-grow solution.  Fiber2Coax modular solutions scale from one to seven bands, and Fiber2Antenna solutions expand from four to eight cellular frequency bands with an easy-to-install add-on remote unit.  These flexible solutions use a universal head-end and may be deployed in a mixed-use fashion to match the unique features of your building.   SOLiD ALLIANCE scalability protects your investment, allowing support for new bands as the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) releases new 5G spectrum allocations up to 4 GHz.

SOLiD enables maximum 5G carrier aggregation to deliver more bandwidth and throughput with familiar DAS in-building wireless infrastructure, delivering the best mobile user experience.  SOLiD achieves this because the ALLIANCE 5G DAS solution inherently supports multiple operators in multiple bands and delivers the full bandwidth in every cellular band.

Highest Bandwidth at the Lowest Cost

Reliable in-building connectivity is critical.  Yet even as 5G adoption continues to accelerate, CSPs are challenged to build out network coverage that is sufficiently dense and powerful to penetrate most buildings and venues.  The SOLiD ALLIANCE 5G DAS platform efficiently delivers dedicated, reliable cellular coverage with multi-operator support in any building, campus, stadium, or airport.  A modular remote system allows easy capacity upgrades and changes in frequency bands to adapt to new spectrum allocations.  Keep pace with new technology advancements without expensive and time-consuming rip and replace scenarios with the ALLIANCE 5G DAS platform for faster speeds, more capacity, and unmatched signal strength.  To learn more about how to protect and optimize your in-building connectivity investment, click here.


Understanding Cellular Bandwidth and Why It Matters

As of January of this year, 4.66 billion people—more than half of the world’s population—were actively using the internet. Of this number, a whopping 92.6% access the internet using mobile devices. With such a vast number of people accessing massive data, today’s service providers are in need of network upgrades to increase bandwidth capacity.

Cellular Bandwidth in Layman’s Terms

Many consumers mistakenly think of cellular bandwidth as internet speed; but of course, these two are entirely different. A common metaphor used to make the distinction clear is to visualize water flowing through a pipe. Internet speed is how quickly a drop of water (data) flows through the pipe, while bandwidth capacity is the diameter of the pipe, and bandwidth is the total amount of water that flows through the pipe in a certain amount of time. So the larger the pipe, the more water can flow through it, and the faster its potential flow rate.

With the increasingly digital and mobile economy, people are consuming more and more cellular bandwidth, compelling service providers to increase their bandwidth capacity to meet subscriber demand. Over the years, bandwidths have increased from mere kHz to MHz, and speeds from Kbps to Mbps. 5G holds the promise of delivering data at Gigabit speeds, allowing subscribers to receive the maximum amount of data possible in the shortest amount of time.

How Is Cellular Bandwidth Consumed?

Every time consumers connect to the internet, they consume bandwidth. The more bandwidth a data connection has, the more data it can send and receive simultaneously. The more bandwidth a provider delivers, the faster consumers can transmit and receive data. However, the amount of bandwidth and data they can use monthly depends on their network plan with their service provider.

For instance, a consumer subscribed to a 10 Mbps plan could download 10 MB of data per second. If several users share the same connection, each can only download a portion of the limit, resulting in much slower download times.

When we apply these principles to a cell site we can see that the amount of spectrum deployed at the cell site (capacity) and the technologies in use, such as 3G, 4G, and 5G (flow rate), determine the capacity available to consumers.  If four or more connected devices all use cellular data, 10 Mbps is not enough to provide the speed and amount of data needed for seamless connectivity. The more users sharing the capacity, the worse the experience is for all of them.

How Much Cellular Bandwidth Do Consumers Need?

According to a January 2021 Statista report, video apps accounted for 66.2% of global mobile data usage every month. Meanwhile, social networking accounted for around 10.1% of global mobile data volume. Streaming a video in standard definition already requires 3 to 4 Mbps. In HD, it would require about 5 to 8 Mbps. Add to that all the other connected devices in a home, and a family of four would need much more than 25 Mbps.

The FCC provides a Broadband Speed Guide to give consumers an idea of the minimum download speed required for the adequate performance of various online activities. General browsing, checking emails, social media browsing, standard video conferencing, VoIP calls and streaming online radio require around 1 Mbps. Virtual classes, online learning platforms, telecommuting, downloading files and video teleconferencing would need anywhere from 5 to 25 Mbps.

Based on these data, an average American family would need to subscribe to a 25 Mbps plan to do basic activities like surfing, videoconferencing, and music streaming. But to enjoy streaming HD videos, playing multiplayer online games, and downloading large files, they would need plans with 100 Mbps and above.

The challenge facing service providers now is how to efficiently increase their capacity to provide the massive bandwidth that their customers require.

Where Do Users Consume a Lot of Cellular Bandwidth?

To enhance their services, providers must also determine where consumers use the bulk of bandwidth. This will enable them to identify in which areas to increase their capacity.

Indoors, consumers typically use Wi-Fi to connect devices to wireless routers. These routers connect to modems with fiber or broadband connections. However, Wi-Fi has a limited range, so consumers tend to use cellular data outdoors or in places with weak Wi-Fi.

In public places where Wi-Fi connections are not secure, most consumers also prefer using their cellular data. They either use portable Wi-Fi devices or turn their smartphones into mobile hotspots. Either way, this consumes cellular bandwidth as well. Because of security issues in public places, higher cellular traffic occurs in cafés, convention halls, hotels, sports arenas and similar venues.

What Devices Do Consumers Typically Use?

Smartphones are still the most popular devices for accessing the internet. According to Pew Research, 85% of Americans own a smartphone, while only 77% own desktops and laptops, and a mere 53% have tablets. However, many consumers today own more than one of these devices and use them concurrently.

New technologies also lead to increased use of smart monitors, digital devices with IoT applications, and products with machine-to-machine communication capabilities. In the coming years, most of the devices people use at home and work will connect to the internet, further reinforcing the need for higher bandwidth capacity and faster network speeds.

Meeting Bandwidth Demands with 5G mmWave

Over the years, there has been a steady increase in the number of internet users. The most recent Pew Research survey indicates that 93% of US adults actively use the internet. As full digitization continues to be implemented across all industries, we can expect this number to grow faster in the next couple of years.

Aside from this, IoT applications are also becoming a ubiquitous part of our lives, thanks to the convenience of ‘smart’ devices. We can now connect the objects we use every day to the internet, enabling seamless communication between people and things. Today, industrial machines, cars, kitchen appliances, office equipment, and many other connected devices can interact digitally.

As the number of devices we use that require access to cellular networks increases, service providers must find ways to meet our increasing bandwidth demands. Some of these providers have already started rolling out their 5G services to do so.

Major network operators now offer sub-6 GHz 5G, which is faster than 4G. However, to meet the demands of consumers for more data and faster connectivity, in areas with very dense capacity demands, mmWave spectrum is deployed to provide many hundreds of MHz of additional bandwidth.  However, mmWave is not economical for wide-area deployment because mmWave frequencies do not propagate over long distances and are blocked by most objects and materials, including energy-efficient glass.

To fully maximize the benefits of 5G, service providers must understand how and where consumers use data.  5G deployments use low, mid, and high-band spectrum to balance capacity demands with network costs.  The C-Band spectrum – or so-called mid-band – provides a good compromise between large channel bandwidth capability and reasonable propagation characteristics.  T-Mobile uses the 2500 MHz band for this purpose, while Verizon and AT&T purchased large portions of the C-Band in recent auctions.

To enable indoor and outdoor cellular communications, including at many of the world’s best-known and most challenging venues, SOLiD modular solutions scale to every challenge. The SOLiD ALLIANCE 5G DAS provides full band coverage for both 2500 MHz and C-Band.  The edgeROU Fiber2Antenna DAS provides up to eight commercial cellular and private networking frequency bands over a single fiber strand to a lightweight, low-power, aesthetically pleasing DAS remote with high-performance integrated antennas. Contact us to discuss your specific DAS needs to meet capacity requirements, today and tomorrow.


O-RAN

The Global State of the O-RAN Market in 2021

As mobile network operators (MNOs) face increasing operating costs and competitive pressures, they are increasingly veering away from legacy proprietary networks. Instead, they are moving towards open and virtualized architectures in an effort to increase flexibility, reduce costs and break away from vendor lock-in, allowing them to achieve operational gains and boost return on investment (ROI). The introduction of 5G is the ideal opportunity to accelerate this transition.

Since the evolution to 5G requires MNOs to replace or enhance radio access network (RAN) equipment, we are now seeing more operators worldwide adopting Open RAN (O-RAN) architectures. In addition to facilitating the switch to 5G, infrastructure compliant with O-RAN standards enables MNOs to enhance network flexibility, lower deployment costs and improve innovation cycles. As a result, although the O-RAN market is in its nascent stage, it is projected to be worth more than $3 billion by 2024.

The Road to O-RAN

Because traditional RAN architecture uses proprietary equipment and vendor-defined interfaces, even the slightest changes to a wireless network are costly, labor-intensive and time-consuming for MNOs. Proprietary interfaces have traditionally prevented network operators from competitively shopping for equipment, locking them in to a single network equipment vendor.  By adopting O-RAN standards-based interfaces, MNOs have more flexibility to choose equipment from multiple vendors, helping to reduce costs and fuel innovation through competition.

Open RAN is not new. For decades, MNOs have been exploring the idea of an open, standards-based interface. However, technical and integration challenges prevented them from taking it further. Yet, over the past year, significant strides have been made. Suppliers are increasing investments in the field, while operators are committing to experimentation and trials. Moreover, some countries are implementing policy measures supporting O-RAN to reduce reliance on foreign vendors.

As of now, there might be only 35 active O-RAN deployments around the globe, according to Deloitte. Many of these involve testing in rural, greenfield and emerging markets. However, this figure can easily double within the year and continue to accelerate. In fact, Deloitte projects that O-RAN could represent 10% of the RAN market by 2025.

Plus, the growth rate of O-RAN could potentially be higher—that is, if government policies require MNOs to replace existing equipment from restricted vendors.

What Is Fueling O-RAN Growth?

Several factors are actively pushing O-RAN closer to reality, from increasing capital costs and favorable government policies, to technological advancements like 5G and cloud virtualization. Here are the most compelling value propositions of Open RAN architectures.

Low upfront costs

Virtual RAN architectures have the potential to lower upfront deployment expenses and operating costs. These reductions are very compelling during this time of peak demand for 5G wireless.

Each time the mobile network generation transitions, such as 4G to 5G and eventually 5G to 6G, additional frequency bands are also made available.  Presently, many MNOs are using higher frequency bands to deploy 5G, requiring greater cell density due to lower propagation distances.  Therefore, the networks require many more cell sites to achieve the expected coverage, capacity and data speeds. In the US alone, to deploy 5G will require about 2 million new cell sites and upgrades at all existing sites.  Additionally, in-building wireless upgrades must also occur to ensure seamless coverage.

Open RAN architecture can help operators minimize capital costs by aggregating baseband functionality through a single baseband unit (BBU) with multi-radio compatibility. Aside from lowering hardware costs, O-RAN architectures also are more adaptable and flexible to the ever-changing landscape of technology. Instead of replacing entire physical systems to cater to new market conditions, they can introduce new features and functionalities using software, reducing downtime for maintenance as well as increasing scalability.

Fast innovation cycles

Software-driven RAN enables smart automation, which changes the way operators manage their networks. It can eliminate the manual work involved in maintaining and optimizing the networks, leading to faster innovation cycles.

By unlocking a new level of interoperability, vendors can come up with products and solutions that cater to multiple operators. They can also focus on their specializations instead of having to create an end-to-end system.

Furthermore, O-RAN systems provide operators with deep insights into their network, allowing them to create solutions to optimize their network.

Vendor diversity

For years, the Multiple Input Multiple Output (MIMO) RAN vendor market has been dominated by five main players: Huawei, Ericsson, Nokia, Samsung and ZTE. They control up to 95% of the RAN market. Its top three players—Huawei, Ericsson, and Nokia—make up about 80% of the market.

In the US, federal funds can no longer be used on communications equipment or services from untrusted vendors, particularly ones that may pose a national security risk. Two of the largest RAN vendors in the world—Huawei and ZTE—fall into this category.

Other countries are following this move. The United Kingdom, for instance, has not only banned new purchases but has also authorized the removal of unrestricted kits from their networks. Japan, New Zealand, and Australia are also banning untrusted vendors from their 5G networks. Likewise, European operators want authorities to create local Open RAN supply chains so that they are not limited to Asian and US vendors. Such developments can lead to a more diverse and competitive global market.

What Are the Barriers to O-RAN Adoption?

O-RAN might sound like a promising solution for existing network challenges. However, it comes with many challenges and barriers as well. One of the main concerns involving O-RAN adoption is system integration.

In a traditional architecture, vendors are responsible for implementation and upgrades. If operators veer away from this setup, they need system integrators to ensure interoperability and performance of the network. The challenge is that since O-RAN is still in its initial stages, not many system integrators are well-versed and experienced in its architecture.

Moreover, Open RAN experiments are mostly limited to local and regional developments at this stage. The complexity of the architecture’s integration is manageable at a smaller scale, but it is still unclear if O-RAN will be truly scalable to larger networks, particularly with heavier traffic and higher performance requirements.

How Is O-Ran Adoption Varying by Region?

Due to the ban on Chinese tech giants in the US and a few European countries, Asia, Africa, and South America are prospective markets for Chinese equipment. According to Dell’Oro Group, the Asia-Pacific region is driving the growth of the market. One factor behind its surge is the shift from proprietary RAN to Open RAN in Japan. Although macro developments are dominating the O-RAN revenue mix on the global scale, the rise of millimeter-wave deployments in Japan is fueling the growth of small cell activity.

In India, two of the top three major operators are developing O-RAN network technology. They are working alongside equipment manufacturers and system integrators from the US and Japan. With a billion mobile users, this underdeveloped market’s O-RAN technology might prompt faster and less costly deployment of 5G.

A number of large telecom operators in Europe – Deutsche Telekom, Orange, Telefonica, TIM and Vodafone — are hard at work to advance adoption of O-RAN. They announced that they will seek funding from European governments to develop and deploy O-RAN technologies, and they have signed a memorandum of understanding promising to support O-RAN technologies and urge further investments.

Germany has already established a $2 billion program to support O-RAN solutions, which welcomes other European operators to join its alliance. The United Kingdom has its own $350 million initiative as well, which is aimed at developing O-RAN systems and equipment.

The State of the O-RAN Market in the US

Interest in O-RAN architecture is building up in the US, and all three major mobile operators in the country are part of the O-RAN Alliance, as well as the Open RAN Policy Coalition.

The O-RAN Alliance, which was launched in 2018 by Deutsche Telekom, NTT DoCoMo, AT&T, Orange and China Mobile, is working to further a common interest: a more Open RAN. In the past few years, this alliance has grown significantly, and now has 237 telecom equipment operators and manufacturers, many of which are based in the US.

Earlier this year, the US Department of Defense announced that they are looking into different ways to speed up the development of open 5G systems in order to enhance the DoD’s ability to achieve its missions, as well as veer away from equipment from Huawei, as well as other Chinese vendors. Tech giants also are urging the US government to implement O-RAN testing and certification facilities to help accelerate innovation. In a statement to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Intel expressed the importance of financial incentives and other program-based funding. These can benefit companies within the O-RAN ecosystem, such as those in the RAN hardware and virtualized software market.

Takeaway

Open RAN is still in its early stages, but it is evident that there is growing global interest in the technology. O-RAN’s potential to lower costs, promote vendor diversity and drive innovation cycles is pushing operators to move away from closed, proprietary systems and embrace open architectures.

Companies from all corners of the telecom industry are banding together to support Open RAN, ranging from traditional RAN equipment vendors to new O-RAN innovators. Network hardware, software and component vendors, chipset vendors, and cloud service providers are also crucial to this growing ecosystem.

There are, however, a few challenges that are hindering the growth of O-RAN. For starters, its ability to accommodate larger networks with large volumes of traffic and high-performance requirements has yet to be proven. On top of that, multivendor system integration, which possibly entails significant time, money, and effort for validating equipment vendors, might offset all the advantages of vendor diversity.

For this reason, O-RAN developments are mostly concentrated on local and regional deployments. Small-scale deployments make it easier for MNOs to handle the integration complexity. However, as O-RAN technology matures, the global market is bound to see rapid and widespread adoption.

As a member of the O-RAN ALLIANCE, SOLiD is dedicated to development of the Open RAN ecosystem for the advancement of open, interoperable interfaces and RAN virtualization.  The SOLiD SURF™ platform of O-RAN compliant radio solutions allows operators to diversify their ecosystem and speed the delivery of commercial 5G services in an all-in-one configuration compliant with open, multi-vendor specifications. For more information, visit: https://solid.com/us/solid-reveals-surf-platform-for-o-ran-compliant-ran-solutions/.