Strategies to Increase Reach of 5G Networks

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We discuss the following topics in this blog:

  1. Deploying hundreds of 5G cells in urban networks.
  2. Managing 5G spectrum.
  3. Use of Massive MIMO (mMIMO) & Adaptive Beamforming
  4. Increasing Front-haul Reach Through low-loss Optical Distribution Network (ODN)

In addition to these topics, we shall also be answering the following FAQs:

  1. What is WiFi?
  2. What is Optical Fibre Cable?

How do Operators Optimize Their 5G Investments to Maximize Network Reach?

5G is finally here! In 2019, 57 mobile operators launched commercial 5G services globally. While the 5G network roll-out is expected to continue for the next 7 – 8 years, global small cells deployment is expected to cross the 10 million mark by 2025. However, deploying hundreds of small cells in urban networks will be neither cheap nor easy for the operators. A key concern continuously looms over 5G network planners and designers – how can operators optimize their 5G investments in a way to maximize network reach while providing optimal capacity and desired latency to end customers?

Let’s look at 3 strategies that network designers consider for improving the reach of their 5G network.

How to Efficiently Manage 5G Spectrum?

5G needs spectrum within three key frequency ranges to deliver widespread coverage and support for all use cases.

  • Sub-1 GHz bands supports widespread coverage across urban, suburban and rural areas and help support Internet of Things (IoT) services.
  • 1- 6 GHz bands offers a good mixture of coverage and capacity benefits. This includes spectrum within the 3.3-3.8 GHz range which form the basis of many initial 5G services. It also includes other spectrum ranges such as 1.8 GHz, 2.3 GHz and 2.6 GHz etc., which may be assigned to, or refarmed by operators for enabling their 5G network.
  • Above 6 GHz bands is needed to meet the ultra-high broadband speeds envisioned for 5G. Currently, the 26 GHz and/or 28 GHz bands have the most international support in this range.

By using lower frequency bands which offer increased reach, in combination with the Above 6 GHz band (24 – 28 GHz), 5G operators can benefit from faster and cost-efficient deployment of small-cells, delivering enhanced network reach without incurring very high initial network densification costs.

Use of Massive MIMO (mMIMO) & Adaptive Beamforming for FWA and Converged Access

The most common definition of mMIMO is a system where number of antennas is greater than the number of users. By increasing the signal-to-noise ratio, mMIMO enables transmissions to travel greater distances within a given transmit power. It also increases channel capacity through the use of sophisticated adaptive properties that enable automatic signal direction lock-in and optimization of radiation patterns.

Despite the promised benefits, adoption of mMIMO and beamforming for 5G have been low. The main challenges with technology adoption are its high energy cost at site, expensive equipment and complex signalling characteristics at different frequency bands. However, both mMIMO and adaptive beamforming technologies will be fundamental to providing Fixed Wireless Access services in the 5G era.

Increasing Front-haul Reach Through low-loss Optical Distribution Network (ODN)

The front-haul and base-station architecture of cellular networks have changed with C-RAN. In a typical C-RAN architecture, if more small cells with Remote Radio Heads (RRHs) are covered by one Central Office (CO is where BBUs are hosted), it results in both fewer COs, and consolidation of more BBUs at any given CO.

While the theoretical ODN reach between RRU and CO is up to 24.6 kms, the actual realized distance by operators is much shorter, limited by the optical power budget (15 – 20dB) and the macro-bend losses that occur in dense urban access and last-mile networks. However, operators can increase length of ODN by using bend insensitive fiber and managing this optical budget more effectivity, creating a more geographically spread front-haul network. This results in higher overall BBU pooling efficiency, and increased 5G network reach.

It is clear that an operator’s ability to leverage both radio and optical technologies to expand 5G access reach, while optimizing network CapEx will be critical. We at STL are excited to see how our customers and partners are using networking technology and design principles to build future-ready access network infrastructure. What technological disruptions will they think of next? Whatever it is, STL is committed to help operators along their unique path to 5G success.

FAQs

What is WiFi?

Put simply, WiFi is a technology that uses radio waves to create a wireless network through which devices like mobile phones, computers, printers, etc., connect to the internet. A wireless router is needed to establish a WiFi hotspot that people in its vicinity may use to access internet services. You’re sure to have encountered such a WiFi hotspot in houses, offices, restaurants, etc.

To get a little more technical, WiFi works by enabling a Wireless Local Area Network or WLAN that allows devices connected to it to exchange signals with the internet via a router. The frequencies of these signals are either 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz bandwidths. These frequencies are much higher than those transmitted to or by radios, mobile phones, and televisions since WiFi signals need to carry significantly higher amounts of data. The networking standards are variants of 802.11, of which there are several (802.11a, 802.11b, 801.11g, etc.).

What is Optical Fibre Cable?

An optical fibre cable is a cable type that has a few to hundreds of optical fibres bundled together within a protective plastic coating. They help carry digital data in the form of light pulses across large distances at faster speeds. For this, they need to be installed or deployed either underground or aerially. Standalone fibres cannot be buried or hanged so fibres are bunched together as cables for the transmission of data. This is done to protect the fibre from stress, moisture, temperature changes and other externalities. There are three main components of a optical fibre cable, core (It carries the light and is made of pure silicon dioxide (SiO2) with dopants such as germania, phosphorous pentoxide, or alumina to raise the refractive index; Typical glass cores range from as small as 3.7um up to 200um), Cladding (Cladding surrounds the core and has a lower refractive index than the core, it is also made from the same material as the core; 1% refractive index difference is maintained between the core and cladding; Two commonly used diameters are 125µm and 140µm) and Coating (Protective layer that absorbs shocks, physical damage and moisture; The outside diameter of the coating is typically either 250µm or 500µm; Commonly used material for coatings are acrylate,Silicone, carbon, and polyimide).

An optical fibre cable is made up of the following components: Optical fibres – ranging from one to many. Buffer tubes (with different settings), for protection and cushioning of the fibre. Water protection in the tubes – wet or dry. A central strength member (CSM) is the backbone of all cables. Armoured tapes for stranding to bunch the buffer tubes and strength members together. Sheathing or final covering to provide further protection.

The five main reasons that make this technology innovation disruptive are fast communication speed, infinite bandwidth & capacity, low interference, high tensile strength and secure communication. The major usescases of optical fibre cables include intenet connectivity, computer networking, surgery & dentistry, automotive industry, telephony, lighting & decorations, mechanical inspections, cable television, military applications and space.

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