The race for mobile capacity - small and dynamic is beautiful

The World WiFi and Small Cell Summit , 28th-29th October 2014 in Barcelona, attracted industry representatives from across the globe, focussing on technology advances that will enable operators to service the growing demands for mobile connectivity.

There were two strands to the proceedings – Wi-Fi and Small Cells. Originally there had also been plans for a Cloud Radio Access Network (CRAN) strand, but it had been contracted and interwoven with the other strands.

Given that many of the target audience were service providers, it was not surprising that there was much in common between the Wi-Fi and Small Cell strands. The emphasis on needing to ‘densify’ coverage was shared – with Wi-Fi as the ideal for maximising capacity, given the high degree of spectrum use. Coverage in buildings was also an issue, where again Wi-Fi has much to offer. There is an increasing interest in managing Wi-Fi and integrating it into service platforms, alongside licensed network technologies. Other themes included:

  • Centralisation of base station functionality – whether for small cells or macro cells, using either fibre or high capacity wireless front haul technologies to link antennas to a central hub. The central hub could be cloud-based ultimately with functionality being provided scalably via software. This offers operating cost savings, yields more efficient coverage and is more flexible to adapt to rapidly evolving market requirements
  • Aggregration of bands to increase throughtput - even across traditional licenced /licence-exempt boundaries. Thus Wi-Fi cellular hybrids start to appear in the picture, with integration in the service platform rather than in end-user client devices.

Larkhill’s contribution to the event was a presentation on the opportunity of using dynamic spectrum access technology to use spectrum more efficiently, with TV white spaces providing a global opportunity to create a really powerful extension to Wi-Fi. We also highlighted the need to address resiliency, ad-hoc flexibility and coverage – as well as the growing capacity requirements for mobile access networks. You can see a summary of our presentation here.


Wireless brings hope for extending broadband in India

Much attention over the last year has been paid to extending broadband coverage in Africa. Given that three quarters of the population of Africa live in rural areas, the technical and commercial challenges of achieving universal access are great. Microsoft's 4Afrika projects have been showing how new wireless technology, based on dynamic spectrum access (DSA) and the TV white spaces, can enable broadband coverage to be provided more affordably than before.

Now a report in the Times of India refers to a proposal by Microsoft to bring the DSA/white spaces technology to help tackle rural broadband challenges in India. Apparently the proposal was made during a recent visit to India by Microsoft's CEO - whose roots are in Hyderabad.

The results of study of white space availability in India was published by Gaurang Naik et al from Indian Institute of Technology Bombay...., in 2013. It concluded that an average of 100 MHz is available, across India. - and that only 4 UHF channels (32 MHz) would be needed to provide comprehensive terrestrial TV coverage, if the networks were replanned more efficiently.