What did I come back from MWC with? Sleep deprivation certainly. That, at least, was why I thought I was having trouble processing some of the information I’d gleaned from meetings, discussions and stand visits during the show. But even after I caught up on my sleep I was still a bit overwhelmed.
Just look at some of the solutions – or proposed solutions – that this show was promoting, especially in the indoor coverage environment.
There’s a DAS revolution going on, involving CPRI or digital baseband transmission, virtualised base stations and EPCs. This approach competes with but could side-line the BBU/RRU solutions from OEMs. It also brings flexibility by routing radio resources to where they are needed (capacity optimisation) whilst promising massive space and power savings (in the BTS hotel). It could be disruptive and is certainly a space to watch.
As small cells move towards 5G, many now have eNodeB and EPC running on a server and can broadcast multiple PLMN/MNC to emulate all operators and use an S1 interface to connect to the MNOs. That could, if embraced by the operators, have material effect on the cost of further 4G and future 5G rollout.
Wi-Fi standards, meanwhile, are evolving in ways that could challenge the use of LTE in licence exempt spectrum, based on various competing alternatives such as LAA-LTE, LTE-U and MulteFire.
And then we have CBRS, which is opening up – in the US at least – new ways of delivering mobile services. In fact, CBRS (or LSA in Europe – if it ever gets off the starting blocks) could be an enabler to challenge existing approaches to rural, remote and indoor coverage. A CBRS/LSA approach could allow landlords, venue owners, developers or even neutral hosts to use semi-protected spectrum to deploy carrier-grade systems that deliver the services that their tenants, visitors and workers really need, completely independent of mobile network operators. CBRS has kick-started an eco-system of network hardware, software and user devices, ready to support these services in the 3.5 GHz frequency band. These solutions, if modified and adapted, could be used to support potential future LSA services in the 3.6 or 3.8 GHz bands in Europe – given suitable regulation and spectrum allocation processes.
But will all these would-be indoor and 5G solutions – and many more promoted at the show – actually reach scale, be adopted and change things as they say they can?
No. Inevitably, some of these approaches or solutions will be abandoned or simply won’t happen. Before then, however, their proponents will be trying to gain your attention – and ours.
Certainly, some of these innovations are enormously exciting. But none will be whole-heartedly endorsed by Real Wireless on behalf of its clients if we do not judge that they offer a sustainable solution to a real-world problem. So, if you want help understanding the plethora of potential ways to deliver mobile services to your building, for whatever purpose, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will be in touch.