Huawei has unveiled a mobile spectrum management solution that could open up new possibilities for the dynamic and efficient sharing of valuable capacity.
During a presentation at the company's Mobile Broadband Forum event near Tokyo, Edward Deng, president of Huawei's Wireless Solution division, presented CloudAIR, which the vendor is pushing as the third leg of its mobile cloud stool. (See Photos: MBB Forum 2016 Tokyo, Day 1 and Photos: MBB Forum 2016, Tokyo Day 2.)
Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. has previously launched its CloudEdge system (for the mobile network core) and CloudRAN (for the radio access network), both of which center around the ability to unshackle and share network resources. CloudEdge is already commercially available and deployed in multiple networks while CloudRAN was launched earlier this year, is currently in proof of concept (PoC) mode and is set to become commercially available during the third quarter of 2017.
CloudAIR is focused on ways in which spectrum, channels and power can become shared resources within a mobile network, though whether simply allowing resources to be shared means it can be pinned with the "cloud" badge is debatable.
But the proposition is certainly an innovative and interesting one -- so much so that Light Reading witnessed multiple network operator executives reaching for their smartphones to take pictures of the CloudAIR presentation slides.
Deng noted that, currently, spectrum needs to be refarmed if it is needed to be used for a different radio access technology (RAT). That takes spectrum away from one RAT (for example, 2G) and assigns it to another (for example, 4G) on a permanent basis. The CloudAIR proposition is that "idle" spectrum could be dynamically shared, as needed, across different RATs.
Huawei has been working on such techniques for a while. Deng said the CloudAIR development is an extension of techniques that Huawei has already been working on with Vodafone and Etisalat. (See Vodafone, Huawei Trial GSM-LTE Dynamic Spectrum Sharing.)
Deng also presented the idea of channel sharing, whereby channels in a MIMO (Multiple-Input Multiple-Output) deployment can be clustered rather than fixed. He also floated the idea of UC-MIMO (user-centric MIMO) whereby channels are shared from a pool, a step beyond clustering.
The Huawei man said CloudAIR would be demonstrated at the MWC 2017 show in Barcelona (yes folks, that's looming in the near future…).
As mentioned, the CloudAIR presentation caused something of a stir among the audience of operators, partners and industry analysts.
"It is definitely a statement of intent. Every vendor is pursuing Cloud RAN, but I haven't seen anyone set out something as comprehensive in terms of a long-term statement of intent for their portfolio," noted Heavy Reading Senior Analyst Gabriel Brown. "Obviously, it's still early days -- trials are not anticipated until the first half of 2018 -- and it's something that will be phased in. This is really a long-term play," he noted.
But the concept is certainly in line with future roadmaps already being discussed within the mobile operator community. "The CloudAIR pitch has some of the same ideas around resource management as the X-RAN initiative launched at the NGMN conference last month."
One of the main challenges for introducing spectrum-sharing capabilities as proposed by Huawei, though, is that it goes against the industry trend of deploying multi-vendor networks that don't tie an operator to a single supplier. "The spectrum sharing approach looked very interesting as a way for operators to manage spectrum holdings and migrate subscribers across different technology generations," notes Brown. However, "it requires a single-vendor network, so it won't suit everyone, but it's interesting nevertheless."
— Ray Le Maistre, , Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading