RAN Revelations

12:00 PM -- The 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) held a special, two-day workshop last week on future radio access network (RAN) technologies, and some details about what was discussed have emerged. (See What Will the RAN Look Like in 10 Years? )

A list of the topics covered at the meeting in Ljubljana, Slovenia, is posted on the 3G and 4G Wireless Blog, and it offers good insight into how some operators and vendors think mobile networks need to evolve and adapt to cope with ever-rising levels of data traffic while using a finite amount of spectrum, and how to do it all as cost effectively as possible.

There were presentations from more than 50 member operators and equipment suppliers, many of which are available here. The meeting sought to identify the requirements for future RAN technologies as well as to plan some potential work for the 3GPP's Release 12 set of specifications, which is scheduled for completion in 2014.

Not surprisingly, small cells were a big talking point at the workshop, as the 3GPP noted that a majority of members expressed interest in "enhanced small cell for LTE." Some of the proposals for the standards body to work on in this area included "interference coordination/management; dynamic [time division duplex]; enhanced discovery/mobility; frequency separation between macro and small cells -- using higher frequency bands in small cells (e.g., 3.5GHz); inter-site carrier aggregation/macro cell assisted small cells; and wireless backhaul for small cells," according to the 3GPP.

There was also interest in interworking with Wi-Fi, 3D MIMO and beamforming antennas, as well as control signaling reduction.

With so much attention being given to small cells, carrier Wi-Fi and advanced antennas -- just to name a few technology trends -- it's safe to say the RAN is set for some radical changes, and that the 3GPP certainly will be busy. (See MWC 2011: The End of the RAN as We Know It? and Hello, Small Cells; Goodbye, Cell Towers.)

— Michelle Donegan, European Editor, Light Reading Mobile

krishanguru143 12/5/2012 | 5:29:51 PM
re: RAN Revelations

WiFi is what they should be looking at for home use.  Why have the consumer buy something that really isn’t needed.  The only thing a femtocell s giving someone is QoS, but if someone has a saturated WiFi link at home, then most likely their broadband will be equally saturated.  Someone could even just have two AP’s and use one for smartphone use only.  For the most part, WiFi is a better option.  It also helps separate the data from the voice portion and this way people don’t use their data allocation while at home connected to a femtocell.  An AP is far cheaper than a femtocell and allows the use of the phone to use more WiFi points for the connection than a femtocell does.  The phone could be looking at jitter and if it sees high percentage of packet drops and a lot of jitter, it could drop out of using WiFi and go to the macro network.  The phone would need to create a tunnel to the carrier though, otherwise I cannot see VoLTE working over WiFi that is behind a firewall.

krishanguru143 12/5/2012 | 5:29:49 PM
re: RAN Revelations

Femtocells have a few issues.  Some have a list of who can connect to them and then there are limits on the number of phones that can be entered.  The data and voice get tunnels back to the carrier, so they hit your plan.  I can see the voice hitting it but the data should not, but with how data is done on 3G, they can’t.  WiFi takes care of that as the only traffic the phone would tunnel (compared to the femtocell) would be the voice portion.  The data portion would not be tunneled to the carrier at all.  Lastly, the carriers wanted the consumer to buy them.  WiFi fixes most of the issues as most already have it, the only issue is QoS.  VoLTE will have QoS when it traverses the carriers network, the WiFi portion is out of their control and will go across the Internet.  So you get best effort and if the AP is congested, voice will suffer just like if the broadband connection has congestion.

Michelle Donegan 12/5/2012 | 5:29:49 PM
re: RAN Revelations

Looking at the list of topics that came up at the meeting, there were several related to Wi-Fi, like cellular interworking with or being coordinated with Wi-Fi. I think that's an interesting area -- how these radio technologies can possibly work together. 

For home use, femtocells certainly haven't taken off in the way some hoped or expected, that's for sure.

Interesting point about VoLTE, but I'm not sure I understand. What's the limitation over WiFi?


Michelle Donegan 12/5/2012 | 5:29:48 PM
re: RAN Revelations

Ah, I get it now. Thanks! 

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