The opening ceremony of the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics demonstrated a series of 5G-infused technologies. The young boy who grew up to be a doctor performed complex, high-precision operations with the help of 5G and artificial intelligence (AI). Holography allowed teachers to vividly display educational classroom content. In addition, the audience in the stadium were able to enjoy real-time 360-degree short track speed skating replay videos and benefit from the latest breakthroughs in augmented-reality (AR) based 3D indoor navigation. These technologies offer the world endless expectations for the upcoming era of 5G.
These 5G services mostly apply to indoor scenarios and are ready to significantly alter people’s lives. 5G poses many stringent requirements on the coverage, data rate, latency, capacity, and reliability of indoor networks.
Woes and Joys of 5G Indoor Coverage
Statistics suggest 70% of data services are generated indoor (with high-value business users spending 80% of working hours indoor). However, nearly 50% of users are unsatisfied with the perceived indoor experience. Although operators are extremely excited by the tremendous opportunities of the indoor market, poor indoor coverage experience requires further attention.
Boosting intensive indoor coverage in preparation for the 5G era has been and will continue to be a serious concern for many operators. What options are available for operators?
The traditional approach of "outdoor coverage for indoor areas" is set to face increasing challenges as high bands are put into use. Outdoor signals are unable to deliver intensive indoor coverage or offer satisfying indoor experience due to penetration loss (walls, glass, and cement).
Likewise, the conventional DAS solution is unsuitable for 5G-oriented evolution in terms of engineering, capacity expansion or upgrade, management, and operation and maintenance (O&M). First, existing distributed antenna systems (DASs) are hard tosupport bands of 3.5GHz or higher frequencies. Second, the capacity expansion and reconstruction of DAS require intricate and lengthy engineering procedures and secondary site visits. Third, as 5G networks grow in complexity with the introduction of new spectrum, maintenance engineers must at all times be fully aware of the up-to-date running status of the networks and all network elements (NEs). However, DAS does not support real-time visualized management as it uses passive devices. Therefore, DAS is an unsuitable solution for the arrival of the imminent 5G era.
Embracing Digitalization is Key to Success
As DAS fails to meet the demands and challenges of 5G indoor coverage, the innovative solution of indoor digitalization is now gaining center stage. The industry has reached the consensus that indoor digitalization is the optimal choice and key to success for the forthcoming 5G-oriented evolution.
Indoor digitalization supports more diverse services, offers higher data rates, and enables better evolution. It also reduces end-to-end (E2E) costs and simplifies network capacity expansion. Networks featuring indoor digitalization will help operators satisfy the ever increasing service and data rate demands in the fast-approaching era of 5G.
- – More diverse services
Indoor digitalization is set to turn cloud virtual reality (VR), wireless eHealth, high-precision indoor positioning, and many other diverse services into reality. It also has the potential to support indoor navigation, passenger flow monitoring, workforce and asset management, and remote maintenance. Operators can use indoor digitalization to extend business boundaries.
- – Higher data rate
Indoor digitalization supports a huge range of innovative technologies. These include more flexible multi-carrier aggregation, distributed MIMO, virtual 4T4R, and 256QAM. Users are able to enjoy x Gbps data rates.
- – Better evolution
Indoor digitalization allows for 5G-oriented evolution with zero alteration of network architecture or network planing (no additional headend spot). The one-off deployment will yield sustainable long-term benefits.
- – Lower E2E costs
Low cost capacity expansion in long term is one of key advantages from indoor digitalization. In addition, E2E visualized O&M is more efficient compared with the traditional O&M approach and promises to reduce the long-term operating expense (OPEX). Intelligent optimization and automatic capacity adjustment will become possible, while power consumption is set to fall thanks to precise energy efficiency management.
- – Easier capacity expansion
Indoor digitalization supports rapid cell splitting. Software capacity expansion is easy to perform and the engineering can be quickly completed. Operators can rest assured that their investment will not be wasted. In the future, the cost benefits of indoor digitalization will become increasingly pronounced as capacity surges.
Today, indoor digitalization has seen large-scale deployment by 150 operators worldwide. This solution is now in commercial use at traffic hubs, shopping malls, stadiums, schools, hotels, offices, and various other indoor scenarios. China Mobile Shanghai opted for indoor digitalization to ensure high-quality network connections for Hongqiao Railway Station during the Spring Festival travel period. Passengers were able to enjoy glitch-free video connections, with single-user download rates reaching 47 Mbps, and daily traffic surpassing 3 TB.
Next-Generation Indoor Coverage Solution and Products
Indoor digitalization has been widely acknowledged by telecom operators, device vendors, industry organizations, and other players throughout the industry chain. Mainstream vendors are now releasing their own indoor digitalization solutions to support 5G-oriented evolution.
Huawei debuted the first generation of LampSite indoor mobile broadband solutions during Mobile World Congress 2013 (MWC 2013). The aim was to provide operators with a more effective solution to rapidly boost indoor coverage.
MWC 2018 is about to take place in Barcelona at the end of February. This year, Huawei is ready to unveil the next-generation of 5G indoor digitalization solutions and products. This release marks a significant milestone and will help free operators from the limitations of insufficient indoor coverage to fully benefit from the new opportunities of the indoor market.
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