“As the extraordinary year of 2020 draws to a close, the telecommunications industry is also looking forward to a truly connected future where connections are everywhere and for everyone. To achieve this, operators will continue to accelerate the rollout and expansion of 5G networks around the world in 2021. At the same time, governments will further clear more spectrum to accommodate more users and data. As open network architectures gain more and more attention and give rise to a new generation of products and innovative technologies, the trend of disaggregation of RAN will emerge within a certain range and will continue in the next few years.
As the extraordinary year of 2020 draws to a close, the telecommunications industry is also looking forward to a truly connected future where connections are everywhere and for everyone. To achieve this, operators will continue to accelerate the rollout and expansion of 5G networks around the world in 2021. At the same time, governments will further clear more spectrum to accommodate more users and data. As open network architectures gain more and more attention and give rise to a new generation of products and innovative technologies, the trend of disaggregation of RAN will emerge within a certain range and will continue in the next few years. Here are the top three trends we see:
5G & Massive MIMO
Although the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting shutdowns have had some impact on 5G network deployments in some countries and regions around the world, 5G deployments will continue to grow rapidly with the launch of 5G smartphones such as the Samsung Galaxy S20 and Apple iPhone 12 . To support these new devices, operators need to focus on pragmatic 5G network implementations, knowing in advance which deployments will really benefit from the bandwidth advantages of Massive MIMO (multiple input/multiple output), and the costs, resources, and capabilities that come with them. consumption requirements are assessed.
Massive MIMO greatly improves spectral efficiency, providing higher network capacity and more stereoscopic coverage. However, operators will need to determine whether the deployment costs, ancillary costs and actual power consumption requirements associated with active Massive MIMO are justified, or whether the relatively lower rate but higher performance-to-cost ratio of passive antennas (8T8R or 4T4R) is sufficient . In fact, it has been reported that early high-order Massive MIMO deployments in some geographic locations typically require shutting down for hours at a time during off-peak hours to save power in order to meet power demands.
From CommScope’s perspective, Massive MIMO deployments are best suited for dense urban deployments, while passive antenna solutions are better suited for suburban deployments. However, even in urban environments, Massive MIMO deployment faces challenges. Different configurations will bring differences in coverage characteristics. If the solution is not selected properly, the upper floors of high-rise buildings may not be adequately covered.
Therefore, choosing the most suitable antenna technology for each deployment for different application scenarios will be a priority for mobile network operators in 2021. For high data traffic, operators will use 64T64R for dense urban high-rise buildings, 32T32R for urban low-rise buildings, and 8T8R or even 4T4R in suburban areas. At the same time, 32T32R or FWA may also be used in rural areas of some countries. For sites with moderate traffic demands, mobile network operators will deploy 8T8R solutions to adequately cover urban low-rise buildings.
Clearing the spectrum to accommodate more users and data is critical to building a truly connected future where connectivity is everywhere and for everyone. However, most of the world’s low-band and mid-band spectrum has long been used by the military, commercial satellite operators, wireless Internet service providers (WISPs) and other utilities. Reallocating or sharing these frequency bands for next-generation wireless commercial services often requires active engagement and planning by current users and government regulators, as well as extensive discussions around how to mitigate the impact on existing services.
Despite the above challenges, we expect further aggressive action by governments in 2021 to clear spectrum resources for 5G and beyond. In the United States, for example, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently completed a Priority Access License (PAL) auction in the 3.5 GHz band and is preparing to start auctioning 280 MHz of mid-band (C-band) spectrum, enabling the 3.7-3.98 GHz Range is available for flexible use (including 5G). Regarding the latter, operators will continue to develop sites in 2021, starting with C-band in urban areas in late 2021 or early 2022. For many suburban areas, mobile network operators and their users will not be able to use the C-band until June 2023. In addition to CBRS and C-band, the US plans to use 100 MHz of contiguous mid-band spectrum in the 3450-3550 MHz band for 5G over the next 18 months.
In Europe, the European Union (EU) is committed to opening up new frequency bands and bandwidths for 5G in all EU countries. The frequency bands include: 700MHz-30MHz, 3.5GHz-400MHz and 26GHz-3GHz. Likewise, some European operators are already using 1800MHz or 2100MHz for 5G under Dynamic Spectrum Sharing (DSS). In the Middle East and Africa, spectrum has been allocated in the C-band to several operators, including the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman and South Africa.
In China, in order to promote the development of 5G and promote the effective use of radio spectrum resources, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology issued the “Notice on Adjusting the Frequency Use Plan of the 700MHz Band”, which clearly adjusted the frequency use plan of the 702-798MHz frequency band for mobile communication systems. And the 703-743/758-798MHz frequency band is planned for the mobile communication system with frequency division duplex (FDD) working mode. Subsequently, China Mobile and China Radio and Television also signed a 5G network co-construction and sharing cooperation framework agreement in May. According to the plan, China Mobile and China Radio and Television will jointly invest in the construction of a 700MHz 5G wireless network at a ratio of 1:1, and jointly own and have the right to use the 700MHz 5G wireless network assets.
Spectrum clearing for 5G and beyond is underway, a common global trend that we expect to accelerate in 2021.
Open RAN interface
In 2021, the development of open RAN interfaces will gain widespread attention and will lead to a new generation of products and innovative technologies. This is because an open RAN supports truly open and interoperable interfaces within and between the various sub-components of the RAN, including radios, hardware or baseband units, and software. This model drives innovation by encouraging suppliers at all levels of the supply chain ecosystem to expand their business and develop technology through open interface opportunities, while enabling lower capital costs and a single supplier through open interfaces and commodity hardware platforms. over dependent.
Joe Madden, principal analyst at Mobile Experts, said that almost all major radio access operators have begun to focus on open RAN interfaces to varying degrees, which he expects to be the “best solution” to the coverage problem. As Madden points out, Open RAN hardware and software are less expensive (cost) while still enabling similar wireless coverage to traditional architectures.
Open RAN interfaces offer mobile operators many new advantages. First, an open RAN interface can help operators reduce costs through the common modularization of baseband unit (BBU) commercial module (COTS) processing equipment and RU hardware. In addition, the open RAN interface supports the decoupling and generalization of its software parts from (vendor) proprietary hardware systems, thus facilitating the creation and rapid deployment of new services and operational solutions. As mentioned above, open RAN interfaces can lead to a stronger supply chain ecosystem as more new suppliers enter the market. Therefore, the disaggregation of RAN in 2021 is bound to continue and develop further as open RAN interfaces are deployed and gain a lot of attention to further enable new generations of products and innovations (such as tighter integration of radios and antennas).
In addition, open RAN interfaces will continue to play an important role in accelerating the deployment of 5G infrastructure by enabling broad interoperability between devices. US operator DISH has decided to opt for an open RAN interface for 5G deployment in the US, and has pledged to cover 70% of the population through its 5G network by June 2023. In Japan, Rakuten’s 5G network will be based on an open RAN interface architecture, allowing it to mix and match technologies that are most suitable for users. Meanwhile, Vodafone has also confirmed plans to launch open RAN interface pilots in Europe and Africa, with initial pilots expected to focus on 2G, 3G and 4G mobile telephony and data services, with other Vodafone open-ended 5G-related in the future. RAN interface pilot. It is worth mentioning that Vodafone became the first UK mobile operator to enable an open RAN interface site. Operators in China are also considering the use of open RAN for indoor coverage of small cells to enhance the effect of 5G indoor applications, which may be launched in 2021.
Build a better future
As 2020 draws to a close, the telecommunications industry is looking forward to 2021 and to building a better future—connectivity is truly ubiquitous and accessible to everyone. Although the COVID-19 pandemic has had some impact on the global deployment of 5G networks, 5G deployments will continue to grow rapidly in 2021 as more 5G smartphones and terminals are launched. To support these new devices, mobile network operators need to assess which deployments would really benefit from active Massive MIMO deployments in order to really focus on the efficient implementation of 5G networks. Governments around the world will clear more spectrum to accommodate more users and data, and the development and deployment of open RAN interfaces will also gain more and more attention, spawning a new generation of products and accelerating the rollout of 5G.