PARTNER FEATURE: Huawei provided an update on its antenna and AAU product lines at its 5th Annual Global Antenna & AAU Forum in Paris, highlighting how its product roadmap aligns with the needs of its global operator customers.

Unveiling new products, Stefan Feuchtinger, VP of Huawei’s Antenna and AAU Business Unit, said that as ever growing demand for mobile broadband services drives network development, mobile operators will need to take steps such as adding support for more frequencies and densifying the network.

“And this, of course, has severe impacts on the antenna systems as we know them now.”

Aligned roadmap
With a number of new spectrum bands (including 700MHz, 1.4GHz, 2.6GHz and 3.5GHz) coming onto operator roadmaps – and more still in the works as the industry moves toward 5G – “unfortunately in most regions of the world the solution is not just to plug in additional antennas,” Feuchtinger said.

Instead, operators are faced with constraints such as the number and size of the antennas that can be deployed. “The challenge for us is to come up with solutions that stick with the limits that many of you experience, and plug in more bands,” he said.

Along with additional spectrum comes the need to support both FDD and TDD networks in a converged manner.

Site acquisition is becoming an increasingly tough challenge for operators looking to bolster their networks in order to meet growing demand in urban areas. A number of factors are posing challenges, such as limitations on the number of antenna which can be erected and the long process to get permits and deploy infrastructure, which means operators are being forced to look at the alternatives.

In this regard, Huawei said that its Pole Site technology is a “must”, enabling operators to use existing street furniture in the buildout of the network. It is environmentally friendly, offers easy deployment characteristics, and enables batches of sites to be acquired in one go.

“We feel it’s much easier to get the permit, much easier to install, and that is a key enabler for us to help you get more sites to deal with the traffic,” the Huawei executive said.

Support for Massive MIMO is also not without problems. “The challenge for us is to come up with Massive MIMO systems that offer the best performance, and then come up with solutions that allow you to upgrade your site with Massive MIMO capabilities, without increasing the number of antennas. I can tell you that’s a hell of a challenge.”

And Feuchtinger also said that it is time for antenna systems to be digitalised.

“When you think about your radio access network, you have almost everything under control, with the exception of the antenna,” the executive said.

“We want to bring brains and eyes to the site, to provide you with the capability to remotely check the status of your site, remotely interact with the site, remotely change parameters, and in the end have a remote management system that will tell you if there is something wrong at the site.”

These elements were summarised as: Compactness, Convergence, Convenience, Creation and Conversion.

Passive portfolio update
At the Global Antenna & AAU Forum, Huawei showcased products including a 14-port antenna evolved from Huawei Antenna’s Golden Platform, supporting three low bands (700MHz/800MHz/900MHz) and 1.8GHz-2.6GHz 4T4R in a single unit, with a width of less than 429mm. Scheduled to launch in the fourth quarter of 2016, it is designed to resolve the challenge of supporting multiple low bands as well as high-order multiple input, multiple output (MIMO).

Also unveiled was a 14-port antenna in Huawei Antenna’s Diamond Platform line, which adds L band support alongside 700MHz-900MHz, 1.8/2.1GHz and 2.6GHz 4T4R. This comes with a width of 369mm.

Looking further ahead, into H2 2017, a Pearl Platform antenna with 8-band support (offering three low bands, L band and 1.8/2.1GHz and 2.6GHz 4T4R) is in the pipeline.

Also on display was a 3D Hexa-band antenna which can support six beams (four outer, two inner) in one antenna for a total of 18 sectors, increasing capacity more than 3.5x and increasing coverage by more than 3dB.

Such multibeam antennas enable fast capacity expansion in dense urban areas if spectrum resources are limited, while also addressing issues with neighbouring cell interference.

Active antenna advancements
Huawei also talked up its AAU (active antenna unit) activities, a newer addition to its portfolio alongside the passive business. With more than 220,000 units shipped to Q3 2016 and use in 120 networks, Wang Songhai, head of AAU Product Management, said that “as the baby, and with the trend for active antennas, this is big achievement”.

AAUs offer a number of benefits, Huawei said, including simplified sites through the integration of radio and antenna systems, which also reduces deployment difficulties and time required.

The company took the wraps off AAU5953, which can support 7 bands in modes, with 3D beamforming technology generating a 15 per cent capacity enhancement compared with standard 4T4R. It also uses an innovative new Huawei chipset, with high integration and high performance.

“We continue to improve the performance of our platform,” the executive said.

It will be released in the first half of 2017.