PARTNER FEATURE: Embrace 5G: Industry Consensus on Indoor Coverage Shift from DAS to Digitalization

It has been five years since the indoor digital architecture emerged as an indoor innovative coverage solution amidst the 4G era. Characterized by active headend, IT cable, and visualized O&M, this architecture has played a critical role in improving user experience and raising O&M efficiency. Indoor digital solutions are now enjoying broad recognitions among global operators. Huawei, Ericsson and other equipment vendors have all achieved large-scale indoor digital solution deployments. Meanwhile, traditional DAS vendors, home and abroad, have all turned their attention to digital solutions, with multiple versions of indoor digital coverage systems available on the market. Enabling 5G indoor coverage through digital solutions has received a broad consensus in the industry.

5G Indoor Coverage Digitalization Starts From Day 0

The finalization of 3GPP R15 (Phase 1) at the end of 2017 moves us a long way towards the promise of 5G networks. When 5G becomes a reality, indoor locations will contribute to 70% of data services. A number of services are emerging as new trends, typically Cloud AR/VR, remote medical treatment, and smart manufacturing. These services require indoor networks to enable enormous throughput and premium experience, ultra-high reliability, precise positioning of connections. Existing DAS networks were originally introduced to meet the needs for voice and low-rate services. However, bottleneck situations are frequently occurring as operators strive for aggressive 4G video growth. DAS does not support 3.5 GHz high-band frequencies and 4×4 MIMO deployments introduced to 5G. It has also been long-faulted with a number of serious issues, including inconvenient implementation, difficult fault detection, and lack of diverse service support.

During MWC2018, Huawei launched 5G LampSite, which is the first LTE/5G dual mode indoor 5G Small Cell product in the industry. Huawei 5G LampSite was launched to satisfy the exact indoor coverage demands of 5G. It supports Sub6GHz Multiple bands in one box, LTE/5G dual mode in one box, CAT6A Ethernet/Optical fiber dual transmission in one box and eMBB/IoT/Navigation multiple services in one box. In addition, 5G LampSite is able to utilize CAT6A Ethernet or Optical fiber cable rolled out during 4G LampSite deployments to realize transitioning to 5G based on existing sites with simplest engineering work and free radio network planning.

At this stage, it is high time for operators to begin building 5G-oriented indoor digital networks to secure leading positions in architecture evolution, business innovation, and traffic operations, serving as good preparations for the inevitable transition toward 5G.

  • Indoor 5G Transition Starts from Architecture Changes

Architecture is vital to technology and solutions. Indoor digital architecture is based on the most advanced and commercially mature IT cables, such as CAT6A Ethernet and fiber optical cables. Without the constraints of traditional RF cables, this architecture provides ultra-high bandwidth, and more importantly, allows cables to be decoupled from frequency bands, network modes, and multi-antenna solutions. This represents additional flexibility and smoothness of shifting indoor networks to upcoming 5G networks. This also allows 5G networks to be deployed using existing sites and site resources.

  • Indoor Business Innovation Starts from Cooperation

5G means not just significantly increased data rates. More importantly, it also creates a lot of new opportunities for service innovations and business models involving the participation of players from various industries. Indoor digital networks are fantastic enablers for both innovations and cooperation. For example, operators can work together with big-data companies, proprietors of large shopping malls, and other partners to enable a brand new retail and shopping experience based on indoor locations. Operators can join with metro companies in enabling smart travel services and help to improve business operations. Such innovations and cooperation based on indoor networks will constitute essential assets and preparations for new 5G indoor services in terms of site deployments and business models.

  • Indoor Traffic Operation Starts from Service Experience

Although 5G is still not yet a reality, unlimited data packages are being already embraced with a surprisingly high popularity. Innovative traffic business models are developing into new potential profit sources of operators. In China, for example, China Unicom’s campus service packages and China Mobile’s data packages tailored to the Nest National Stadium in Beijing and metro lines in Shanghai are common innovative traffic business models for indoor locations. The innovative business models require premium service experience to contribute to building business brands, attracting end users, and creating service profits. Indoor digital solutions have proven hugely advantageous in 4G for enhancing user experience and supporting fast capacity expansion. Making indoor digital networks oriented to 5G is a crucial instrument that operators can leverage to sustain traffic business both now and well into the future as the 5G eMBB finally begins to take shape.

As we get closer to 5G, indoor coverage transition toward 5G has become a primary concern among global operators. Indoor digitalization, developing along with the expansion of 4G, presents operators with unique advantages in architecture evolution, business innovation, and traffic operations. It is high time for operators to embark on indoor network digitalization and complete early preparations for embracing the era of 5G.