5G has been at the centre of the world’s mobile technology focus for years, so much so that it is easy to overlook the ongoing importance of 4G LTE, which is still prevalent throughout the world and will be for some time
Because 5G stimulates increased use of 4G/5G mobile networks, operators can’t afford to let the capabilities of their LTE networks be outpaced by the world’s ever-increasing needs.
Huawei has introduced new advances in its LTE RAN portfolio to enhance the coverage and capacity of mobile networks. It also offers solutions to aid the coordination of 4G and 5G networks and to enable new services for operators.
Huawei’s LTE RAN leadership
GlobalData, a leading market data and analytics company, has rated Huawei’s LTE RAN portfolio to be a leader in the market. In competitive analyses of five major RAN vendors, GlobalData evaluated 4G base station portfolios according to four key areas important to mobile operators: baseband unit (BBU) capacity, radio unit portfolio breadth, ease of deployment and technological evolution. GlobalData found Huawei to be a leader in all four categories and a leader overall among its peers.
Huawei reports the highest BBU cell capacity – in terms of both LTE carriers and Narrowband IoT – of any major RAN vendor. It also offers more radio units and more Massive MIMO options than other vendors and supports a wide array of 4G spectrum bands. To make deployment easier, Huawei offers multiple novel solutions, including its Super Blade Site and Bracelet Kit offerings. And to help operators evolve their networks technologically, Huawei has been proactive in commercialising spectrum-sharing capabilities such as its CloudAIR solution, which allows various access technologies (2G/3G/4G/5G) to use the same spectrum, and its SuperBAND solution, which can improve user experience under multi-frequency networks.
This portfolio is well-suited to meet the diverse needs of the world’s mobile operators, and Huawei continues to expand its RAN portfolio to help operators prepare for the future and maximise the value of their LTE networks.
Adequate network coverage is an essential characteristic for ensuring quality mobile services. It becomes especially important in LTE networks as 5G is deployed in high-frequency bands whose coverage footprint areas are more limited. LTE must cover the areas that 5G does not.
To enhance the coverage of 4G/5G networks, Huawei has introduced the Blade Pro solution. The Blade Pro Ultra-Wideband Remote Radio Unit (RRU) is a pole-mountable RU that supports three low or medium Frequency-Division Duplex (FDD) bands simultaneously: it currently supports 700 MHz, 800 MHz and 900 MHz; and in late 2021, it will support 1.8 GHz, 2.1 GHz and 2.6 GHz.
By supporting three frequency bands in a single 25-kilogram unit, the Blade Pro eliminates the need for two boxes, reducing the load on poles, easing the burden on installers and making deployment faster, smoother and less expensive. Making installation easier means operators are better able to increase coverage by expanding or densifying their networks.
Operators face the eternal challenge of keeping up with ever-increasing user demand for data at faster speeds in the space of finite spectrum. One way to add network capacity without finding additional spectrum is to deploy greater antenna arrays, upgrading radios with two transceivers to those with four or eight, for example, or adding Massive MIMO antennas bearing 32 or 64 arrays.
Huawei’s LTE RAN portfolio now includes a radio unit with eight transceivers and receivers for enhanced capacity, useful for urban hotspot areas. The ‘Smart 8T8R’ solution also gives operators flexibility in their migration to 5G. The FDD 8T8R RRU is hardware-ready for 5G NR, and the antenna array is software-defined, meaning its configuration can be adjusted – without changing the hardware – for example, to six sectors for LTE and three sectors for 5G. The solution also dynamically adjusts the power supply allocated to sectors according to how users are distributed. This flexibility can be helpful in allowing operators to serve specific needs on a site-by-site basis and to adapt in real time to changes in user behaviour. On TDD side, meanwhile, Huawei leverages its considerable research in TDD-LTE to offer an 8T8R IMB (Intelligent Multi-Beam) solution, which is also based on a software-defined antenna and promises to deliver 1.8-2.2x capacity gains compared with more common products.
For even higher capacity needs, Huawei has introduced the ‘Smart Massive MIMO’ solution, a dual-band 5G-ready 4G radio with 32 transceivers and receivers promising three to five times the download speeds compared with more common products. Like the Smart 8T8R solution, Smart Massive MIMO automatically adjusts the power allocated to individual beams based on user traffic patterns. This lends efficiency in two ways, since Massive MIMO beamforming is itself a more efficient use of mobile spectrum than traditional antenna arrays, and the Smart Massive MIMO solution uses its power supply more efficiently than typical Massive MIMO gear.
In addition to the ways Huawei’s aforementioned gear balances and coordinates 4G and 5G networks, its portfolio also includes other solutions to further optimise the relationship between the two.
Its SuperBAND solution uses artificial intelligence (AI) to aggregate network scheduling – the coordinated allocation of radio resources to mobile signals – among multiple frequency carriers, essentially boosting network capacity beyond the divisions and fragmentation of various spectrum bands. In 4G/5G networks, SuperBAND can perform this aggregation across both 4G and 5G, maximising spectral efficiency and, ultimately, optimising the quality of the user experience.
Meanwhile, Huawei also offers Dynamic Spectrum Sharing (DSS) as part of its CloudAIR solution. DSS allows 4G and 5G traffic to share the same spectrum bands, increasing spectral usage efficiency; it also allows 4G and 5G traffic to dynamically switch from one band to another, regardless of radio access technology, in response to congestion on specific bands, ensuring the best use of spectrum even as user behaviour changes. CloudAIR goes even further, applying a similar spectrum-sharing function to 2G and 3G traffic as well for a more comprehensive capability that is especially relevant to markets where legacy networks remain.
New service enablement
Enhancing and optimising the network are important aims, but from a commercial perspective, one of the most important imperatives operators face is the need to deliver new revenue-generating services. Huawei’s LTE RAN portfolio addresses this requirement in multiple ways.
Huawei’s Voice-over-LTE solution, VoLTE Plus, helps operators migrate voice traffic from legacy technologies like 2G and 3G to LTE, not only achieving higher quality voice service but also allowing operators to sunset their legacy networks and repurpose their VoLTE investments for the future. In addition, Huawei’s latest VoLTE solution, goes further, adding four new capabilities that help protect the quality of voice service in 4G/5G networks.
Huawei’s LTE RAN portfolio continues to evolve in order to help operators maximise the value of their networks as they prepare for the future. New solutions in the portfolio enhance the coverage and capacity of LTE networks as well as maximise network efficiency by coordinating 4G and 5G operations. Meanwhile, Huawei offers multiple solutions aimed at enabling the delivery of additional services that can help operators grow revenue in a variety of ways, including VoLTE, the Internet of Things and FWA.