Cobham Wireless: Delivering High-Performance Indoor Coverage with DAS Innovations

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Cobham Wireless is putting innovation to play while focusing its efforts on delivering high-performance indoor cellular coverage in an affordable manner.

As part of the journey to 5G, the company has been working with a number of industry groups to provide the validation of protocols and help develop the necessary technology. Cobham is set to showcase a number of such innovations as part of its participation at the upcoming Mobile World Congress 2017 in Barcelona.

Li-Ke Huang, Research & Technology Director at Cobham Wireless interacts with Zia Askari from TelecomDrive.com about how the company is looking at 5G as a huge opportunity and what is the company showcasing at the upcoming Mobile World Congress 2017 in Barcelona, Spain.

What are the big priorities for Cobham Wireless today?

One of the main priorities for Cobham Wireless is facilitating network development to support the industry’s move towards 5G and the growth of the IoT. There are a number of technological challenges to overcome; new technology needs to be developed and lessons must be learnt from LTE deployments. As part of the journey to 5G, Cobham Wireless has been working with a range of industry groups to provide the validation of protocols, the air interface and associated devices, to help develop the necessary technology and the wide range of use cases it is likely to support.

Cobham Wireless is also focussing on delivering high-performance indoor cellular coverage in an affordable manner. The huge growth in the use of mobile devices across the globe means that wireless communication inside buildings is now expected by mobile users, and in many cases mandatory for venue owners. Cobham Wireless is looking to work with a variety of new businesses to help them achieve high quality wireless coverage, using its industry-leading distributed antenna systems (DAS).

How does today’s telecom evolution towards 5G translates into opportunities for Cobham Wireless?

An entirely new approach to wireless design and validation is required to support the evolution of 5G. To begin with, 5G will not be defined as a single wireless technology like its predecessors; it will in fact comprise a number of different services being delivered to the end user across multiple access technologies and multi-layer networks. To support the various applications being proposed, particularly for the IoT, 5G will need to offer higher throughput, lower latency, a more reliable service, much higher connectivity density, and a greater mobility range than 4G.

To achieve these targets, the industry will need methodologies to allow chipset vendors, OEMs and mobile operators to achieve reliable high-performance 5G. Cobham Wireless’ testing and validation tools will play a crucial role in helping the industry understand and improve 5G system design and performance.”

What kind of product innovations can we expect from the company in the year 2017?

A new set of test solutions needs to be in place to support the development of 5G, looking at everything from the chipset and the radio antenna to the end-to-end network performance. 5G testing begins at the design phase, and by adopting this methodology, it’s possible to start at the ground level and work your way up, refining processes along the way to understand, validate and improve system design and performance.

Cobham Wireless is well placed to support this model; it already supplies the industry-standard network test system, the TM500, to major infrastructure vendors and operators globally, alongside developing the 5G algorithms. This ‘design for testing’ principle can provide the foundation for 5G and the services it will enable. Expect to see more innovation to come from Cobham Wireless here.”

Please share a glimpse of what you are showcasing at MWC 2017?

Cobham Wireless will be demonstrating its ground-breaking work in LTE dual connectivity, a concept that demonstrates how radio resources from multiple mobile cells can simultaneously improve throughput and capacity across a network. The technology will be critical for operators as they look to improve their LTE networks and introduce 5G technology into their networks.

Cobham Wireless will also be showcasing a number of other demos at the event, with a particular focus on 5G. This includes a new 5G testing interface, as well as a demonstrating low-latency video streaming over a 5G network.

What according to you would be the most important trends of 2017 that can redefine the way telecoms look at testing their network stress?

In 2017, we will see major operators and standards bodies such as 3GPP pushing forward with the commercialisation of narrowband IoT (NB-IoT). This is a Low Power Wide Area (LPWA) technology that transmits data intermittently, enabling connected devices that use only a small amount of data to operate with low current consumption. This can greatly improve the battery life of IoT devices. Testing will play a vital role in ensuring the delivery of a high quality NB-IoT service that operates effectively within LTE bands, while mitigating interference from other devices.

This year we will see a rise in the number of DDoS attacks targeting IoT devices, as hackers look to exploit service provider and business networks. Service providers will have to put measures in place to prevent attacks of this scale. This can be achieved by implementing a modern security strategy which involves stress testing networks using the emulation of malware threats to identify weaknesses which would be targeted by cyber hackers. This will help firms protect themselves and their customers from IoT-driven threats.

Accelerating the commercialisation of 5G will be at forefront of operators’ strategies this year. 5G will be designed from the outset to support high-speed data services, and will also be the enabler for a rapid expansion in M2M and the IoT. However, many of these concepts depend on having a test network that can prove that new radio interface technologies can deliver the throughput, latency and capacity to empower the real-world applications of 5G.

How can operators script success and increase profitability with DAS and IBS solutions?

A DAS has long been seen as the premium solution for indoor and high-demand coverage provision. However, depending on the type of facility, a DAS can often be viewed as an expensive solution involving lengthy design, implementation and commissioning processes. Lowering the CAPEX and OPEX of a DAS, while simultaneously optimising noise and minimising interference is a difficult puzzle for operators to solve.

To navigate this challenge, Cobham Wireless developed the world’s first digital DAS, based on a patented central Common Public Radio Interface (CPRI) router. This provides not only coverage, but capacity wherever and whenever it is needed.

idDAS has already been used in prestigious large-scale cellular projects to provide dynamic capacity across areas with sporadic yet high-capacity cellular demands, such as event spaces and multi-use venues. The ability to share capacity with nearby facilities as and when it is required means facilities managers and owners can significantly lower the OPEX costs associated with coverage enhancement systems.