Helping network planners get to grips with complexity

Staff writer
07 Jan 2015

Test & Measurement Innovation of the Year:

JDSU -- CellAdvisor Base Station Analyzer

Earlier this year JDSU announced updates to its cellular tower-testing solution that allow field technicians to quickly identify and fix signal interference problems without having to climb the tower.

By adding Radio Frequency over Common Public Radio Interface (RFoCPRI) capabilities to JDSU’s CellAdvisor Base Station Analyzer, remote maintenance and management of next-generation fiber-based cell sites has been boosted. “RFoCPRI technology enables performing RF maintenance and troubleshooting activities at ground level via fiber at the base band unit,” said Rajesh Rao, regional VP of sales, Asia Pacific and Japan, at JDSU.

Rao said customer benefits are myriad: minimizing cell tower climbs improves safety, minimizes the number of instruments needed onsite, and significantly reduces maintenance time and operational expense.

New complexities to cell site tower architecture are emerging to keep pace with changing protocols, macro cells, small cells, distributed antenna systems (DAS), heterogeneous networks and fiber deployments that aim to increase network capacity and improve service coverage.

“Networks are migrating from pure macro cells to a variety of RANs: hetnets, DAS, small cells, Wi-Fi and macro,” says Rao. “As far as DAS and small cells are concerned, the first challenge is placement. Over 50% of cell sites aren’t placed optimally and that can negatively affect mobile service.”

Rao points out the complexity of DAS with its varying antenna architectures and wide variety of physical media for connectivity. “This creates a complex environment which, if not tested, validated, managed, and optimized, can have a detrimental effect on an end user’s mobile experience,” says Rao. “The issue of interference and aligning with macro towers must be properly managed.”

“At the same time, LTE continues to evolve with LTE-Advanced, MIMO, eMBMS, and VoLTE,” he says. “This adds more complexity and imposes further on technicians turning up and managing cell sites.”
Rao points out the difference between LTE and technologies such as GSM and UMTS. “[LTE] cell sizes are smaller, so it takes more base stations to cover a similar area covered by a 2G macro cell,” he says.

“And LTE is designed for fast data so it needs to enable higher order modulations and fiber backhauls to give high throughput - the more noise or interference on the channel, the lower the throughput.

“Services like VoLTE depend on availability of a ‘clear channel’ because it needs high quality of service, low latency and guaranteed bit rates to work,” Rao adds. “This means changes in installation, commissioning, and optimization processes and parameters - it will be challenging to use the same methods carried over from say 2G.”

As for future developments in network analysis and test/measurement, Rao says, “Networks are bigger and more complex, but revenues are not increasing proportionally, which means change in the way testing and monitoring is done. Instruments must be smarter and provide insight faster - they must help technicians get to the problem quickly rather than just make measurements better.

“JDSU is highly engaged in many industry groups supporting the mobile domain,” says Rao. “Being involved with operators and equipment vendors in new technology areas means that when the networks of tomorrow are deployed, we’re there to help plan for, install, turn-up, manage and optimize both the network and the services … and this delivers the coverage and capacity the mobile user needs.”

Why they won
The first base station analyzer on the market to be cloud-enabled allows the user to manage assets from a central point, upgrade units in the field centrally and upload and save results to the cloud.

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