At Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2019, 5G was the core topic, no matter the product release, display, or the discussion among the various industries. The improvement of business experience, incubation of business opportunities, and transformation of business models will penetrate into production activities and help the digital transformation of various industries.
Indoor network coverage is one of the key scenarios for 5G rollout. Huawei hosted the 5G Digital Indoor System (DIS) Round Table during MWC in 2019. Representatives of carriers, tower companies, neutral hosts, equipment vendors, and third-party organizations participated in the round table to discuss the applications of 5G indoors, what technical requirements should be met for indoor coverage systems, and what steps industry needs to take to deploy commercially viable indoor 5G coverage. Valuable insights, use cases, and issues around indoor network systems were shared in a lively discussion.
In this round table, the representatives of tower companies and neutral hosts shared their experience or expressed their intention to invest in indoor digital coverage and services.
In terms of their top indoor deployment and investment scenarios, operators were focused on large-capacity scenarios, such as airports and subways. Tower companies and neutral hosts focused on commercial real estate and private property scenarios. They also highlighted shopping centers, campuses, and hospitals as locations they would prioritize for indoor network system investment. Based on the contribution from tower companies and neutral hosts, they have mature business models and good relationships with building owners. They can quickly develop indoor coverage services and expand their business boundaries. The tower companies’ business model is based on providing indoor coverage leasing services to operators. Neutral hosts, such as Stratto, monetize their investment in indoor coverage by charging the building owner for the enhanced coverage.
“We provide carrier-grade, in-building, and multi-operator mobile coverage as a service across multiple sectors, including commercial real estate, healthcare, retail, hospitality, and residential with over 100 buildings receiving service today. We operate as a service provider, working directly with the building occupants and owners as our customers and partner closely with all four mobile network operators in the UK to deliver our service,” explained StrattoOpencell CEO Richard Bourne when discussing their DIS business model. “By using DIS, we have a future-proof network which provides us full visibility of the status and health allowing us to identify and often fix problems remotely.”
Umang DAS, the Vice Chairman from India Tower Association TAIPA, suggested, “The digital indoor coverage industry is very important. In India, we have promoted the concept of Digital Infrastructure Sharing by Independent/Neutral infrastructure providers. It is suggested that we define the interests of Infrastructure Providers as well as Mobile Service Providers. This will help in defining where we are going and what is the way forward, like tower companies can focus more on infrastructure construction and provisioning, and operators can focus more on user services.”
Discussing the smoothest and most cost-efficient way to transition to 5G, with its large capacity, flexible capacity expansion, 4 x 4 MIMO, visualized O&M, and short delivery period, all participants agreed that building a digital indoor system now, after 5G spectrum is provisioned, is the best approach. DIS’s ability to allow for easy upgrade to 5G without needing to change all the hardware was a key reason Turkcell chose Huawei’s LampSite for the Istanbul Airport.
Sheldon Yau of HKT said, “We decided to transition to a DIS strategy for all indoor scenarios two years ago. Once 5G comes, we can upgrade DIS to 5G quickly.” For example, HKT is building Hong Kong’s first all-fiber mobile network architecture on the Mass Transit Railway (MTR) line which uses an innovative DIS to enable multiple operators to share the network to provide ubiquitous high-quality Mobile Broadband (MBB) service to their customers. This network infrastructure has the capability to evolve into future-oriented 5G networks without the need for additional cabling.
“All operators’ construction plans are not agreed to touch the indoor system in the near future,” NURAN DEMIRCI from Turkcell mentioned. “We need the indoor system features 5G ready, 4 x 4 MIMO, flexible capacity, and easy installation and maintenance.”
Also in Thailand, the DIS is the indoor coverage strategy of its operators. As a city with an extremely developed tourism industry, the indoor coverage system of large shopping centers, airports, office buildings, hospitals, and hotels all transitioned to DIS. After the DIS was deployed in the Royal Gems shopping center in 2016, user experience was greatly improved and suppressed traffic was released. Within two months after the deployment, the traffic increased by 60 percent. Today, AIS in Thailand is also actively testing and deploying the integrated LampSite + Wi-Fi solutions to prepare for new business opportunities in advance.
In China, The IMT-2020 (5G) Promotion Group released the Technical Specifications of 5G DIS and Test Cases of 5G DIS, which defines a series of technological specifications for 5G indoor coverage digitalization in terms of performance, functions, and networking. Yang Hua, TDIA Secretary General said, “Many industries also embrace 5G and hope to upgrade the indoor network as soon as possible. Vendors need to get consensus on the standards and architecture to meet the requirements of wireless healthcare and smart buildings in the 5G era. Pan Shiyi, SOHO China Chairman, requires his employees to support Chinese operators’ site construction to upgrade to digital indoor systems.”
Ritchie Peng, DIS President of Huawei, suggested, “Mainstream vendors have reached a consensus on the architecture of the DIS, which incorporates three layers: BBU, RHUB, and pRRU. The entire system supports CPRI interface and E2E fiber-optic transmission. The pRRU is a digital head-end that features a high integration of RRU and antennas. The DIS architecture satisfies the requirements proposed by the IMT-2020 (5G) Promotion Group in terms of digital head-end, IT cable, and visualized O&M.“
Yang Hua, TDIA Secretary General mentioned. “In the future, 5G coverage may be operated by multiple stakeholders, not just mobile operators. Therefore, standardization of 5G indoor coverage is more important. We will deepen the research on indoor coverage digitalization this year, start the group bid, and discuss with various industries to form standard technical solutions and technical standards, so that each industry can quickly meet their local coverage requirements.“