Telecom Council Member Parallel Wireless Introduces HetNet Gateway to help orchestrate HetNets
Author: Parallel Wireless
Networks are becoming more complex to address the challenges of increasing data usage and higher density. Current network management solutions do not effectively handle the various technologies of modern telecom. With 2G, 3G, 4G LTE, Wi-Fi, and the introduction of 5G, networks are too complex for operators to easily and cost-effectively manage. The defining challenge of the next ten years will be to efficiently deploy and manage these increasingly complex networks. As it is already not feasible to manage this complexity, introducing 5G as a new technology does not make much sense. Instead, 5G should be the unification of existing technologies in order to simplify networks, reduce deployment and maintenance costs, and provide an improved end-user experience. Read the ThinkSmallCell white paper on “HetNet Orchestration: The fourth dimension for wireless capacity growth”.
Simplifying Complex Networks by Unifying the RAN
It seems as if every telecom news story includes or focuses around a different technology: “India boasts some of the most expansive 4G coverage”, “Vendor A partners with Service Provider B to provide free Wi-Fi”, “3G is going strong in many markets worldwide”, not to mention all the hype and claims around 5G. Additionally, 2G technologies are still in play and will be for some time; GSMA reports that in 2020 (the expected launch of 5G), there will still be more 2G connections than there are LTE. As each technology has its own benefits and drawbacks, one can easily understand that there are several different use cases where one technology is better-suited than another. However, it does beg the question of how all these technologies and networks are being managed.
Along with varying technologies, the number of users is also increasing rapidly, leading to more network congestion. With all this variety and congestion, it is crazy that there’s no efficient way to manage all of these users, networks, and technologies to provide a seamless user experience. Imagine if this was the case for vehicular traffic: an increasing number of vehicles and buses on the road but with no traffic lanes, signs, or lights to direct them where to go. The result would be disastrous.
If this is such a crazy idea for vehicle traffic, then why is it so acceptable for telecom traffic?
Networks are becoming more complex to address the challenges of increasing data usage and higher density. Internet of Things, HetNets, and the introduction of 5G will add additional traffic and data usage to the networks, thus adding more complexity. The defining challenge of the next ten years will be to efficiently deploy and manage these increasingly complex networks. But there are a few hurdles that make this challenge even more difficult to overcome:
- Lack of interoperability
- Varying network maturity in different regions requires a solution that can address older generation technologies while managing future networks – what will work for the US will likely not be a good option for less developed African markets
- Backhaul can be expensive and challenging to provide, especially to rural markets
- Configuration processes used for macrocell deployments are not scalable for mass deployment of multi-vendor, multi-technology HetNets
- The cost to manage these networks is currently too high
To achieve this seamless HetNet world, there needs to be an interoperable, multi-technology, cost-effective network management/orchestration solution. To make this dream a reality, there are a few things that must be addressed:
- Deployments and maintenance need to be simpler and more hands-free. SON is a useful technology for handling configuration and maintenance, but as these networks become more complex, traditional SON approaches are not suitable for this requirement. Instead, there needs to be a hybrid SON solution that works in real-time to configure and optimize the network. This would reduce the deployment and maintenance times and costs.
- Traffic needs to be better managed and balanced in order to reduce network congestion and improve the overall network performance. Since the number of users is not going to decrease, there needs to be a way to aggregate users to appear as one to the RAN. Additionally, the network must be managed so that overloaded cells can have users offloaded to neighboring cells to improve performance.
- More cost-effective backhaul options must be provided. This would help to reduce costs and times to deploy a network. This would also help enable operators to address the largely overlooked problem of a lack of coverage in rural locations that account for a large percentage of the population.
Unifying these technologies as a hyperconnected RAN would enable service providers to address the challenges as a whole, rather than individually. This would also avoid further complicating the networks by introducing a new technology and would instead enable service providers to manage their networks more easily and cost-effectively.
To address these challenges, Parallel Wireless built HetNet Gateway (HNG). HNG is the industry’s first carrier-grade, NFV/SDN-based, 3GPP compliant RAN orchestrator that enables RAN hyperconnectivity by unifying any technology (3G, 4G, Wi-Fi) and any vendor nodes or APs by presenting them as one common interface to the core. HNG uses principles of SDN automation to virtualize and orchestrate the multi-vendor, multi-technology, multi-band heterogeneous RAN while reducing the signaling load on the EPC. As a result, HNG makes any RAN easy to deploy, scale, and maintain while delivering consistent subscriber experience across multiple licensed and unlicensed technologies in rural and urban locations (even on the cell edge). HNG unifies the RAN by abstracting RAN changes from the packet core network and vice versa for all phases of the network lifecycle: from configuration, to enabling backhaul connectivity, to optimizing the network for a superior user experience.
This intelligent RAN orchestrator includes a built-in SON server to help self-configure and self-optimize the network. Because this SON server is positioned in front of the OSS/EMS, it is not susceptible to latency resulting from communication back and forth between the EMS. Instead, this becomes a real-time SON solution and as a result can enable instant plug-n-play configuration for the initial node deployments. This solution is also interoperable with any third party SON server via open APIs. Once nodes are self-configured, HNG takes care of on-going optimization, traffic mitigation, and network healing as it has a “bird’s eye view” of the network. This helps in delivering consistent user experience and efficient resource utilization.
HetNet Gateway also includes a virtualized multi-technology C-RAN. By virtualizing both C-RAN and SON on the same platform, HNG creates a coordinated system that provides centralized and elastic scheduling over standard X2. Multi-technology (3G, 4G, Wi-Fi) C-RAN on HNG takes advantage of Moore’s Law for baseband chips and allows operators to keep BBU functionality on site instead of centrally pooled. This permits operators to take advantage of any type of backhaul without relying on latency-laden and expensive fronthaul.
By addressing these challenges as a whole solution, rather than one component at a time, HetNet Gateway becomes the ideal solution to manage these increasingly complex networks. As 5G HetNets become more of a reality, this solution will also manage the future of telecom while making cellular deployments and maintenance as easy and cost-effective as enterprise Wi-Fi.