June 1, 2023

Building better mobile network coverage and capacity

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The need for providing affordable mobile network coverage is increasing. People increasingly rely on their phones for necessary services to stay connected in society and business. These services are becoming increasingly advanced. To be able to do critical things like the below is getting more and more urgent:

  • Payments
  • Digital identification
  • Government services
  • Video Conferencing and Virtual Meetings

Mobile networks must take a technical leap to facilitate growth and development. This requires providing coverage at an affordable price and enhancing the user experience.

There are many challenges that we must be able to overcome to provide better mobile coverage and user experience.

The cost of building and maintaining mobile networks is enormous. Mobile Network Operators are not interested in covering areas where they cannot make a profit. This includes gaining new subscribers and selling more advanced services to existing subscribers.

The cost of building and maintaining mobile networks must be drastically lowered. Challenges with building and maintaining the networks in operations also need to be mastered. Lower energy consumption so network antennas and towers can run without access to an electrical grid or diesel generators.

MNOs must provide a better user experience. Many challenges exist during digital meetings and traditional voice calls. These include delays, poor data coverage, indoor coverage, and disturbances.

Building and maintaining mobile networks are complex

There are a lot of critical components that need to work together. They are typically divided into RAN (Radio Access Network) and PAN (Passive Access Network).

A Radio Access Network (RAN) is essential to a mobile broadband communications system. It connects a user’s device to the core network. It is responsible for handling the radio communication between the mobile device and the network.

A RAN typically consists of the following components:

  • Base Stations: Base stations are the physical equipment that connects to mobile devices and establishes a wireless connection. They transmit and receive signals to and from the user’s device and forward them to the core network.
  • Antennas: Antennas are used to transmit and receive radio signals between the base station and mobile devices. They are typically mounted on towers, buildings, or poles.
  • Remote Radio Heads: Remote Radio Heads (RRH) are small radio transmitters and receivers that are located close to the antennas. They allow for more flexible base station deployment and help reduce signal loss over long cable runs.
  • Baseband Units (BBU) are responsible for processing and managing data and control signals. These signals are sent to and from the base station.
  • Transmission Equipment: Transmission equipment is used to connect the base stations to the core network. It includes routers, switches, and other networking equipment.
  • Mobile Devices: Mobile devices are the endpoint of the RAN. They connect to the base station. They communicate with the network. They make calls, send messages, and access data services.

A Passive Access Network (PAN) is a broadband communications network. It delivers services to end-users without active electronic components. These components include repeaters and signal boosters.

A PAN (Personal Area Network) typically consists of a distribution network. This network is connected to either a central office or a data centre. The connection is made via a fibre-optic backbone.

The distribution network is divided into smaller sub-networks. Passive components are used to do this. These components can be found in outdoor cabinets, utility poles, or buildings.

A passive optical network (PON) connects individual end-users to each sub-network. This connection occurs at the end of the network.

A PON is a network type that uses optical splitters. These splitters divide a single optical fibre into multiple fibres. Each fibre is then used to serve a single end-user.

The passive nature of PANs offers several advantages over traditional active networks, including lower cost, higher reliability, and reduced power consumption. PANs are ideal for delivering high-speed broadband services to urban and rural areas. This is because they can be easily scaled to meet the increasing demand for bandwidth.

The antenna is the core of the system. It has the most potential to help us solve these issues.

During the last couple of years, new technologies that make it possible to create coverage have appeared like:

  • Satellites
  • Hotspots
  • Autonomous sites

The challenge is to think and plan long-term. Simultaneously, investments must be made today to enable the mastery of future challenges.

Boomer Cellular Networks

Antennas are at the heart of the Mobile Network Communication solution. However, the antenna represents a relatively small part of the mobile network infrastructure.

If an antenna could send radio waves with a significantly higher gain, there would be a dramatic change to the provision of more coverage and data rate for a significantly lower cost of investment and operations. The concept Boomer Cellular Networks (BCN)  is all about this.

We must think both long-term and short-term to address coverage and quality issues.  The long-term effects are the final goals, but short-term investments in BCN make up the path to those goals.

Why is the long-term perspective critical? 

  • Enhanced value of the site thanks to an increasing number of users.
  • Increased customer satisfaction and lower customer churn.
  • Improved society and the development of businesses that need digital mobile infrastructure
  • Sustainability with energy savings and significantly lower operational costs.

Why is short-term critical for long-term success?

  • Competition between MNOs makes it beneficial to find clever differentiation and short-term advantages. It also makes it possible for greenfield MNOs to enter the market.
  • To improve the network coverage and quality, it is easier to take small steps. Start by using a new technology, then gradually expand over time. 
  • Pressure from the authorities to connect certain areas. 

The current MNO strategies for investing in better coverage

Especially in the industrial part of the world, MNOs and other stakeholders typically rely on rolling out the latest technology. Only some want to be the outlier and leave the herd. It is evident, however, that it would be a better decision in the long run. It’s safer to fail together than to be the sole survivor.

Key players keep going down an expensive path instead of taking a risk with something new. This costs them more than necessary.

Consequently, antenna vendors will keep designing their products to follow the track chosen by the majority.

Mobile connectivity is being sacrificed to improve data speed in already well-served regions. This includes large rural areas that are very poorly connected today.

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