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The role of antenna quality in small cell and 5G deployments

Mobile network operators are densifying their network infrastructure to both meet ever-increasing data demands and to lay the groundwork for 5G.

While the importance of fiber, spectrum availability and ease of siting are often discussed in network equipment deployments, one overlooked factor is the impact that antenna quality has on the efficiency, effectiveness and total cost of ownership of such deployments.

Here are three ways that antenna quality impacts small cell deployment:

Quality antennas have fewer impairments and failures, reducing TCO. 

The worst-case scenario for antennas is complete failure, which means they must be replaced. That can delay site turn-up or require a site visit. Antenna design and manufacturing company Kathrein estimates that for a cellular network with 40,000 antennas, a 2% failure rate will cost the MNO nearly $1 million per year in site visits costs.

Short of failure, antenna quality also impacts how consistently and well an antenna performs — which directly influences user experience. Low-quality components or insufficient attention to passive intermodulation (PIM) during design and testing can mean that an antenna doesn’t perform according to the expectations of network planners, resulting in poor coverage, blocked or dropped calls or impacts to throughput, according to Dr. David Kokotoff, senior sales engineer at antenna design and manufacturing company Kathrein.

Kokotoff said that besides the extensive controlled mechanical and environmental testing in the lab, Kathrein has a number of sites around the world where it tests its antennas in challenging environmental conditions. These sites keep equipment in the field to observe what happens over years of exposure to the elements: in salt-exposed environments near the sea and in hot and humid conditions. The extensive, long-term testing, he said, contributes to improving overall reliability and keeping Kathrein’s antenna failure rate at less than 0.05%.

As antenna complexity increases, so does the importance of quality. 

Kokotoff noted that with MNOs needing support for both low- and mid-band spectrum as well as support for carrier aggregation and multiple-input multiple-output (MIMO), License-Assisted Access and CBRS spectrum, the number of ports has increased: eight, ten or more ports are commonly requested. Supporting multiple bands in a small-volume base station while achieving the desired performance is no small feat, especially when proper isolation must be maintained. Rigorous PIM testing and high-quality compatible component selection also becomes important to ensure consistent antenna performance in the complex urban RF environments where small cells are most needed.

Thoughtful design features can make installation and management easier. 

Remote electrical tilt is a feature more commonly associated with macro site antennas, but Kokotoff said that Kathrein has recently introduced RET to its small cell antennas. MNOs used to think that they could avoid small cell interference through site selection, he said, but optimal sites are not always available or affordable. Features such as RET can offer MNOs the ability to tweak their small cells’ coverage and get what they need from the sites that they can most easily access.

Antenna design also needs to account for the real-world challenges of installation. Many models of light poles, for instance, have a wide base but a thin pole that make it difficult to fit all the necessary cables that need to run to the multi-port equipment placed at the top. Kathrein has tackled this via the use of diplexers internal to the antenna to minimize cable runs.

Since small cells need to be placed close to end users, aesthetics of the equipment and the ability to creatively place antennas also come into play. Kathrein has focused its efforts on “out of sight, out of mind” design for small cells, including building-corner and side-mounted options and even antennas that can be placed underground to provide street-level coverage.

Learn more about Kathrein’s antenna portfolio.

So Many Ground-Breaking Ideas Were Created on a Cocktail Napkin

The Gettysburg Address, The Space Needle, Harry Potter, Southwest Airlines, great Beatles’ songs, Kathrein Canister Antennas – What do these all have in common?  Well, the title gives it away- they all had their start with brilliant people brainstorming and sketching on cocktail napkins!

Kathrein just released the latest in a long line of canister small cell antennas.  The Ultra-High Band, 10 port omni canister antenna 84010555 supports 2, 3.5, and 5.8 GHz frequencies, and provide operators and neutral hosts with a small cell solution that is future ready (more on this later).  Let’s first explore a brief history of canister antennas and how Kathrein set the standard for innovation and aesthetics.

napkin sketch of original Kathrein canister antenna2004: The Canister Makes its Debut

In wireless years, 2004 was an eternity ago, but that is when ExteNet Sytems approached Kathrein about building a DAS (distributed antenna system).  At a quaint restaurant in Medford, Oregon, Kathrein’s Rick Veghte and Jim Dekoekkoek (both engineers) sat with Tormod Larsen, CTO from ExteNet Systems, and came up with the original sketch and plans for a brown canister, quasi-omni antenna.

They used internal parts from existing Kathrein panel antennas, while outsourcing the high quality, fiberglass radomes from a local manufacturer.  The initial concerns were that the nuls would be too deepkathrein canister antennas and that there would be a lot of multipaths.  Rick and Jim went to work designing the prototype, and were pleased that the canister achieved the stringent electrical performance that both companies expected.  Manufacturing began within a couple months.

The original canister had 4 ports (2 high-band, 2 low-band).  In 2010, Kathrein began selling canisters to operators as small cell antenna solutions. Due to the compact design, the canisters fit perfectly on telephone and utility poles, and blended into the environment.  Since then, Kathrein has continued to add ports and extend frequencies while trying to maintain the same form factor. Due to sheer physics this is not an easy engineering feat. 

2017 and Beyond – The Race to Gigabit Data Speeds/5G

While a widely accepted definition of 5G is still being worked out, there is a race among operators to deliver gigabit data speeds, and claim that they are the first to offer “5G”.  The current macro system won’t allow for this kind of speed.  Operators will need to tap into shared spectrum – 3.5 GHz and 5 GHz bands (Ultra High-Band) so they can stitch together enough spectrum (carrier aggregation) to offer gigabit speeds to subscribers.  There are of course challenges with unlicensed bands (wi-fi) in that they are often crowded and have rules of usage, such as “listen before talk.”

In response to market demands, Kathrein has just released two new canister antennas: the 84010555 (brown) and 84010556 (grey) are the solution for operators that want to tap into ultra-high band frequencies as they prep for 5G. Kathrein canister antennas

The new Kathrein canisters:

  • Support 2, 3.5, and 5.8 GHz
  • Utilize the same form factor: no rezoning required
  • Support 4×4 and 2×2 MIMO
  • Support 4 ports at 1695-2690 GHz, 4 ports at 3.5 GHz, and 2 ports at 5.8 GHz

Kathrein Canister Antennas have a long history of industry leading innovation, quality, and performance.  The latest ultra-high band canisters can easily replace existing canisters, providing operators with a future proof small cell solution in the race to 5G. 

To learn more, visit our Small Cell Solutions page.

 

Watch our Small Cell Solutions Video

Kathrein Sweeps Fierce Innovation Awards Telecom Edition with New In-Ground Small Cell Antenna

Kathrein Recognized for Leadership in “Small Cells/HetNet Category”; Wins “Best Network Transformation Platform” and “Judges’ Choice” Award

Richardson, Texas (PRWEB) November 18, 2016  (Click here for press release)

Kathrein, the global leader in LTE Antenna solutions for reliable, high-quality wireless communications, today proudly announced that it has been recognized by this year’s Fierce Innovation Awards: Telecom Edition, a unique industry awards program powered by the publishers of FierceWireless. Kathrein received top honors in the category “Small Cells/HetNet” and earned the prestigious Judges Choice Award that is awarded to the 2016 standout innovative product or service – that most likely positively and dramatically affects service provider networks across the board. All winners were announced on November 17, 2016, and the complete list of winners can be reviewed in the Fierce Innovation Report: Telecom Edition that can be downloaded here.

With the complexities of zoning ordinances and site acquisition for many carriers and neutral host operators, the need for new innovations in antenna technologies is paramount. Thus, in collaboration with Swisscom, Switzerland’s leading telecom provider, Kathrein developed Kathrein Street Connect, the award-winning in-ground antenna system that is concealed as a typical manhole cover at street level. The Kathrein Street Connect™ was specially designed for ease of deployment and to withstand weather, road vibration, and heavy road cargo weight. Most importantly, the Kathrein Street Connect™ improves network data throughput and speeds by bringing smartphone users closer to the network and paves the way to 5G for mobile operators.

“These awards by FierceWireless are a testament to the innovation and promise of the Kathrein Street Connect™ Solution and a true honor considering the mobile operator participation on the esteemed panel of judges“, said Jim Nevelle, President and CEO of Kathrein USA. “To win all three speaks to the innovation and expertise of Kathrein’s engineering team.”

All applications for this award were evaluated based on the following criteria: technology innovation, financial impact, market validation, compatibility with existing networks, end-user customer experience, and overall level of innovation. Finalists were judged by an exclusive panel of executives from major telecommunications companies including Verizon, T-Mobile, TeliaSonera, Sprint, and Comcast. Full profiles of the judges can be found here.

To find out more about how Kathrein’s Street Connect™ is turning heads and turning the antenna industry upside down, visit us at https://www.kathreinusa.com.

About FierceMarkets

At FierceMarkets, our mission is as clear today as it was at our founding in 2000: be the first place to turn to for information-hungry executives in dynamic industries and a trusted partner for the marketing teams that need to reach them. Back then, we saw the coming power of blogs, web journalism, digital marketing and email communications, and launched our first email newsletter, FierceWireless, to begin fulfilling that mission for the mobile telecommunications industry.Today, our family of over 100 email newsletter publications and websites carries out that same mission for many more industries and millions of users, while we also evolve to address the latest trends in digital media — mobile devices, social media, native advertising and content marketing. Regardless of what the next trend may be, however, we remain fiercely committed to independent insights for our readers and marketing success for our customers. Learn more at: http://www.fiercemarkets.com .

About Kathrein
Kathrein is the innovation and technology leader in wireless base station antennas, small cells, and antenna line device solutions for today’s hyper connected world. Nearly a quarter of all LTE antennas sold and deployed worldwide come from Kathrein. Ranked number one among providers of mobile communication antennas by ABI Research, Kathrein is a hidden champion and family-owned enterprise that has been working on the technologies of tomorrow since 1919. We take pride in our dedicated employees and our passion for customers and quality. Find out more about Kathrein at https://www.kathreinusa.com.

 

Innovation Award For Kathrein Street Connect

Kathrein wins Ranny Award

PRESS RELEASE

Innovation Award for Kathrein Street Connect

Rosenheim/Dusseldorf, 28 September 2016 – Kathrein Street Connect, an innovative solution for mobile communication, was honored as “best new technology” at the RAN World 2016 in Dusseldorf. Kathrein developed the innovative system for mobile coverage in inner cities in collaboration with Swisscom, Switzerland’s leading telecom provider.  Kathrein Street Connect is an in-ground antenna system that enhances mobile capacity at hotspots with high data traffic. In Switzerland, the antennas are already in operation in Bern, Zurich, Basel, and Lausanne, and test series are being run in more countries.

The original concept of a ground-integrated antenna comes from Swisscom. Kathrein Street Connect is embedded into the ground in the immediate vicinity of a base station by way of a ground bore and is not visible. The solution provides the mobile network at highly frequented hotspots such as pedestrian zones or stadiums with powerful micro cells to offer high data rates to customers.

“Kathrein Street Connect is an extremely clever solution which blends in perfectly with the surrounding area,” explains Dr. Hermann Rodler, SVP Products Business Unit at Kathrein. Its special bracket makes the antenna resistant to vibrations. The lid above the antenna is extremely sturdy so that the system can also be used in streets with heavy goods vehicle traffic, with weights of up to 40 tonnes. MIMO-capability (“Multiple Input Multiple Output”) enables the simultaneous use of several transmission and reception antennas.

“Together with our development partner Kathrein, we turned a simple idea into a pioneering innovation. We are very proud that our good teamwork was honoured with the RANNY Award,” says Heinz Herren, CTO and CIO of Swisscom.

About Kathrein

Kathrein is a leading international specialist for reliable, high-quality communication technologies. The company is an innovation and technology leader in today’s connected world. Kathrein’s solutions and systems enable people all over the world to communicate, access information and use media, whether at home, at the office or on the road. The business covers a broad spectrum: from outdoor and indoor mobile communication solutions, to satellite reception, broadband and broadcast technology, to transmission and reception systems in vehicles. As a hidden champion and family-owned enterprise, Kathrein has been working on the technologies of tomorrow since 1919. The company takes pride in its dedicated employees and passion for customers and quality. Find out more about Kathrein at www.kathrein.com.

About Swisscom

Swisscom is Switzerland’s leading telecom provider and one of its foremost IT companies, headquartered in Ittigen, close to the capital city, Bern. Outside Switzerland, Swisscom offers broadband Internet in Italy with Fastweb. Around 21,000 employees achieve annual revenues of approx. CHF 11.5 billion. Swisscom is one the most sustainable companies in Switzerland and Europe Find out more about Swisscom at www.swisscom.ch.