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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.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thank you… for the Awards and that the 2016 Wireless Tradeshow Circuit is Over!

After many miles traveled, as well as countless handshakes and customer meetings, we are done with the tradeshow circuit (circus) for 2016! We hit it hard in 2015/2016 with the need to educate and establish Kathrein’s long history of RF expertise as relevant and important to the North American wireless market. With our global headquarters in Rosenheim, Germany, we, in the past, might have been accused of being “Eurocentric”- with our product innovation and availability.  However, all that has changed with our new U.S. leadership team, the move of our North American HQs to Richardson, Texas, and the recent opening of an R&D/Logistics center in Plano, Texas. The Dallas Business Journal did a fantastic write-up of the ribbon cutting that took place October 4, 2016 (click here for the full article).  We celebrated in German-style the opening of the 35,000 square foot space with the Tech Titans and the Richardson and Plano Chambers of Commerce.  The event would not have been complete without German beers, pretzels, and sausages.  Yum!

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A German celebration wouldn’t be complete without Bier!

 

It was a busy past month and half: we attended, spoke on panels, and exhibited at HetNet Expo in Houston, then Small Cells Americas in Dallas; and two short weeks later, the 5G North America show – again in our backyard in Dallas, TX. Kathrein was proud to sponsor Antenna Focus Day at 5G North America – it is a welcome chance to discuss and drill down into the trends and new technologies in antenna innovation. 5G, millimeter wave, and small cells, which dominated the discussions. 

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Vicki Livingston, from 5G Americas, moderated a panel that included Jim Nevelle (Kathrein), Bo Piekarski (Crown Castle), and Ray Butler (Commscope)nov-16-5

Our friends Jeff and Doug from Verticom, and Lindsay Franklin from RCR Wireless

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Jonathan Adelstein’s opening keynote at the Royal Sonesta, Houston Galleria.  

 

The hottest topic at all three shows was, no surprise here, Small Cells – something Kathrein has been developing and deploying for over 10 years.  Discussions were all relative to realizing the vision of “5G” – ultra-dense networks and pervasive wireless cellular connectivity – all which will require massive network builds, streamlined deployment models, and realistic regulations.

Kathrein recently published a white paper on Small Cells and how they will play a role in Connected Cities (you can find the full report here).  We also often discuss the merits of Electrical Downtilt vs. Small Cell Intelligent Site Placement with RF design teams around the country.  You can find our engineering recommendations here.

Lastly, as we head into the Thanksgiving holiday, we want to give thanks to our customers and truly appreciate the recognition for innovation we have received for the Kathrein Street Connect™ in 2016.  Just this week, Kathrein won top honors for the Fierce Awards: Telecom Edition with our new In-Ground Antenna. We were honored to win the “Small Cells/HetNet Category”, as well as “Best Network Transformation Platform” and “Judges Choice” Award. Winning the Judges Choice award is the highest honor, as it is awarded to only one 2016 standout innovative product or service that most likely, positively, and dramatically affects service provider networks across the board. Kathrein is grateful and we thank the esteemed judges.

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Kathrein Street Connect also took home the honors at the RAN World Awards 2016 and the GLOTEL Awards 2016.

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Joachim Grimm (Kathrein) and Carine Genoud (Swisscom) accept the award for Kathrein Street Connect at the GLOTEL Awards in London

 

We would also like to recognize and thank our friends at Swisscom for the brilliant idea of Kathrein Street Connect™.  They have been a terrific partner and customer.  A special thanks to Nima Jamaly and Marcus Bergagard for all of their support.

Wishing you and yours a Happy Thanksgiving!

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Dr. Dave (Kathrein), Kevin Linehan (Commscope) and Joe Madden (Mobile Experts) discussing 5G at Antenna Focus Day 2016

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Bill Jauchler (Kathrein) and Jay Brown (President-Crown Castle) at HetNet Expo 2016

 

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Stefan Kohl (Kathrein) and Joe Madden (Mobile Experts) discussing lessons learned from 4G deployments and what to expect in antenna technologies for 5G

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Mobile Carriers Show 2016: Benefitting Both the Wireless Industry AND the Local Community

Music City Center, Nashville, TN- Home of the MCA Show 2016

The Focus: Smart Strategies, Technology Innovations, and Business Opportunities

It’s hard to find a Wireless Event that benefits industry participants and the local community, but that is exactly what made the CCA (Competitive Carrier Association’s) Mobile Carriers Show 2016 a complete success.  The show was held in downtown Nashville, TN at the Music City Center. It’s the only North America Wireless event to focus exclusively on Smart Strategies, Technology Innovations, and Business Opportunities for carriers.  With over 100 carriers in attendance, representing over 100 million customers, it was a great opportunity for Kathrein to network with key carriers and discuss the best ways of meeting their needs, as well as their customers, in this ever changing industry.

The conference sessions centered on 5G, IoT, Small Cells and bridging Cellular Networks with the benefits of WiFi Access Points.  One of the highlights of the show was the Volunteer Day, which presented a great opportunity for attendees to roll-up their sleeves and work side-by-side with friends (new and old), peers, competitors, and most importantly, to give back to the Nashville community.

It’s All About the Kids

This year’s event was for the benefit of the [http://napieres.mnps.org/pages/Napier_Enhanced_Option] Napier Elementary School in downtown Nashville.  Located in the center of a low income area, the school serves as a “Safe Zone” not only for the students, but also for the surrounding community, a multi-generational poverty/99% minority population.  During his introductory comments, Steve Berry, President/CEO of CCA, explained that through volunteer donations and CCA funding, a total of $10,000 was donated to Napier Elementary School.  It would have taken many months of applying for grant money to accomplish what the volunteers were able to complete in a single day.  Activities included:

  • Mulching around trees, shrubs, the playground area and the entrance to the school
  • Painting the gym equipment in playground area
  • Stenciling and painting basketball court lines, number learning games such as Hopscotch and Four-Square
  • Building a 3-D Learning Tree for the school’s front entrance interior
  • Assembling Word Books (enabling every student to issued their own book of core words)
Front Entrance to Napier Elementary School

Volunteers arrriving at Napier Elementary School- Nashville, TN

 

Jay Clark, Regional Sales Rep for Kathrein, shoveled and hauled mulch and assisted with refurbishing the basketball court.  “We even got creative and added an “N” at the center of the basketball court.  With some engineers present, it was a perfect design…” Once the outdoor projects were completed, Jay joined in on the Word Book assembly that took place in the cafeteria, all to the beat of Johnny Cash cranking on a boom box.

Congratulations to Steve Berry and the CCA staff, fellow volunteers, and the students, families and staff of Napier Elementary.   The show not only was very well received by the companies attending, but made a powerful impact on Napier Elementary School, in the heart of Nashville.

 

 

 

 

Steve Berry gives donation check for 10k to Napier Elementary

Steve Berry, President & CEO of CCA presenting Napier Elementary School with $10K donation

Volunteering at Napier Elementary School

MCA Volunteers at Napier Elementary School

Adding the N to the basketball court

Adding the “N” to the basketball court

 

 

Kathrein USA Meets Austin, Texas

It has been a busy start of the year for Kathrein USA with the Verizon IBTUF Event and the Kathrein USA Quarterly Sales Meeting both taking place in awesome Austin Texas, the “Live Music Capital of the World”  –  nice change of pace from the usual Las Vegas craziness for tradeshows.  The two events also had a common theme:  How to Meet the Challenge of Growing Mobile Data Usage by Supplying Strategic Solutions (such as Kathrein USA’s antenna and filter products).

Kathrein USA’s Inaugural IBTUF 

It was Kathrein USA’s first time attending IBTUF (In Building Technical Users Forum), and the tenth IBTUF hosted by Verizon Wireless.  It was an unqualified success, as this Verizon specific show had exhibits and technical presentations on par with the best industry tradeshows. 

The Kathrein booth was not the only one featuring Kathrein antennas- ConcealFab, located down the hall, also featured Kathrein antennas with the ConcealFab enclosures designed for Passive Intermodulation (PIM) performance and mechanical integrity – a great fit for Kathrein’s antennas and filters.   

There were numerous discussion opportunities among vendors around the best way to combine complementary products for Verizon’s  densification initiatives.  As an example, CablCon provided an immediate “consultation’ for new jumpers with 4.3-10 DIN connectors that Kathrein needed for a Verizon trial in Detroit the following week. 

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Kathrein USA’s booth at IBTUF

Of all of the IBTUF presentations, a favorite was “Spectrum – Where are We? Where are we Headed?” with Scott Townley, Fellow, Network Technology, RF Technology Planning, Verizon.  Scott gave indications of future directions of the Verizon network and what Verizon vendors need to do to meet those needs.  Starting with the fact that mobile data usage will increase fivefold over the next five years, Scott showed the need for network densification to properly handle this increasing data demand.

Scott went on to reveal the “densest square mile” in various cities requiring network densification – Western US cities that many in the audience believed to be quite spread out, such as Los Angeles, San Diego, Phoenix, Seattle and Denver. According to Scott Townley, “Microcell is happening” almost everywhere (not just in the biggest cities).  Kathrein’s new small cell antennas and filter solutions fit nicely with this widespread need for network densification.

Scott Townley presentation for IBTUF

Scott Townley- Spectrum Presentation: IBTUF

 

RF solution providers, such as Kathrein USA, were very interested in Tom Bell’s (Anritsu) presentation that made a clear case for the importance of improving PIM, as more carriers are added at each site as network densification occurs.   Tom pointed out additional challenges, such as Intermodulation products derived from the new FirstNet spectrum, that will be added for public safety considerations in future network designs.  Again, Kathrein is leading the way with PIM performance by constantly improving manufacturing techniques and using components like the 4.3-10 DIN connector (all of which Kathrein tests extensively in the lab and in the field before deploying).  To view a video explaining how Kathrein solves PIM issues with the 4.3-10 connector, click here.

Austin- The Perfect Place for a Quarterly Sales Meeting

After IBTUF, Kathrein USA remained in Austin to kick off 2016 with our Annual Sales Meeting.  This continued the theme of Kathrein USA supporting the wireless industry with new products to provide solutions for increased mobile traffic needs in the coming years.  Kathrein’s innovative Product Roadmap, with new small cell antennas alongside existing macro and higher port size antennas, fits the bill for the densification of networks.    

The Sales Meeting included the Executive team, Regional Sales Managers, Marketing, Technical Support, Sales Engineering and Customer Service; employees from all over the United States and Rosenheim, Germany.  One of the most anticipated sessions was Stefan Kohl’s Kathrein Product Roadmap.  Mr. Kohl,  Kathrein Germany’s Head of Sales for Mobile Communications, laid out an exciting plan for new solutions and updates to existing solutions. 

Stefan Kohl at KUSA sales meeting

Stefan Kohl, Head of Sales-Mobile Communications, Kathrein

For the Small Cell and oDAS antenna products, there are many new developments for existing antenna designs.  Kathrein’s lineup of Slim Pole antennas, Smart Pipe antennas, “Super” Canister antennas, F-Panel antennas and the new Kathrein Street Connect antenna all have product enhancements in 2016.  The classic Canister antenna is now going into production with extended high band frequencies to extend performance to 2690 MHz.  There are also plans to extend the Slim Pole and Smart Pipe antennas to the lower frequency bands.  The latest Kathrein Street Connect antenna system provides a great solution for difficult zoning situations and will be deployed in the United States this year after successful trials in Switzerland.  The current version of these antennas can be viewed in the Kathrein Catalog.  Kathrein has also continued research and development on their line of Filter products to support and supplement the antenna products. 

Concurrently, Kathrein development proceeds full steam ahead with its roster of macro cell antennas featuring 8-port, 10-port and 12-port antennas, as well as improvements to existing antennas (e.g. starting preparation for the 600 MHz auction).   Kathrein macro cell antennas, with increasing numbers of ports, allow for increased network data requirements in their own way by increasing the spectrum possibilities and carrier aggregation. Again, Kathrein Filter products play an important role in providing a complete system solution. 

At Kathrein USA, the motto is “Work Hard, Play Hard”, so after a full day of informative presentations and meetings, the team enjoyed an evening of “Top Golf”, regardless of their golfing ability. 

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KUSA Executives, Sales, Engineering, and Marketing teams at the Texas State Capital in Austin

top golf montage

Ron Zielke, KUSA CFO and longtime employee takes his golf seriously, Cisco Ortiz, Sales Engineer and newest KUSA employee, not so much. Scott Nagel, Content Marketing Manager, perfecting his Dr. Jekyl jelly filled donut.

 

 

Both the Verizon Wireless IBTUF and the Kathrein USA Communications Sales Meeting highlighted the importance of Kathrein providing new antenna and filter solutions for the ever increasing mobile data demand in 2016 and beyond.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Holidays: A Time to be Thankful for Innovation

“Creativity is thinking up new things. Innovation is doing new things.”  Theodore Levitt

We get so busy this time of year, but we want to take a moment to reflect on the technological breakthroughs that we’ve seen in such a short amount of time.  As consumers, so many of the gifts we give include the latest technology innovations (new phones, electric cars, not to mention all the toys.)  We all seem to have the “need for speed,” and that will continue to fuel our wireless industry.  But let’s take a moment to think back to how things were not that long ago, and how innovation has drastically changed our lives.

You Can Never Go Back!

Can you imagine going back to the cellular days when you paid roaming fees when you left the state?  We counted every minute we were on the phone and every text message we sent… there were no unlimited plans!  And the signal was analog- we actually heard noise and static! Remember when 56K was about the fastest internet speed you could get at home?  In the late 90s, you could have a BRI circuit installed and have 128K of bandwidth- speed that made the neighbors jealous (but was quite expensive).

How about the days before USB and HDMI?  Cables had a million pins in them and you had to worry about port availability and setting dip switches to add peripheral devices to your computer. Your choice of connections? Parallel or serial.

Before the days of LTE and even 3G, webpages took at least 30 seconds to render on smartphones… and that was impressive in 2007!  Today, we would throw our phone away if web pages took that long to view.

Continual Innovation is Critical on “the Road” to 5G

Theodore Levitt once said, “Creativity is thinking up new things. Innovation is doing new things.” Just last week Kathrein introduced Street Connect:  a new, literally ground-breaking solution that is not only turning heads, but turning the antenna industry upside down.

Kathrein announces

Kathrein’s Street Connect Antenna

Building on a legacy of 100 years of quality and innovation, Kathrein has created an in-ground microcell antenna system in which the base station is incorporated into what appears as a typical manhole cover. It has been specially designed for ease of deployment and to withstand weather, road vibration, and heavy road cargo weight.

Street Connect is the ideal solution for congested cities and urban hotspots and it resolves cumbersome zoning restrictions and site acquisition issues because the antenna is deployed in the ground. Thorough testing and site trials in conjunction with Swisscom have proven the safety and effectiveness of Street Connect in even the most adverse conditions and situations. As an example, Street Connect tests well below SAR thresholds and still performs if the antenna is covered by a parked vehicle or truck.

To learn more, please email us at info@kathrein.com or click here for our recent announcement. 

Happy Holidays from Kathrein!

It’s fun to look back and wonder how we could have possibly survived in the early days of computers and wireless technology. Yet there’s no doubt we will look back at 2015 someday and wonder how we made it with the technology of today.   It takes innovative leaders and companies to bring about the amazing technology we see today.  And at Kathrein, the innovation continues.  We wish you and your families a very safe and relaxing holiday season and a prosperous New Year in 2016!

Roughing it at our Sales Conference in Cancun!

by Scott Nagel

Welcome to our first edition and inaugural Kathrein USA Blog!  The Wireless Industry is changing so fast, that it’s not only interesting from a pure technology perspective, but it is absolutely entertaining. Our goal is to provide a blog that addresses these industry trends while having a lot of fun along the way!    Here we go…

Viva Mexico!

Two weeks ago we had the chance to join our Kathrein family for our annual Sales Conference in Cancun, Mexico (yeah, we know – we have it rough). Our diverse team consists of employees from Germany, South America, Australia, Mexico, and the United States.   In the day and age of webinars, virtual conferences, and video chatting, sometimes real FACE TIME is not only refreshing, but absolutely worth the travel costs, as true team building is much easier when a team can actually meet in person to brainstorm and enjoy fun, team-building activities.

Good Morning Cancun Day 1Work Hard, Play Hard

We spent most of the week in meetings enjoying presentations from our leadership, brainstorming in small teams, and engaging in fun, team-building activities (like building an antenna out of cardboard, police tape, and paper!)  Just like our normal work weeks, we were able to get a lot  done, while having a great time.  Back in the 90s, W. Edwards Deming noted that, “The prevailing system of management has crushed fun out of the workplace.”  We learned first hand that hard work and fun don’t have to be mutually exclusive.  On Friday, we spent half a day at XCARET, a beautiful water park, floating down the river (while bats swooped overhead), enjoying SNUBA , and a thrilling dinner show!

Let’s Get Ready for 2016!

Our sales conference helped us set plans and actions in motion as 2016 will be here before we know it.  Our brainstorming sessions united us, as we further develop our plans to stay ahead of the “innovation curve” and attack the changing wireless landscape in areas such as 5G, HetNets, Small Cells, IoT, and DAS.  Working with a truly international team is helping our sales and marketing teams learn Best Practices  from all over the globe, as we continue to lead the way with the industry’s highest quality antenna solutions. Next year we will meet in Brazil.  Thank you Rafael Rojo, who planned the entire week, and cheers to Wilson Conti, who has been passed the torch for 2016! Watch out Rio, HERE WE COME!

XCARET Dinner Show- Capriccio Martin-Kathrein USA, Anton Kathrein-Kathrein, Rosenheim, Jon Reedy-Kathrein USA, Frank Weber-Kathrein, Rosenheim, Joerg Lippert-Kathrein, Rosenheim

XCARET Dinner Show- Capriccio Martin-Kathrein USA, Anton Kathrein-Kathrein, Rosenheim, Jon Reedy-Kathrein USA, Frank Weber-Kathrein, Rosenheim, Joerg Lippert-Kathrein, Rosenheim