Zhu No CellPeiying Zhu believes future network will be centered on the user, not the cell. Mobile phones have been tied to cells since Marty Cooper built the first one in 1973.  If you aren't close to the cell tower, your connection can be lousy. When you drive, some very demanding software has to be developed for the handoffs. We all know how inconsistent service can be. 

That may be changing, as you can see in Jennie Bourne's video from the 2017 Brooklyn 5G conference. I asked distinguished Huawei engineer Peiying Zhu, "What the heck is a no cell network?" From the user's point of view, it means a near uniform experience no matter where the cell tower is. From the network point of view, it is an intelligent network controlled from the cloud that delivers maximum performance. 

Huawei has embraced the concept and is developing the CloudAIR system.

Edward Deng introduced CloudAIR at the Huawei MBB in Tokyo last year. Details are extremely limited, but I infer the goal is to take the "No Cell" concept and implement it using the power of beamforming, Massive MIMO, and an advanced CloudRAN. All the  individual components now work in the lab and some are reaching the field.

Eventually, each station will be frequency agile, re-optimizing the network almost instantly based on where users are and what they are doing.  It could be the first truly software defined civilian radio system. The controller in the cloud would be an enormously complex piece of software. Early versions may not be far away, but I'd expect the complete system will require years of development by an extremely large team.  

Here are Dr. Zhu's comments followed by the Huawei pr from the announcement of CloudAIR.  

 

Huawei Unveils Vision for All Cloud Mobile Networks

2016-11-25

[Tokyo, Japan, November 25, 2016] At the 2016 Global Mobile Broadband Forum (MBBF) in Tokyo today, the President of Huawei Wireless Solution, Edward Deng, described an integrated suite of solutions to enable the full cloudification of wireless networks. The company calls this solution ERA, signaling the arrival of the mobile cloud era. ERA includes three integrated solutions: one for cloud-based core networks (CloudEdge), cloud-based radio access networks (CloudRAN), and cloud-based air interface (CloudAIR).

An era of explosive growth for SingleRAN and applications

Over the past decade, the successful deployment of SingleRAN is a testament to the robust development of mobile broadband (MBB) and explosive growth of digital applications. As the market stands, different applications and scenarios have vastly different requirements for data rates (ranging from Kbps to Gbps) and latency (ranging from milliseconds to seconds).

"This diversity of applications will raise the bar for network capabilities and operations," said Deng. "In order to face this challenge, a modern network needs efficient resource utilization, on-demand module deployment, and agile service provisioning if it hopes to achieve long-term development. And building a cloud-based network is the only way to make that happen."

Huawei's ‘All Cloud’ strategy: Founded in technology build-up and thorough verification

Cloud network technology is a core focus of Huawei's research and development. Since its release at the 2014 Mobile World Congress (MWC), Huawei's CloudEdge solution has been deployed in over ten commercial sites and has obtained over 60 commercial contracts. Cloud core networks enable the convergence of multiple radio access technologies (RATs) as well as the provision of more flexible applications through network slicing and tailored scenario-based solutions.

Huawei aims to promote, drive, and lead the development of an All Cloud era. The company launched CloudRAN in April of this year to enable the cloudification of wireless network architecture, paving the way for cloud-based radio access networks. "The goal of CloudRAN is to redesign the entire architecture of wireless networks, transforming resource management, multi-connectivity, and elastic architecture into native capabilities to better meet the challenges of an uncertain future." CloudRAN has passed business verification procedures in China, Italy, South Korea, and Japan, and is expected to be commercially deployed in Q3 of 2017.

With CloudAIR, an all-cloud solution for mobile networks is complete

Despite rapid progress, Deng emphasizes that these innovations are still not enough: "Air interface is the most valuable resource that operators have. And if this most valuable resource doesn't support efficient, on-demand, and agile network deployment, then a mobile network isn't truly cloud-based," said Deng. "Today we launched the CloudAIR solution to help reshape air interface. Our focus is on improving the efficiency of air interface, enabling operators to deploy services more flexibly and, of course, enhancing user experience. CloudAIR is designed to enable more efficient sharing of air interface resources like spectrum, power, and channels."

Spectrum cloudification allows different RATs to share the same spectrum, dynamically allocating spectrum resources based on fluctuations in traffic. This maximizes spectral efficiency and helps get new RATs online faster to ensure more immediate coverage. It also prevents legacy terminals from occupying golden spectrum for long periods of time, enabling on-demand access based on service needs.

"By enabling more efficient sharing and allocation of resources, spectrum cloudification creates real value for telecom customers," Deng concluded. "It's an important development trend in the industry, and it will take greater collaboration with industry partners to continue pushing things forward."

In a similar fashion to air interface cloudification, power cloudification supports inter-carrier, inter-RAT, inter-band, inter-site power sharing.

Channel cloudification is the third feature of CloudAIR. This allows for the implementation of artificial intelligence-based scheduling to enable any received signals to be recognized as available multi-path resources. This will facilitate convenient site selection and provide an improved user experience.

Huawei's innovative mobile cloud solution, ERA, combines CloudEdge, CloudRAN and CloudAIR technology to launch a new era of cloud-based mobile networks. "The ERA solution will maximize the value of operator assets, enable on-demand network deployment, accelerate service provisioning, and empower mobile networks to be the true enablers of all industries around the world," said Deng. "Through nonstop innovation, this solution will create unprecedented value for the industry.

dave askOn Oct 1, Verizon will turn on the first $20B 5G mmWave network, soon offering a gigabit or close to 30M homes. The estimates you hear about 5G costs are wildly exaggerated. Verizon is building the most advanced wireless network while keeping capex at around 15%.

The Koreans, Chinese, and almost all Europeans are not doing mmWave in favor of mid-band "5G," with 4G-like performance. Massive MIMO in either 4G or "5G" can increase capacity 4X to 10X, including putting 2.3 GHz to 4.2 GHz to use. Cisco & others see traffic growth slowing to 30%/year or less. Verizon sees cost/bit dropping 40% per year. I infer overcapacity almost everywhere.  

The predicted massive small cell builds are a pipe dream for vendors for at least five years. Verizon expects to reach a quarter of the U.S. without adding additional small cells. 

In the works: Enrique Blanco and Telefonica's possible mmWave disruption of Germany; Believe it or don't: 5G is cheap because 65% of most cities can be covered by upgrading existing cells; Verizon is ripping out and replacing 200,000 pieces of gear expecting to save half. 

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 5G Why Verizon thinks differently and what to do about it is a new report I wrote for STL Partners and their clients.

STL Partners, a British consulting outfit I respect, commissioned me to ask why. That report is now out. If you're a client, download it here. If not, and corporate priced research is interesting to you, ask me to introduce you to one of the principals.

It was fascinating work because the answers aren't obvious. Lowell McAdam's company is spending $20B to cover 30M+ homes in the first stage. The progress in low & mid-band, both "4G" and "5G," has been remarkable. In most territories, millimeter wave will not be necessary to meet expected demand.

McAdam sees a little further. mmWave has 3-4X the capacity of low and mid-band. He sees an enormous marketing advantage: unlimited services, even less congestion, reputation as the best network. Verizon testing found mmWave rate/reach was twice what had been estimated. All prior cost estimates need revision.

My take: even if mmWave doesn't fit in your current budget, telcos should expand trials and training to be ready as things change. The new cost estimates may be low enough to change your mind.