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One step at a time

The smartphone challenge is surmountable

If the network in the Shinjuku station area of Tokyo can cope with the highest density of subscribers imaginable, then you have nothing to worry about.

The problem isnt capacity. In preparing for heterogeneous networks, operators should start by improving the macro layer. By doing this, they can create enough capacity to handle even the most extreme case of s martphone-traffic onslaught and avoid the pitfall of premature over-investment in smaller nodes. Approximately 3.5 million subscribers every business day are on the move in the square kilometer surrounding Tokyos Shinjuku station. The challenge for the operator was to build a network with world-class smartphone capacity in an area with the highest concentration of smartphone users in the world. This article shows how such a challenge can be met with macro equipment and brilliant planning.
Network performance should be improved by carefully following the stepwise process of building a heterogeneous network. First, macro-network performance is enhanced. Second, all available spectrum is used. Only at this point, if additional capacity and improved coverage are still required,

should densification of macro sites be considered. The last step of the process involves adding low-power nodes. If the process is not followed in the right order then the end result is likely to be a network that is sub-optimized and unnecessarily expensive. The SoftBank example in central Tokyo shows how these steps have been followed successfully, resulting in a network that is well-prepared for the final phase the addition of low-power nodes in the most smartphone-intensive area of the world. Until quite recently, mobile phones were used almost solely for voice communication. Networks were benchmarked on widespread coverage and low call-drop percentage, as subscribers tend to favor providers who excel in both. The smartphone has completely changed this dynamic. There is no longer a set network-quality level that will ensure a satisfactory user experience instead, each and every improvement in performance has a direct impact on how subscribers perceive the services they pay for and, as a consequence, churn risk. Rising smartphone popularity is good news from a revenue point of view, but it presents a challenge for operators if their networks have not been optimized


Calculation of total data capacity:

21Mbps 12 hours per day 3600 seconds / 8 bits per byte = 21 12 3600 / 8 = 113GB per day

for these devices. But the macro layer of a network can be expanded to go a long way. In the near-term, the smartphone challenge is not about providing the capacity to cope with subscriber datausage, but is related to how the signaling system is configured. To build the networks that will cope with long-term predictions requires a new approach to network construction, heterogeneous networks more commonly referred to as hetnets. Current capacity demands The average smartphone user downloads somewhere between 80MB-1GB of data per month, in contrast to PC mobilebroadband users, who download up to 10 times this amount. Consequently, smartphone requirements on data throughput will be relatively modest even with 100 percent penetration. The question is how this demand for capacity measures up against what is offered by existing networks. Most modern networks have more than enough capacity to handle the existing volume of mobile-broadband traffic as well as being adequately prepared for even the most aggressive traffic forecast. This is illustrated by the calculation in Box B. Today, a typical 5MHz carrier can deliver a total data capacity of 5Mbps. A typical three-sector radio base station has a total data capacity of 21Mbps which yields a total throughput of ~113GB per day or 3,390GB per month. Assuming that each user consumes up to 1GB per month, there is enough capacity to serve 3,390 users simultaneously. Most operators have enough spectrum to deploy three carriers per radio unit, which results in a tripling of data capacity.


Terms and abbreviations

2nd-generation wireless telephone technology 3rd-generation wireless telephone technology heterogeneous network Inter-Cell Interference Coordination High-Speed Packet Access RNC RRU PDC QoS WCDMA radio network controller remote radio unit Personal Digital Cellular quality of service Wideband Code Division Multiple Access

2G 3G hetnet ICIC HSPA

The vast majority of radio sites use less than five percent of their capacity, as illustrated in Figure 1. Typically only four percent of radio sites are more than 50 percent utilized even in the most developed mobile networks. Radio-network capacity is not yet an issue. Even in metropolitan areas such as London and Tokyo, where user and traffic densities are very high with about 5,000 subscribers per square kilometer the daily data allowances of individual subscribers can still be met. Some targeted investment in radio capacity may be needed for sites that have reached 75 percent average utilization in busy areas. The first concentrating node in a network is the radio network controller (RNC), which can be scaled in line with actual or predicted demand per subscriber. Thus, capacity can be added in line with growth in subscriber numbers and revenue. Higher up in the network, the control- and packet-switching nodes and transmission resources that serve the radio-access network will need to be dimensioned in line with traffic growth. Future capacity demands Figure 2 shows Ericssons mobile-broadband predictions over half a billion PCs/tablets and over four billion smartphones worldwide by 2016. Various devices and services, such as e-book readers, navigation tools and portable multimedia devices, will increasingly drive usage and revenues. Assuming traffic per subscriber proves to be roughly constant, the traffic -growth curve should follow the same path as the subscriber-growth curve. In reality, market experience shows that after the initial uptake of mobile-broadband services by early adopters, more typical users begin to dominate the subscriber base. This effect has been observed in markets where mobile broadband has been rolled out and results in reduced average traffic per subscriber for a period. Over time, however, this figure rises again, as subscribers discover new services, network performance improves and devices become more sophisticated. The long-term perspective Ultimately, connectivity will be the


Capacity utilization in a typical radio network cell sector

Served cell throughput, HSPA (Kbps/cell)

9,000 8.000 7,000 6,000 5,000 4,000 3,000 2,000 1,000 0 0 25 50 75 100 6% of daily trafc in busy hour Corresponds to 1000 PC subscribers/3x1 site Corresponds to 333 PC subscribers/3x1 site Monthly usage 3GB

Percentage of cells (%)

FIGURE 2  Worldwide mobile-broadband-subscription predictions by device type (source Ericsson1)

Subscriptions (millions)
5,000 4,500 4,000 3,500 3,000 2,500 2,000 1,500 1,000 500 0 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 Mobile PCs and tablets Handheld devices

performance bottleneck and consequently the differentiator for network operators. By 2016, Ericsson predicts:
mobile-broadband subscriptions will reach almost 5 billion, up from the expected 900 million by the end of 2011; the number of high-traffic smartphones will increase by more than a factor of

five, and generated traffic will grow by a factor of about 12; mobile-PC subscriptions will more than double and generated traffic will grow by a factor of about eight; and tablet subscriptions will grow by a factor of 10 and generated traffic will increase by a factor of about 40.

One step at a time


Mobile traffic: voice and data (source Ericsson1)

Monthly petabytes (1015)

5 000

high-quality user experience. In less densely populated areas the focus will be more on establishing cost-effective coverage and capacity. Heterogeneous networks Complementing the macro coverage layer with low-power micro nodes, dedicated to providing extra capacity for areas with high traffic demands, creates a heterogeneous network. Such mobile networks are an attractive way to expand capacity, and are typically composed of multiple radio-access technologies, architectures, transmission solutions, and base stations of varying transmission power. Building stepwise in line with demand Probably one of the most attractive features of hetnets is the way in which they are built in incremental steps, starting with the existing network. This means operators can build hetnets progressively and in line with subscriber demand. Building a hetnet is a three-step process:
optimization of the macro layer; densification of the macro layer with little or no environmental impact; and complementing the macro layer with low-power nodes.
Rural Suburban Urban Metro

4 000

Data: mobile PCs and tablets Data: mobile handheld Voice

3 000

2 000

1 000

0 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016


Projected traffic generation (source Ericsson1)

Population (%)





Adding carriers and improving functionality on existing sites are the two most cost-efficient methods of increasing capacity. Consequently, operators should first optimize their macro networks as far as possible by adding carriers until all spectrum is utilized, and then upgrade on-site functionality including implementation of every step of network evolution.


0 Estimated 2016 world population distribution* Estimated 2016 trafc

Effects of urbanization Figure 4 shows the expected migration of the worlds population to urban and metropolitan areas. Here, 30 percent of the population will generate 60 percent of mobile traffic in an

area that represents less than 1 percent of the Earths total land area. In these very densely populated areas, heterogeneous networks will complement macro-network improvements to accommodate the traffic and provide

After improving performance on the existing site, the next step is to densify the macro network by adding new macro sites. Densification is cost-efficient as it not only increases capacity but it also improves network performance. Crucial to the densification step is the ability to add more sites with little or no environmental impact.
Complementary nodes

If more capacity or better coverage is still needed once the network has been

optimized and densified, then pico cells can be added. Pico cells and remote radio units (RRUs) have the potential to improve overall network performance through tight node coordination. A central control unit collects baseband signals from several RRUs and performs baseband signal processing and higher-layer processing. The control unit and its RRUs must be directly connected via a lowlatency/high-capacity interface. Where RRUs are not applicable, a stand-alone base station can be connected to the RNC for HSPA and the core network for LTE. In contrast to RRUs, picos have loose backhaul requirements and may fit with a high-latency/low-capacity interface. Two examples of pico interaction are the soft handover mechanism available in WCDMA Rel99 and ICIC available in LTE release 8 which handles simple interference management between micros, picos and macros.

The extent to which capacity can be increased by adding pico cells depends greatly on how well equipment can be integrated. When deploying pico cells from independent vendors, some level of capacity enhancement is conceivable. Maximum benefit will only be gained if both the macro and pico cells are fully integrated in other words, delivered by the same vendor. Handling a worst-case scenario The SoftBank network in the area surrounding Tokyos Shinjuku railway station, shown in Figure 5, highlights what can be achieved by combining effective use of spectrum with network densification. SoftBanks 3G HSPA network in Tokyo is characterized by extensive smartphone penetration. In 2001, this network was rebuilt on a previously deployed 2G PDC network reusing the existing 2G sites an architecture that remained more or less

unchanged until 2006. At that point, the operator was sold and the new owners put a deliberate and aggressive expansion plan into operation. The current site-to-site distance in the Shinjuku area is down to 50m about half of what it was in 2006. SoftBank has used all available spectrum for all four carriers in the 2100MHz band and converted 10MHz of the old 2G spectrum in the 1500MHz band into two carriers for HSPA. Consequently, up to six carriers are available at any given site location. On top of this improved spectrum usage, SoftBank deployed six sector sites and made extensive use of dedicated indoor sites to offload the macro network and provide a better experience for indoor users. In some of the traffic-intensive areas of Tokyo all capacity-enhancing measures have been put into effect with good results. The area inside the polygon in


The Shinjuku area of Tokyo

Shinjuku station

2011 Google Map data 2011 Google

One step at a time

Figure5 represents almost a square kilometer of the Shinjuku area of Tokyo, where some 3.5 million subscribers are on the move during a normal business day. In conjunction with the many indoor sites, four 2.1GHz carriers and two 1.5GHz carriers have been deployed at outdoorsites. This example clearly shows that by utilizing available spectrum and densifying the macro network, all the traffic in the most smartphone-dense area of the world can be handled even without additional pico cells. Tokyo is an extreme case, and it will take a long time before other networks reach the same levels of traffic density. Conclusion The growth in data traffic is an opportunity that requires innovative radionetwork solutions and deployments to provide subscribers with a superior smartphone experience. Mobile broadband differs from a basic voice connection in that network performance directly affects the subscriber experience. Users are aware that network performance differs from one operator to another, which presents a heightened risk of subscriber churn. Todays networks have more than enough capacity to handle the existing volume of mobile-broadband traffic and even the most aggressive traffic forecast if a few simple steps are taken. The secret to improving network performance lies in the stepwise process of building a hetnet in which all available spectrum is used and macronetwork performance is enhanced, followed by densification. The SoftBank example illustrates how following these steps has produced good results. Further enhancements can be made by adding smaller cells to an optimized and densified network, with inter-layer management being key to achieving full capacity potential.

Hiroyuki Marutani
joined Ericsson in 1998. After working in WCDMA reseach and development he worked on the initial deployment of 3G WCDMA networks in Japan for J-Phone (now SoftBank Mobile). He is currently working as technical director for the SoftBank account focusing on todays challenges with the fast-growing mobile broadband traffic in the network while driving strategy for future technology together with SoftBank Mobile.

Hans Beijner
Hans Be jner joined Ericsson in 1984, and has worked with various radiorelated matters, holding positions in radio hardware design, product management and technical product marketing. From 1996 to 2004 he was stationed in Japan, working as a radio-solution manager. Today, he is a technical product marketing manager for Product Area Radio. He holds a degree in electronic engineering from the University of Linkping, Sweden.

Jonas Hgberg
is a business developer in Product Area (PA) Radio at Ericssons Business Unit Networks. In 2003, he moved to Japan where he spent 10 years working primarily with key customer requirements on PDC and 3G, including mobile broadband. After that, he spent a few years in Europe driving support for mobile broadband, leveraging his insights from Japan. In 2008 he joined PA Radio and this year he has been busy with heterogeneous networks and other smart radionetwork product planning. He received his M.Sc. in industrial economy and electronics from Linkping University, Sweden in 1988.


1. Traffic and Market Data Report on the Pulse of the Networked Society, November 2011, http://hugin. info/1061/R/1561267/483187.pdf