US-based communications infrastructure giant CommScope will focus on helping operators with their LTE and LTE-Advanced rollouts this year, says CommScope's Philip Sorrells, VP - Portfolio Marketing, speaking to Telecom Review at MWC 2017. The company is also looking towards 5G, building an idea of what infrastructure requirements the technology will demand, and how CommScope can help operators introduce it.
CommScope's main objective at MWC was to listen to the operator community and understand their current network issues, according to Mr. Sorrells. These problems, he said, are all built around the idea of a future 5G that's just beginning and operators are formulating what that means for them. Operators want to "understand the connectivity part of that future vision and what it will look like," he said.
However, focusing on the year ahead, Sorrells said CommScope's primary focus is helping operators with their LTE and LTE-Advanced rollouts. "Even in Europe, you still find significant areas where there's no LTE presence and still a 3G market," he said. "There are still a lot of LTE areas to be established and a lot of optimization capacity to be built, so we are very focused on seeing this through."
CommScope's solution for expanding LTE capacity involves sectioning microcells by going from a three sector site to a six sector site. Or, if you have a sector that's covering an area of high capacity, CommScope suggests splitting the sector into five.
"We have five-beam antenna technologies for example, where you can put one five-beam antenna in a particularly dense area in your microcell, and with relatively low risk and in a relatively short amount of time, you can solve a lot of capacity problems," said Mr. Sorrells.
"There are also different types of beamforming and different types of MIMO [multiple input, multiple output] all which can be used with variants of antenna technology and variants of the way cell sites are architected. These are all techniques that CommScope has in its toolkit today that we are providing and exploring with operators around the world."
The operator community wants to understand how to take their existing LTE network and use it for another 15-20 years with more efficiency, more capacity, and more profitability, according to CommScope. Therefore, a good deal of what the company showcased at Mobile World Congress this year were plans for the future - what connectivity will look like and how CommScope can help its customers optimize their existing resources to the benefit of their users.
One of the pressing challenges facing operators looking to introduce 5G is matching their infrastructure to meet 5G requirements. 5G is a "network of networks" and part of the 5G vision is how to make 2G, 3G and 4G, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and the wireline protocols all work together in a seamless network of networks, Mr. Sorrells explained.
"It is far too early to say that 5G obsoletes 4G - I think most people in the industry don't see it that way - more of a complementary technology that builds up a stronger base of networks," he said."
"The operator community sees 5G as an addition to their offerings so that they can provide future consumer data rich applications that consume a lot of bandwidth. With 5G, you start thinking about things like autonomous vehicles, virtual reality, and all those things that require a huge consumption of bandwidth."
The other side of 5G, he explained, is the new radio technology that operates in the millimeter wave [mmWave] which is the band of spectrum between 30 gigahertz (Ghz) and 300 Ghz. Researchers are testing 5G wireless broadband technology on millimeter wave spectrum which will allow for super fast speeds.
The important thing to remember about 5G is that even when you take into account the software development, the virtualization technology, and the radio technology, and everything else that goes into it, all of these developments couldn't work without the practical issue of connecting point A to point B, and that's where CommScope brings value to the equation.
"One of the most exciting things we have seen at MWC this year is the concepts around 5G and how the architecture of the technology is starting to have some boundaries," said Mr. Sorrells. "A big area to be solved in terms of mobility and capacity density is what happens inside buildings. One of the things we are quite excited about is the progress that our small cell technology has made in terms of being in line with the vision of the architecture that's needed for 5G."
CommScope's 2015 acquisition of TE Connectivity's Telecom, Enterprise and Wireless businesses expanded the company's portfolio significantly. The all-cash transaction, valued at approximately $3 billion, strengthened CommScope's position as a leading communications infrastructure provider with deeper resources to meet the world's growing demand for network bandwidth.
The transaction created a stronger company with greater innovation, employee talent and overall capabilities to serve customers in the areas of indoor and outdoor wireless networks; data centers and central offices; connected and efficient buildings; and access and backhaul networks. The company now holds a portfolio of approximately 9,800 patents and patent applications, with research and development investment of more than $200 million a year.
"With the integration of that portfolio we were able to strengthen our fibre connectivity," said Mr. Sorrells. "Now, no matter what the application is, if the right way to solve the application is with copper, we have a copper solution; if the right way to solve it is with wireless, we have a wireless solution; and if the right way is with fibre, we now have a whole portfolio of fibre solutions. That enables us to bring much more value to our clientele."
CommScope now boasts one of the leading portfolios of wireless infrastructure equipment in terms of antenna technology, filtering technology and cable transmission technology. The company plans to do more operator testing and trialing of 5G technology in the future, said Mr. Sorrells. CommScope will also help to conduct small rollouts of 5G within the next few years.