LTE-U: A Solution to Wi-Fi’s Weakness
Sep 14th, 2015 by Dan Lampie


The recent announcement of LTE-U, or LTE in unlicensed spectrum, sent shockwaves through the wireless industry. Wi-Fi manufactures and cable companies with public Wi-Fi networks were quick to protest this new technology. These objections focused on the fact that LTE-U would interfere with existing Wi-Fi networks. While LTE-U has the potential to cause interference to Wi-Fi, this is also a problem for multiple Wi-Fi networks operating in the same vicinity. In many areas the 2.4GHz spectrum is so cluttered with Wi-Fi networks that it has become unusable. The FCC’s 2.4GHz ISM and 5GHz U-NII bands are open to everyone, and because of this interference is likely in urban areas. While a great deal has been written about LTE-U’s potential interference issues, very little has written on why LTE-U makes sense.

Wi-Fi is a simpler technology compared to LTE-U, allowing it to be cheaper and in many cases more efficient. The main drawback to Wi-Fi’s becomes quickly apparent at a busy airport; Wi-Fi does not work well under heavy congestion. Wi-Fi utilizes Carrier Sense Multiple Access/Collision Avoidance (CSMA/CA) to ensure that only one device is transmitting at a time. The Wi-Fi device listens to see if the channel is clear, and if it is than the devices transmit. CSMA/CA works great when there are few users on the network, but this technology quickly breaks down as more users join the network. In LTE, the mobile device relies on the LTE base station to inform it when it can transmit. This centrally managed scheduling is far more efficient with large number of users, and because of this LTE can supports hundreds of simultaneous users. The ideal location for LTE-U is in heavily congested areas such as airports and stadiums where it could be utilized alongside Wi-Fi to provide the best network experience for the greatest number of people. What is most important isn’t the technology, but whether one’s mobile device works reliably when they need it.

Femtocells vs Wi-Fi Calling: We Have A Winner!
Oct 19th, 2014 by Dan Lampie

Four years ago I completed my Master’s Project where I researched personal cell sites known as femtocells.  The goal behind femtocells was to improve cellular phone service at homes and businesses using a high speed Internet connection.  Back in 2010, many experts expected massive growth for the femtocell market.  I didn’t agree with the industry experts and my conclusion stated that the high price of femtocells would hinder their adoption.  I forecast that Wi-Fi calling technology was the future due to Wi-Fi’s low price and global adoption.  Four years later femtocells still have yet to gain popularity in the marketplace.  Instead, Wi-Fi based mobile calling is gaining strength and is quickly being adopted by the major wireless carriers.

Advances in technology have made carrier based Wi-Fi calling a viable option.  In the past mobile Wi-Fi calling had many limitations, such as not being able to hand in and out to the cellular network.  Additionally, separate servers were needed to facilitate the Wi-Fi calls and integrate it into a wireless carrier’s networks.  This has all changed with the adoption of LTE and VOLTE.  VOLTE stands for Voice over LTE and is an IP packet voice service.  Using an IP packet voice service over a cellular device is nothing new and has been available for many years using applications such as Skype and Facetime.  The advantage that VOLTE offers over apps, such as Skype, is end to end quality of service known as QOS.  If you are using Skype on an LTE connection and the cell site is congested, than it is likely you will experience poor audio quality to do high latency and jitter.  With a VOLTE call, QOS can be enforced on the LTE air interface and backhaul allowing these packets to be prioritized from other users “best effort” traffic.

An advantage of IP packet voice service is that it works over any layer one technology such as LTE, Wi-Fi, Cable, DSL, or Fiber.  Since VOLTE calls are just IP packets and utilizes the industry’s standard for signaling, SIP, it is possible to route the IP voice packets over a Wi-Fi connection.  Wireless carriers are using an Evolved Packet Data Gateway or ePDG to allow mobiles devices on a Wi-Fi connection to securely connect in to the carrier’s network.  This allows for seamless mobility between the LTE network and a Wi-Fi network.  It is now possible to start a call on a local Wi-Fi network and then move outdoors to the LTE network without the call dropping.  Allowing Wi-Fi calling is beneficial as it frees up resources on the wireless carrier’s network and also benefits customers who don’t have reliable cell service at home.

In the US, Wi-Fi based calling has been available on T-Mobile since 2007.  For many years the adoption of T-Mobile’s Wi-Fi calling was hindered by a small selection of devices with Wi-Fi calling capability.  Today a majority of phones on T-Mobile support Wi-Fi calling, and its customer’s make over 100 million Wi-Fi calls a month.  The most obvious sign of Wi-Fi calling’s growing popularity is Apple’s support for Wi-Fi calling in IOS 8.  Whenever Apple embraces a certain technology the rest of the industry quickly follows.  Today T-Mobile is the only carrier to support Wi-Fi calling on the iPhone, but other wireless carriers including AT&T and Verizon Wireless have publicly announced that they plan to offer this feature.  With the popularity of the iPhone it won’t take long before all wireless carriers and phone manufactures support Wi-Fi calling.  Just as I predicted, Wi-Fi calling has beat femtocells in the race for better cell coverage at home, and this is a win for all consumers.

Warping Landscapes
Jun 22nd, 2014 by Dan Lampie

I finally went through all the photos I have taken in the last six months and edited my best shots.  Enjoy!

Small Cells
Dec 21st, 2013 by Dan Lampie

Small cells are currently the big buzz word in the wireless industry.  Many of the major wireless operators in the US including AT&T, Verizon Wireless, and Sprint have committed to use small cells throughout their networks.  In fact AT&T has committed to deploy 40,000 small cells by the end of 2015, which reveals that wireless operators are serious about this technology.  This begs the question what are small cells and why are they needed?

Macro vs Small Cell in New York City


Small cells as its name suggests are smaller cellular base stations.  By smaller this includes physical size, RF coverage area, and cost.  Another term which is used in the same context as small cells is distrusted antenna systems or DAS.  A DAS is made up of a number of small antennas nodes which then connect back via fiber to a cellular base station.  With a small cell all the intelligence is housed within the device, while a DAS node is just a dumb transmitter and receiver and the intelligence is housed at remote location.  DAS technology has been in the marketplace for a couple of years and has been successfully deployed in both outdoor and indoor environments.  Small cells are brand new to the market, and they are gaining popularly as they should be cheaper and simpler to deploy than a DAS.

DAS Node


The need for small cells is being driven by the surge in mobile data consumption. The popularity of smartphones and tablets means that people are consuming large amounts of data on their mobile devices.  People are not just using their mobiles devices to surf the web, but they are streaming videos and uploading pictures using applications such as Netflix, YouTube, and Instagram.  While LTE was designed to support these mobile applications, the usage is growing quicker than improvements in wireless efficiency which is making networks congested.



To better understand the situation it is important to look at the capacity of an LTE base station which is called an eNB.  LTE is similar in technology to the 802.11N Wi-Fi standard.  Both use similar modulation schemes and data transmissions technologies.  Many LTE networks in the US use 10MHz LTE carriers using a technology called frequency division duplex, or FDD.  This means that 10MHz of spectrum is used in separate downlink and uplink channels.  This allows for full duplex communication and means the total amount of spectrum that is used is 20MHz.  Wi-Fi along with some forms of LTE use a technology called time division duplex or TDD.  With this technology the downlink and uplink data is interleaved in the time domain using the same channel.



The standard Wi-Fi channel is 20MHz wide which uses the same amount of spectrum as a 10MHz FDD LTE carrier.  While a normal Wi-Fi access point might only serve a few people, an LTE base station has to support hundreds of users in the same bandwidth.  An LTE base station is really a high tech Wi-Fi router with advanced resource and user scheduling technology.  If a hundred people tried streaming videos from the same Wi-Fi router the performance would be mediocre, and the same holds true with LTE.  To improve performance a simple solution is to decrease the number of people using the connection.  While this might seem obvious this is one way cellular operations ensure that their networks do not become overloaded and congested.

For the last twenty years the number of cell sites has been growing while the coverage area of each cell has been shrinking.  The concept is relatively simple and is known as cell splitting.  Instead of having one large cell site which serves an area, if two smaller cell sites are used which serve the same geographical area there will be close to double the capacity.  This concept has been successfully used for a long time, but today there is so much usage in major cities that a cell site is need on every block.  It is impractical due to cost and space requirements to put conventional cellular base stations on every block.  This is why small cells are being utilized.  They allow for a denser deployment as they can be mounted on light poles and sides of buildings instead on towers or rooftops.  Instead of having one conventional cell site every four blocks, now it is possible to have a small cell on every block greatly increasing capacity.



Give that small cells are a new technology there are still many questions that still need to be answered.  Will small cells be economic viable?  Will small cells be reliable?  The big question remains whether small cells are the solution to the explosive mobile data growth that is occurring.  Regardless of the success of small cells, the increase in mobile data consumption will force wireless operators to come up with innovative ways to meet mobile data demands.

»  Substance:WordPress   »  Style:Ahren Ahimsa