At Mobile World Congress 2024, Eric Bao, Huawei's President of Wireless Digital Indoor System (DIS), discussed the challenge of indoor network in 5G and 5.5 era and the solution that could address to it.

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March 28, 2024

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5G has quickly become the connectivity of choice for businesses and consumers, as research finds that the global adoption of 5G mobile subscriptions has accelerated at a faster pace than previous generations. It’s not hard to understand why: 5G will provide super-fast connectivity and unleash a new wave of services. There’s just one problem: Connecting to 5G indoors is far from reliable.

Indoor connectivity is a critical piece to the 5G puzzle: People spend as much as 80 percent of their time indoors; and many of the highly awaited 5G services, like XR gaming, HD video surveillance and augmented reality, will follow them there. Traditional distributed antennas systems (DAS) struggle to provide in-building coverage because of the need to support multi-antenna operation for advanced/active antenna system (AAS) beamforming and MIMO techniques that enable real 5G experience.

“The traditional DAS, the Distributed Antenna System, adopts the copper feeders. This legacy solution is capable of supporting the requirements in 2G, 3G and 4G era, but it is not able to evolve to 5G,” said Eric Bao.  “That's why we think that the network architecture must be involved to embrace fiber and digital system.”

Huawei is among the vendors innovating to solve the challenge of 5G indoor. DIS solution uses optical fiber, which according to Eric, improves upon legacy copper systems in terms of reliability, speed and bandwidth. Unlike DAS, the DIS solution can travel longer distances over a higher frequency. That’s important considering that indoor 5.5G will require high band mmWave spectrum, which offers extreme high network capacity in heavily populated areas but often struggles to transmit signal through glass or wall into buildings due to high penetration loss.

In October 2023, Huawei unveiled a new generation product of DIS solution called LampSite X.

“LampSite X is the smallest and the lightest solution available in the market. The C-Band only module that supports 4T has the volume of one litre and it weighs only one kilogram. That's the same size as the Oxford Dictionary, makes it very easy to be installed.”

It’s compact, simple design should be appealing to operators and enterprises, who face the daunting task of retrofitting buildings to support indoor 5G, even reaching up to 10Gbps for 5.5G, while supporting previous generations of connectivity. Huawei says its solution addresses that challenge through its “one box” design, which supports all bands and all radio access technologies. Its full wideband design also addresses the sticker shock associated with the investment of new technology by allowing for operators to share the infrastructure together.

Energy savings is another benefit. It’s no secret that telco equipment ranks as a top contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. Eric says the sustainable design of LampSite X can reduce consumption and costs.

“To address the dynamically changing of the indoor traffic, for example, in stadiums and shopping malls, the traffic can be quite different at daytime and nighttime, LampSite X is able to adapt to the fluctuations of users with its smart energy saving technology. It can enter an ultra-deep dormancy status, the power consumption that can be as low as 1w, and it can wakeup in seconds upon service request, so that it will not impact the user experience at all times.”

Perhaps the biggest benefit of 5G or 5.5G are the versatile services that operators will be able to deliver to the enterprise customers, which will open up new revenue streams in comparison to the largely stagnant smartphone subscriber market. According to Eric, LampSite X makes it easier to support multiple services inside manufacturing sites or factories because of its capability of precision positioning, low latency, large uplink capacity and the support of RedCap and Passive-IoT.

So, it’s clear that the rapid development of communication technologies, such as 5G and 5.5G, is proving to be both an opportunity and a challenge for operators. And interestingly operators have recognized the demand for indoors, according to Eric, who says that LampSite X has seen a large number of purchase orders from operators around the world.

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