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European LTE deployments are expected to peak during 2015. Major network deployments already started in 2014 are expected to accelerate quickly this year. Similar to what happened with 3G, the first phase of LTE deployment has been focusing on macro network coverage and trying to maximize the number of users reached by the new technology. This is a race based on speed of deployment.
However, the next challenge for the mobile network operators is coming quickly. The benefits that LTE brings to the user experience—with superior performance in high data throughput and low latency—are setting high expectations. Consumers are willing to subscribe to new tariff plans at higher costs to continue enjoying the LTE experience.
But as the number of subscribers using LTE increases, the operators have to start planning for more network capacity, especially in high traffic areas. Football stadiums, airports, large business centers and shopping malls are typical venues where the demand for wireless data is growing exponentially for both 3G and LTE. Supporting this data demand requires deploying new distributed antenna systems (DAS).
For macro network deployment, one more frequency band for LTE provides enough capacity, but it is different for in-building wireless. In these applications, it is essential to deploy more than one frequency band in order to combine enough spectrum. Moreover, in order to increase the data throughput for a given frequency band, operators use techniques such as MIMO (Multiple Input Multiple Output) as a standard approach to an in-building DAS system.
Many of the most critical venues in Europe are planned from the very beginning with five frequency bands—800, 900, 1800, 2100 and 2600 MHz—with MIMO in three of these frequency bands: 1800, 2100 and 2600 MHz. This in-building deployment strategy requires DAS systems capable of handling eight frequency bands (5 + 3 MIMO) in a very efficient way.
As the number of frequency bands increases, the complexity of the system being deployed increases, too. The commissioning of the system with multiple base stations from multiple operators becomes more complex and time consuming. The optimization of multiple services (GSM, UMTS, LTE), often with different sectorization, can become a lengthy process taking up a lot of engineering time and resources on site.
Last but not least, as the number of frequency bands being combined increases, the probability of running into noise and interference issues such as passive intermodulation (PIM) gets higher. PIM can dramatically reduce system performance. It takes a lot of time to troubleshoot PIM, and it can be as difficult as disconnecting each antenna, one by one, and each passive component to identify where the PIM is being generated.
CommScope just announced that its ION-U DAS now supports all the European frequency bands and includes a 3-band MIMO configuration over a single fiber. We had all the challenges listed above in mind during product development. Our goal is to simplify the overall deployment process. Check out the press release for more information, and leave me a comment if you have any questions.