Busy 2016 for Yate SDMN products

Stepping into 2016, we have exciting news.

Through 2015 we continued to develop the GSM/GPRS SatSite base station, as well as our main core network products: the 2G/2.5G/4G YateUCN core network and the 2G/3G/4G YateHSS/HLR.

We start 2016 with the release of the LTE SatSite Model 142, with software-selectable LTE or GSM/GPRS operation, generating 10-20 Watts LTE power output with a power consumption of only 65-80 Watts. We also prepared new features and updates for YateHSS/HLR after receiving relevant feedback from our customers. And there is the new YateBTS website, which now offers extensive information on our products, solutions and our technology.

SatSite Model 142 launch

The LTE SatSite Model 142 delivers software-selectable LTE or GSM/GPRS operation from the same base station.

LTE_SatSite_142

In both LTE and GSM/GPRS modes, the SatSite Model 142 generates a higher output power than the previous model. As an eNodeB, the SatSite operates at up to 20 Watts, at bandwidths of 1.4 to 20 MHz, while in GSM/GPRS mode the SatSite operates at up to 20 Watts for 1-TRX or 2 Watts/TRX in multi-TRX configuration (at up to 4-TRX). The SatSite weighs only 5kg and has a low enough power consumption that it can be easily powered by solar panels in most of the world.

Its required backhaul is under 100 Mbit, resulting from the fact that, unlike many LTE solutions, the SatSite is a unified LTE eNodeB, and not a remote radio head (RRH) that needs a separate baseband unit (BBU).

For more information about Model 142’s complete specifications, please check the datasheet.

YateHSS/HLR new features

On the core network side, we start 2016 with new features to the YateHSS/HLR: scalability (cluster configuration), multi-IMSI support and support for separate circuit-switched/packet-switched network profiles.

Cluster configuration allows YateHSS/HLR nodes to work in a cloud to provide scalability. YateHSS/HLR servers all provide the same service and handle the same subscribers. If a server fails, the subscribers are distributed to the other YateHSS/HLR nodes in the cluster, which continues to provide the same services.

Multi-IMSI support allows YateHSS/HLR to respond to an alternative IMSI from the same SIM card, in different roaming scenarios. The feature sends an HTTP request to the operator’s server after the subscriber tries to roam into a new network. The operator’s server uses the request to trigger an IMSI change in the SIM using an OTA mechanism. The SIM carries a multi-IMSI application that ensures that the SIM will return to the main IMSI if it cannot register with the alternative IMSI.

The support for separate CS/PS profiles means that subscribers’ profiles are grouped according to the types of services associated to them, allowing the profiles to be easily updated to provide new services. For example, a subscriber might have “Prepaid voice, roaming”, “Prepaid data 1Mbps, not roaming” and “LTE not allowed” settings. It is easy to change one service of a subscriber by simply selecting another profile.

A few final words…

We have entered 2016 with great new core network features and new RAN product releases, making new opportunities for operators. Follow us on Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and Facebook to find out first about our new  announcements and releases.

 

YateUCN – the redundant MSC/VLR

Traditionally, the redundancy of the Mobile Switching Center / Visitor Location Register (MSC/VLR) is obtained through redundant dedicated hardware and software. The problem lies in the Abis + A interfaces (BSSAP protocol) which do not allow a base station to move easily to another MSC/VLR. To overcome this problem, we decided to use the SIP protocol (with enhanced features for GSM operations), which allows a YateBTS SatSite base station to move to another YateUCN (MSC/VLR) automatically and quickly.

Redundant GSM MSC/VLR

In a GSM network deployed with YateBTS-based SatSite base stations and YateUCN core network servers, each subscriber is randomly assigned to a YateUCN from a pool of core network servers. Operators can increase the redundancy of the pool by simply adding additional YateUCN servers for excess capacity in case a unit malfunctions. Therefore, handsets connected to a single SatSite can be served by multiple identical YateUCNs, while, at the same time, a single YateUCN serves multiple SatSite units. If a YateUCN server fails, all the mobile devices served by it are automatically moved to the other available YateUCN servers. When the subscriber is registered to the new YateUCN, its location is updated in the HLR.

In short, YateUCN and the GSM YateBTS SatSite base stations form a many-to-many relationship, and this was made possible though a number of characteristics.

  • The GSM YateBTS SatSite implements all the functions of a conventional Base Station Controller (BSC).
  • The A interface (between the BSC and the MSC/VLR) was replaced with SIP (between YateBTS and YateUCN), making it possible to quickly re-associate handsets with different YateUCN servers.
  • All YateUCN servers are identical units that support many core network functions. Operators will only have to duplicate one component, as opposed to multiple in conventional networks.
  • YateUCN is implemented in commodity hardware (off-the-shelf servers) and software (Linux), delivering a shorter lead time, more servicing options and faster replacement time.

The diagram below illustrates the technology perfectly.

yucn_msc-vlr_2015-11-4_version1.1

Integration in an LTE core network

The SatSite and the YateUCN components are easy to integrate into existing LTE networks because 2G services are delivered in SIP. These GSM services are integrated into a 4G network by employing the same GTP and IMS interfaces that are typically used in conventional EPC/IMS core networks.

YateUCN implements the same SIP switch to both provide GSM services and connect to an existing IMS network. Thus, with both the SIP-powered RAN and core network products, operators’ migration from GSM to LTE turns into a much simpler process.

Integration in a GSM core network

As an MSC/VLR, YateUCN performs all the functions of other MSC/VLRs: mobility, authentication, speech call and SMS routing. The server supports authentication of handsets using the SIM/USIM (EAP-SIM/EAP-AKA) and SIP AKAv1-MD5 algorithms.

YateUCN can connect to any standard HLR via the SS7 MAP protocol, and to other MSCs and GMSCs through the MAP-E protocol, allowing it to be in any conventional GSM network.

A few final words

YateUCN brings something new to GSM equipment: affordable redundancy, scalability, and uncomplicated management into a single core network server. It is easy to integrate to existing GSM and LTE networks and can be easily upgraded with new features within the same hardware and allows operators a seamless network extension.

Modernizing GSM networks – an ever difficult feat

GSM has turned 24 this year and throughout this time showed that it is invaluable for telephone calls and M2M applications. Many industry observers estimate that 2G will continue to be in use even after 3G is discontinued. But GSM networks are confronted with the difficult task of adapting to the new operating environments.

The modernization of GSM is particularly arduous when considering that equipment vendors and solutions providers have concentrated on developing components for newer networks (3G, 4G, even 5G) and less on innovating GSM network components. The SatSite is designed to serve either GSM, LTE, or mixed GSM/LTE networks working directly with the unified core YateUCN, proving that there’s still plenty of room for innovative results for GSM deployments.

The technology behind our GSM network equipment allows new techniques like radio resource sharing with LTE, running GSM from a remote radio head, applying SON or beamforming technologies, which are typical for LTE, to be applied to 2G networks. The result is a simplified and flexible network architecture, better management and reduced costs.

Spectrum sharing
The SatSite base station is based on commodity, off-the shelf,-hardware and can be software-‘switched’ to provide either GSM, LTE, or both. When running YateBTS for GSM, it communicates directly with the unified core network, eliminating the base station controller (BSC). This architecture, where the BTS connects straight to the core network and communicates to other BTS in the network over peering protocols is very similar to the architecture of LTE.

This is also what makes it possible to support multiple technologies in the same equipment. If one BTS uses the same frequency bands to provide both GSM and LTE access, operators may choose freely on how to allocate spectrum between them. Depending on the service use at a given time, operators can assign prioritize voice over data services and vice versa. We’ve detailed spectrum sharing between GSM and LTE in the SatSite here.

Self-Organizing Network
SON techniques feature dynamic self-configuration, self-optimization, and self-healing functions, which can be achieved due to the eNodeB not being controlled by a distinct BSC component as in the typical case of GSM. Without a BSC, SatSite base stations are able to connect to each other over peering protocols, allowing an exchange of neighbor information between units. This presentation offers more details on SON technology for mixed 2G/4G networks.

Beamforming
Beamforming relies on grouping the signals of multiple antennas and into one beam sent to a desired direction. It aims to reduce interference and obtain a better quality of a service for a certain user. Unlike MIMO, where the network sends different parts of the data stream on different antennas, beamforming combines the signals from the different antennas and sends them to one device. What’s more, as opposed to MIMO, beamforming does not require any support from the handset, making it suitable for use in any mobile network technology, be it 2G, 3G, 4G or even 5G, in the future.

Benefits of optimizing GSM networks include a better management of the network resources, reduced infrastructure costs and maintenance efforts, and the flexibility to upgrade or reprogram network functions.

SS7ware @ITU Telecom World 2015

This week we’re at ITU Telecom World, the United Nations Specialized Agency for Information and Communication Technologies conference in Budapest! Let’s meet!

October 12 through 15, SS7ware Inc. team is exhibiting at stand P13, in Pavilion F. Here are the highlights for the week:

David Burgess will be representing the SME community as a panelist in this Business-to-Government dialogue.

  • Live SatSite demonstration: Wednesday, October 14, 11:00 – 12:00, stand SS7ware P13

A live demo session followed by Q&A will be organized at our stand.

The SatSite lightweight, low-power base station is simply plugged in to allow calls between GSM handsets.

  • Exhibition: Monday, October 12 – Thursday, October 15. Stop by stand P13 anytime during the exhibition:

Monday 12 October: 10:30-18:00

Tuesday 13 & Wednesday 14 October: 10:00-18:00

Thursday 15 October: 10:00-16:00

Follow the news on Twitter (@yate_voip), Facebook, connect to us on LinkedIn or drop us a message if you wish to meet.

GSM and LTE, 2 technologies in 1 base station

LTE for bandwidth and GSM for voice are a match made in heaven for subscribers. The roll-out however, not so much. Running them both from the same radio equipment (BTS) can be the answer. SatSite can run both YateBTS (GSM) and YateENB (LTE) at the same time, in the same spectrum, using the same radio hardware.

Software-defined BTS

This is made possible by replacing commonly used FPGA and DSP boards with one Intel Atom chipset. Both the GSM YateBTS and the LTE YateENB are modules implemented in software, allowing the base station to be reprogrammed or reconfigured to support new protocols. A base station can run GSM at first, and can be later software-upgradeable to LTE, running multiple air interface protocols using the same radio, at the same time.

Mixed 2G/4G spectrum allocation

From a spectrum point of view, as seen in the image below, the mixed GSM/LTE technology enables a base station to be software-configurable for up to 4-TRX/ARFCN. A base station can use the 850, 900, 1800, and 1900 MhZ bands for both GSM and LTE, meaning that it will allocate two ARFCN to GSM and will use the remaining spectrum for LTE.

ss_mix_spectr_2015-10-6_pic1_version1.1Based on the subscribers’ activity (data vs. voice), operators can assign in software the spectrum priority for either LTE or GSM, so LTE gets a higher priority if there is a lower use of voice services. This optimizes the resources allocation in the network and supplies better access to users.

YateBTS and YateENB – Yate modules

Yate is an underlying part of the software architecture of our mixed 2G/4G RAN. It has a highly expandable architecture that provides unified management and monitoring. Both YateBTS and YateENB are software modules based on Yate. Yate’s SDR architecture enables the LTE and the GSM modules to use the same radio hardware. You can find out more about Yate’s multiple modules here.

ss_mix_spectr_2015-10-6_pic2_version1.1Yate’s SDR architecture also enabled us to replace the conventional, special purpose equipment combination of a baseband unit (BBU) + a remote radio unit (RRU), with a single unit. With this technology we implemented all the functions of both a conventional base station and a base station controller, eliminating the costly Abis interface for traffic and signaling, as well as partial functions of an Mobile Switching Center (MSC), in terms of mobility, power and frequency management and handover.

The mixed 2G/4G RAN technology is embodied in our SatSite base station. SatSite acts more like a conventional eNodeB, even when running on GSM, because it uses IP backhaul for both 2G and 4G. It also contains the IP list of all neighboring SatSite units.

Using off-the-shelf hardware and a generic operating system, SatSite embraces everything SDR stands for, and is the solution for an easy adoption of new standards or technologies, even 5G in the future.

A forecast on the evolution of radio access networks

This month we participated at an active antenna workshop in Warsaw. The event was well attended by many RAN managers, strategists and planners from various mobile operators around the world. There were also a large number of radio head and eNodeB, antenna, semiconductors and materials and test equipment vendors.

Crowded towers

There was a lot of talk about crowded towers. The majority of towers are already very crowded and at their mechanical limits. Because new equipment cannot be added, often times the only solution is that of replacing existing equipment with new antennas and radios. Since everyone in the industry wants ‘cleaner’, less crowded towers, the experts found that radio equipment capable of running on both GSM and LTE would help reduce the overall load on cell site towers.

active_anntenna_workshop

3G sunset

Within this workshop quite a few of our beliefs regarding the future of the UMTS have been confirmed:

  • In a number of markets UMTS 3G will be discontinued, while 2G will continue to stay, allowing for 2G/4G mixed networks to flourish.
  • While 2G spectrum allocation will diminish in time, GSM will still be alive and well for a while.
  • In many markets, UMTS 3G spectrum is already re-farmed for 4G LTE.

Massive MIMO?

As the workshop’s theme was the evolution of active antennas, a lot of the conversation revolved around MIMO technology and MIMO antennas. The 2×2 MIMO configuration is becoming a standard for mobile networks, and 4×2 MIMO is expected to become the standard in two to three years. There is little prospect in the industry for LTE devices to support more than 2 MIMO channels, meaning that the most practical MIMO configuration is the Nx2 variety. One of the most important current issues is that many LTE devices still don’t support MIMO.

Vertical sectorization

In terms of vertical sectorization, the consensus is that it can be useful only when combined with fast-responding self-organizing networks (SON). Vertical sectorization is only efficient when used throughout the whole network, and no just in a few cell sites. However, vertical sectorization will be obsolete once most LTE devices will support MIMO.

VoLTE perspectives from the RAN side

RAN experts present at the workshop discussed VoLTE’s slow adoption. One reason for this is that for any given cell site, the service range for VoLTE is typically smaller than that for UMTS’ or GSM’s circuit-switched service. It’s range is also limited by the overall uplink performance. However, MIMO antennas are expected to improve VoLTE’s uplink performance.

Summary

It was a pleasure to meet with so many representatives from both operators and vendors and hear their insights. To answer to the current needs of the industry, we developed combined 2G/4G software-defined radio systems. Our SatSite macro base station will support GSM and LTE independently, as well as at the same time, using a common radio access. This event was a confirmation that we are on the right track, as mixed 2G/4G networks are the future of mobile networks.

A snapshot of SS7ware at IoT Evolution Expo in Las Vegas

SS7ware was at IoT Evolution Expo in Las Vegas last week – if you haven’t been around to see us, here’s a recap of the most important events.

It was great to see so many companies, including manufacturers, mobile operators, M2M platform companies, developers, service providers, gathered to discuss innovation, management, and security in the M2M and IoT ecosystem.

Through 4 days of keynote presentations, panel discussions, exhibitor booths, live demos, and case studies, we also had a lot on our plates, as you can see in the gallery below.

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CEO Diana Cionoiu was invited to take part in the ‘Carrier Aggregation for Public Transport’ panel which took place Wednesday, discussing the possibilities to create a new experience for public transportation using the bandwidth capabilities in LTE and LTE-Advanced.

SS7ware also made it to the AT&T Fast Pitch finals, where we could talk about our software-defined mobile network solution among a variety of other innovative ideas bringing IoT to both businesses and individuals. Two interviews for the TMC team for their website, and a live SatSite demo were also on our list. Everyone around the Exhibit Hall on Tuesday had the chance to watch devices connected to SatSite work seamlessly. We simply plugged it in to make a GSM phone call between the two registered devices; all in the blink of an eye.

To wrap up, thanks to the TMC team for doing an amazing job organizing the event! Here are some take-aways to keep us focused on IoT/M2M developments in the near future:

  • when it comes to connecting the home, security is of utmost importance
  • connecting ‘everything’ comes with increased responsibility and safety challenges
  • new players like Google, Amazon, or Facebook are reshaping the ecosystem
  • who does what in the new business environment

For more content, don’t forget to follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

IoT management at the network’s edge

IoT has enabled users to access control over a multitude of “smart” devices while also unlocking unlimited possibilities for operators in new markets, such as farming, utilities and transportation. A Gartner study claimed that by 2020 there will be around 26 billion IoT connected devices. Imagine the data they collect and the necessary technology required to process it.

Until recently, cloud computing was the answer for storing and processing data collections from IoT applications. However, despite being a cost-effective model in appearance, the handling data in a centralized cloud site is facing new capacity, data management and security challenges. Analysts at Gartner have also raised the alarm on the inefficiency, from both a technical and economical standpoint, of sending all of the gathered data to a single site for processing.

Fog Computing is a new technical solution that allows data to be aggregated in larger number of smaller remote data centers for the initial analysis, and only afterwards sent for storage into the cloud. The term “Fog Computing” is recent and refers to a technology that is an extension of cloud computing. It’s main characteristics are: the geographical distribution of a large number of processing nodes (application servers), its extended mobility, a low latency and location recognition, wireless access and the predominance of real-time applications.

Fog Computing is a virtualized layer between the IoT devices and the conventional data centers in the cloud, that delivers processing, networking and storage services. It is also known as edge computing, because it is usually located at the edge of the network. It allows for a new set of applications and services solely dedicated to routing, managing and analyzing IoT data, relieving data centers from processing and storing the large volume of measurements collected from IoT devices and sensors.

This is where our SDMN YateBTS-powered solution responds to the current needs of IoT data management. To deploy a fully functional Fog Computing ecosystem, operators can install scalable application servers distributed in each cell site for data analysis and monitoring, without the traffic cluttering the core network. They are geographically distributed and connect to each other to perform a “close to the ground” intermediary layer between IoT devices and the cloud, providing security, low latency and high resilience.

SatSite base stations can redirect the traffic locally to the application server, based on the IMSI specific to the device.

fog_computing

Main features:

  • geographical distribution – Fog Computing nodes in application servers are located in each cell site and cover a wide portion of the field.
  • large number of nodes – closely connected to the geographical distribution
  • real-time connectivity – all the Fog application servers communicate directly with the SatSites located in their proximity, ensuring that they interact with client devices without passing through the core network for each IP data session

Our simplified mobile network architecture allows an easy deployment of Fog platforms to deliver real-time analytics, localization services and resilient applications. It reduces the processing burden in cloud data centers without overcharging the core network, making it ideal solution for IoT networks.

Extending LTE networks the easy way

We’ve often stated that YateUCN, our unified 2G/4G core network solution, can be used to extend existing LTE networks or upgrade GSM deployments to 4G LTE. And that’s correct. In this post we will take a closer look at how that happens and why YateUCN is more profitable than current solutions for operators moving towards LTE networks.

YateUCN is designed as a unified equipment that replaces all the functions performed by separate hardware components with one software application running on commodity hardware. This has the advantages of reducing the infrastructure costs, minimizing the equipment’s time to market, and increasing network resiliency due to a simplified management of software.

Let’s look at two scenarios where YateUCN can be integrated in existing networks.

Extend 4G LTE networks

For operators looking to increase access to 4G services YateUCN is a flexible, cost-effective solution. It drastically reduces initial equipment investment, allowing them to roll out more networks in a shorter time, to better serve growing consumer needs.

This can be done easily because YateUCN integrates all the LTE-specific functions and protocols, so that it interconnects with any existing operator setup. Every hardware component in the EPC – the MME, SGW, PGW, PCRF, and PCEF – is replaced with software running on a single piece of equipment.

The MME function handles UEs trying to connect to the network. It is responsible for subscriber authentication and uses S6a interface (Diameter) to connect to the operator’s HSS. The MME is also in charge of mobility management, allowing UEs continuous connectivity and active sessions as they move through the network.

YateUCN is fully compatible with any eNodeB, using S1-AP interface to manage inter-MME handover.

The SGW function allows YateUCN to manage data traffic routing over S1-U interface, ensuring communication between the eNodeB and the PGW, which establishes and maintains the IP session. The PGW interconnects with the charging solution of the operator using Diameter and Radius interface, allowing AAA management for wireless access.

The PCRF in YateUCN maintains QoS levels and charging policies, enabling mobile operators to control bandwidth usage while their subscribers are roaming. The Policy and Control Enforcement Function, PCEF, performs policy enforcement and service data flow detection, making sure the data flow through from the PGW is accessible.

The unified nature of YateUCN leads to large equipment savings, and makes it easy to manage the network capacities with a software upgrade.

Upgrade networks to 4G LTE

2G/3G networks can be upgraded to 4G LTE using YateUCN core network and SatSite for the radio network. A new LTE network with YateUCN and YateENB SatSite significantly reduces overall network roll-out costs. SatSite operating on YateENB is an eNodeB communicating with the MME in YateUCN over S1 interface and with any other eNodeB over X2 interface.

Since YateUCN also unifies all the layers of the GSM/GPRS core alongside the EPC, it also acts as an extension of existing 2G networks, achieved at no costs for additional 2G core equipment.

SatSite can run on YateBTS and YateENB at the same time, so each cell will act as a mixed 2G/4G site. As a result, operators can choose to use SatSite in mixed 2G/4G networks, without needing a new 2G core. What’s more, since in 2G mode YateBTS SatSite unifies both the BTS and the BSC layer, it communicates directly with YateUCN core network, using the SIP/GTP protocols.

The MSC contained in YateUCN allows subscribers to be handed over from the YateUCN – SatSite network to the operator’s current 2G deployment in the case of CS services mobility. Subscribers can roam from the YateUCN/SatSite network to any existing MSC serving the roaming area to ensure voice services continuity.

YateUCN can be integrated in any system already deployed by the operator. Used together with SatSite, it serves to build complete 4G LTE or mixed 2G/LTE networks with a low infrastructure and operations investment, ensuring consumers consistent access to both voice and data services.

Software-defined radio for frequency reuse in LTE

The expansion of 4G LTE challenges operators who have limited spectrum; as some decide to take down existing 2G (and even 3G) deployments in favor of 4G, bandwidth allocation in an area must be carefully planned to match the quality requirements of LTE.

In 4G LTE, spectrum is a crucial resource. Performance is dependent on the proximity between the radio network and the devices. The closer the radio tower, the higher the data throughput. This means that the more cell towers operators build, the better they can cover the area.

Frequency reuse is a widely adopted solution for LTE; essentially, a given area is served by more cell towers using the same frequency. An easier and more efficient approach to this is software-defined radio.

Cell edge interference management using YateENB

Cell edge interference management using YateENB

Frequency reuse means splitting an area in several new, smaller cells. In LTE, to maintain a high throughput, the same frequency is allocated to all the new cells, at the expense of higher interference at the cell edges. Since all the new cells have equal power, two or more cells meeting causes interference around the cells edges.

Apart from that, building and maintaining additional infrastructure required by frequency reuse results in high capital and operational expenses.

SDR in the LTE base station (eNodeB) can be a solution to these limitations. The fact that SDR implements the communication protocols in software and uses general-purpose hardware has several benefits.

The most important one is the effect on infrastructure costs. Base stations built on special-purpose hardware need heavier equipment and hence larger towers, which are expensive to install and operate. An eNodeB using general purpose hardware relies on more lightweight equipment, meaning that smaller towers can be deployed more densely in an area and provide better coverage. A lower power consumption associated with SDR-based BTS equipment also contributes to reducing the overall RAN costs.

Another major benefit of SDR is flexibility. SDR-based eNodeBs can be configured more easily to manage spectrum use at the edges of the cells, and thus minimize interference. Frequency sub-carriers can be selected at two cell edges in such a way that they do not overlap as in the case of conventional systems.

What’s more, SDR permits an adaptable power management so that different services can be assigned optimal QoS depending on the context.

Another aspect of SDR is the ability to build mixed networks. Base station equipment can be programmed to support different technologies at the same time and using the same hardware, serving more users with virtually no infrastructure investment. You can read more about this topic in this previous blog post.