The number of mobile phone users worldwide continues to increase rapidly. The number is expected to increase from 2.6 billion users in 2015 to 5.8 billion in 2020. Mobile broadband penetration will reach 71% in 2020 from 47% in 2015. Both the growth of user base and the emergence of new services have brought about explosive data growth. The amount of mobile data is expected to increase by 49% every year and will grow at least seven-fold in 2020. Macro cells carry not more than 30% of data, while indoor digital systems carry the other 70%. Therefore, increasing the quality and capacity of indoor coverage is a major concern of network development and deployment.
With the arrival of 5G and the spread of its concept, artificial intelligence (AI), IoT, and big data analysis have become the trends of technological evolution, and thus there are demands for diverse services. Value-added services such as indoor navigation, smart parking, and smart office are emerging. Indoor networks will become a new growth point of profits for carriers. In addition to the improvement in system capacity and coverage, carriers are in urgent need of new business models that can form end-to-end commercial applications and bring them more profits.
Featuring small size and quick deployment, ZTE's QCell+MEC indoor distribution and positioning system supports multiple systems, multi-carrier signal feeding, and multi-frequency signal access, with a capacity several times larger than that of the traditional DAS system. By shifting the content and applications to the edge, multi-access edge computing (MEC) can exploit service processing capability of the edge network, reduce latency and improve user experience. The algorithm based on field-intensity fingerprint database implements high-precision positioning. ZTE's QCell+MEC solution consists of several network elements such as PicoRRU, p-bridge (PB), multiple access unit (MAU), baseband unit (BBU), and MEC server. When combined with the big data analysis system, the QCell+MEC solution can meet the needs of both operators and central business districts (CBDs) for innovations in service and operation (Fig. 1).
End-to-End Indoor Digital Architecture
The traditional DAS system has many restrictions. Since analog components are used, the DAS system restricts further development to a more reliable indoor digital system. By contrast, ZTE's QCell+MEC solution uses end-to-end digital architecture supporting 4G technologies and has the following advantages over the DAS system:
● Macro/micro cell networking coordination
● QoE improvement
● Introduction of MEC to meet the high-rate and low-latency requirements
ZTE's QCell supports simultaneous feeding of TDD-LTE, FDD-LTE and GSM signals and also supports all indoor frequency bands including 900M, 1800M, E band, and D band, meeting the requirements of high capacity, multiple systems and concurrent services. The QCell indoor equipment is small, hidden, and easy to install. It features attractive appearance, quick deployment, and power over Ethernet (PoE). Its capacity is several times larger than that of a DAS system.
MEC-Enhanced Digital Service Capability
Innovative MEC covers indoor 4G signals rapidly and flexibly through QCell. Based on an open MEC platform, the QCell+MEC solution can provide local low-latency high-bandwidth services at the place closer to users. Open application programming interfaces (APIs) are also provided to allow various third-party applications and content to be transmit over network pipes. This meets the requirement of indoor users for diverse services and helps operators add value to their network pipes.
The QCell+MEC solution is capable of:
● Providing IT service environment and cloud computing at the places closer to mobile users
● Distributing or pushing the content to places near the user side (such as a base station)
● Deploying applications, service, and content in a highly distributed environment
● Meeting the requirements of low latency and high bandwidth in 5G networks.
The QCell+MEC solution has solved the problem of indoor positioning that was previously faced by the GPS+DAS system. Based on the algorithm of field-intensity fingerprint database, the solution implements high-precision indoor positioning and thus brings more profits to operators.
After introducing MEC, the QCell solution has been greatly improved in terms of diverse service provision and fast deployment. The solution has also enhanced its capabilities in deep network analysis and optimization that involve precise fault location, prediction, synthetic analysis, and synergetic handling. These capabilities are by no means provided by the DAS system.
To meet the requirements of operators and networks at different phases, QCell provides dynamic capacity allocation through flexible NMS configuration and activates indoor positioning function in various networking scenarios such as super cells, cell split, and cell combination. The indoor positioning function is also supported in combination scenarios such as PicoRRU combination, PB cascade, and cell portion (CP) combination.
ZTE deployed its QCell+MEC solution and conducted indoor coverage and positioning tests in the Hualian supermarket, a shopping mall with a large visitor flow in Changping district, Beijing (China). The results showed that the positioning precision reached up to 5 m in full indoor coverage. By connecting to a third-party big data platform, the operator can attract more users through QoE improvement, precision marketing, and consumption stimulation. Using big data to have precise user profile and analyze user behavior, the operator helped sellers adjust their operation strategies in time so as to attract more shoppers. Through shop attractiveness analysis, the operator helped sellers lock high-value brands, and also through the comprehensive analysis of brand association and conversion, the operator helped sellers improve their total value.
ZTE also deployed its ultra-dense network (UDN)+MEC solution in Hunan University City, Changsha (China) and completed the related verification tests. In the scenario of high user density and high-capacity requirement, user experience in download and VOD could be improved through the buffering of frequently accessed video resources on the MEC server. The operator improved QoE of college students and increased its profits by decreasing the load of network pipes. The two application cases are excellent demonstration to show the QCell+MEC solution have high commercial value and can be widely deployed.
MEC+QCell, indoor distribution and positioning solution, multi-access edge computing (MEC), power over Ethernet (PoE), all-digital O&M