Old school equation-based theoretical modeling techniques are falling out of favor as carriers move to divine in detail just how their forthcoming 5G systems will work in the real world.
According to Director of Business Development Michael Hicks and Technical Manager Tarun Chawla of software simulation company Remcom, the complexities of 5G – including the use of massive MIMO and millimeter wave spectrum that will require dense deployments – has operators looking for a more accurate way to model their future networks.
“Historically when you’re setting up these small cells and you put out the equipment, they sort of just broadcast in a general way – so there’s just sort of a cloud of coverage from each of the base stations. With new 5G technology, though, it’s going to be much more directive. So there will be some intelligence built into small cells for beamforming so it’s pointing the signal at each person and each device.” Hicks explained. “There is this densification, there is this need to look at things not on a macro scale but on a micro scale, and a desire to understand how, because of millimeter wave, the finer details in the office or the building or the street matter to the propagation of the signal. We’ve always provided this level of accuracy, only now though people care more about that.”
Hicks and Chawla said Remcom has offered solutions for modeling millimeter wave spectrum to government entities for more than a decade, but noted carriers have increasingly expressed interest in the company’s simulation capabilities.
So, back in November, Remcom updated its propagation modeling software to cover the detailed multipath of large numbers of MIMO channels and optimized it to handle the increased level of computations required for traditional ray tracing methods. The company offers 1D and 2D simulations, and Hicks and Chawla said Remcom also works with geo-data providers to create a 3D models that can be customized to include data accurate down to the materials used in surrounding buildings and height of the installation.
Chawla said carriers are currently using the technology to model how certain 5G transceiver equipment will perform – Remcom has announced partnerships with equipment vendors like Huawei and Samsung – but noted there’s one important puzzle piece still missing from the equation: the receivers.
“Carriers are talking about deploying (5G) this at the end of this year of next year, you know, AT&T and Verizon, but one thing that’s completely missing is the devices that will receive the signal,” Chawla observed. “There’s a lack of right now commitment of actual devices that will receive the signal from the carriers.”
And while simulations can be run and the receiver added in later once those details are nailed down, the type of device, he said, really matters.
“With the current technology, if you go to Walmart and pick up a phone versus buying an iPhone for 700 bucks, the difference in performance between those two devices is going to be day and night,” Chawla said. “When you’re going out into the woods, your $10 phone isn’t going to receive any signal because the antenna is a very poorly designed antenna, generally speaking. That’s going to matter more for 5G because the particular design of that antenna is going to determine how the signal is actually coming into that phone. It matters, a lot.”
Filed Under: Infrastructure, Wireless