The Growing Importance of Cloud Orchestration

Despite lingering concerns about security, reliability and, yes, costs, the enterprise is still very eager to migrate workloads to the cloud. And not surprisingly, cloud providers are equally eager to take on enterprise workloads.

So what’s the problem? From an operational perspective, the main stumbling block appears to be the lack of effective tools to manage the data environment once it leaves the confines of the data center. And this becomes particularly worrisome when, as is often the case, data is not limited to a single provider but is divided among many.


This is why cloud orchestration continues to be a primary, albeit elusive, goal for the enterprise. According to Persistence Market Research, orchestration is on pace to top $20 billion in market value by 2025, representing 14.6 percent compound annual growth. The main driver will be the increased use of SaaS-based management solutions, which are becoming increasingly embedded in broader cloud management stacks. As the need for more efficient infrastructure grows, these platforms will naturally seek to spread workloads to the lowest-cost provider while still maintaining centralized control for the data owner. And this phenomenon is equally prevalent among small businesses and multinational conglomerates.


  • Cloud orchestration, in fact, is becoming such an important element to emerging data infrastructure that software developers are starting to break it out as a key business initiative.
  • Orchestration within a Linux ecosystem is helpful, but many organizations would no doubt want to extend that to other operating systems, as well.
  • New releases provides enhanced security features like event auditing, device management and file system access control, as well as automated workflow management across distributed, heterogeneous RHEL deployments. In addition, the system supports multiple chip-level architectures like IBM Power and z System and 64-Bit ARM.

“While it is always helpful to find just the right infrastructure to support a key workload, too much variety can lead to inefficiency, cost overruns and lost data.”

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Unlocking the Value of NFV and SDN

With the 5G New Radio specification, both non-standalone and standalone variants, tracking for finalization by the end of this year and mid-2018, respectively, operators around the world are coming to grips with the crucial role of network functions virtualization (NFV) and software-defined networking (SDN). Simply put, in order for 5G to deliver on its promises of ultra-high-capacity and ultra-low-latency in support of three primary use cases–enhanced mobile broadband, support for massive IoT and mission critical communications–network operations must be automated.

As communications service providers take on the monumental task of re-inventing their networks, a cohesive strategy for virtualization of key network functions is imperative. To further complicate this seachange, NFV and SDN require not only technological advancements, but also organizational restructuring to a devops model. And in order to combat churn and keep delivering the quality of experience consumer and enterprise end users demand, service assurance has to be top-of-mind throughout this process.

EXFO takes a three-fold approach in supporting customers on the road to gaining software control of the network:

  • A smooth migration to network function virtualization with a keen focus on the integration of physical, hybrid and virtualized infrastructures;
  • Automating previously time-consuming, manual processes in a manner that ensures return on investment;
  • And full integration of service assurance best practices into a new devops structure that breaks down internal silos and maximizes the vast amount of data communications service providers collect.

In a recent discussion with RCR Wireless News, EXFO Solution Architect Ihab Mahna pointed out that, while operating applications in a cloud environment is nothing new, in the context of communications service providers, becoming truly cloud native “is the next step. It really comes with the evolution of any customer as we see them progress in deploying virtualization. The challenge with that comes when you ask, ‘How can you leverage virtualization to increase performance?’ We want to build perfect networks on imperfect infrastructure. You can buy cheaper equipment and achieve better performance–this is really the value of virtualization and monitoring and service assurance is key to that.”


  • To take it step-by-step, the move toward virtualization–then automation–involves orchestrating your virtual network function with a service orchestration tool, conducting service assurance, validating instrumentation, then real-time, analytics-based performance monitoring.
  • This dynamic approach to measuring network resource usage, and leveraging that information to create responsive policy machinations that, in turn, inform the actions of the orchestrator, essentially creates a closed loop.
  • Flexibility is a one time thing, agility is the ability to be flexibile all the time.

“Definition of closed looped analytics. Ihab: here we’re focused on closed loop feedback on service quality analytics and monitoring through the orchestrator to provide the high quality zero-touch service.”

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T-Mobile US Prioritizing 600 MHz Repack in New York City Metro Area

T-Mobile US continues its effort to aggressively deploy its 600 MHz holdings. Following activation of rural sites in Maine and Wyoming, the carrier is now focusing its efforts on the high-value, high-density New York City metropolitan area.


T-Mobile spent around $8 billion in the U.S. Federal Communications Commission auction of 600 MHz spectrum previously dedicated to television broadcasters. A key part of the immediate plans for the 600 MHz band is bringing “new competition and choice to rural areas previous unserved by T-Mobile,” according to the document, which summarizes an Aug. 2 conversation between T-Mobile execs and FCC representatives.

The first deployment came in early August. T-Mobile worked used Nokia equipment to light up sites in Cheyenne, Wy., according to the carrier. Later that month the build-out expanded to Scarborough, Maine. In terms of device compatibility, the operator said it will begin selling the LG V30 device, which supports the 600 MHz band.

Now the attention is on New York City. The 600 MHz airwaves were, in some cases, and are still in many more, occupied by television broadcasters. Per the FCC, there’s a 39-month timeline to make those frequencies available to T-Mobile. In NYC, the carrier is working with Fox affiliate WWOR to have the repack done by early 2018. WWOR serves around 19 million customers in the area. T-Mobile has a similar arrangement with PBS to facilitate a faster activation of the 600 MHz holdings.

“We’re committed to working with broadcasters across the country to clear 600 MHz spectrum, so we can preserve programming and bring increased wireless choice and competition across the country!” said Neville Ray, Chief Technology Officer at T-Mobile.


  • Earlier this year at the Oppenheimer Technology, Internet and Communications Conference, Vice President of Investor Relations Nils Paellmann discussed the 600 MHz roll out in the context of 5G and the internet of things (IoT).
  •  Clearly, for a lot of the IoT things you will need ubiquitous coverage.
  • The high bandwidth spectrum, the millimeter wave that people talk about, will never give you the coverage.

“We can basically use our roll out of the 600 with LTE to also lay the foundation of future 5G. A lot of the radios…will be upgradable, through a software upgrade, to 5G. We think the 600 [spectrum]could be very interesting for IoT applications. ”

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Minnesota Becomes 23rd State to ‘opt-in’ to FirstNet


On October 4th, Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton announced that he has accepted the nationwide public-safety broadband network (NPSBN) deployment plan offered by FirstNet and AT&T on behalf of his state, making Minnesota the 23rd state—not including two territories—to “opt-in” to the FirstNet system.

“First responders across our state risk their lives every day to protect and serve the people of Minnesota,” Gov. Dayton said in a prepared statement. “Modernizing our communications infrastructure will allow our courageous first responders to coordinate and respond more quickly, effectively, and safely, creating better outcomes for them and the communities they serve.”

Minnesota Public Safety Commissioner Mona Dohman echoed this sentiment.

“The workgroups devoted numerous hours to ensure the dedicated wireless broadband network offered the tools needed for those on the front lines of an emergency,” Dohman said in a prepared statement. “FirstNet promises to change the way Minnesota’s public-safety personnel, in every corner of the state, do their jobs.”

Also applauding Dayton’s decision was Richard Stanek, a FirstNet board member who has served as the sheriff of Hennepin County, Minn., since 2007.

“Gov. Dayton’s decision to launch FirstNet in Minnesota will dramatically enhance police work across the state by giving law enforcement access to the most advanced communications capabilities available today,” Stanek said in a prepared statement. “It will also modernize communications used by fire, EMS, and other public-safety personnel, which will help all first responders maintain the safety of our neighborhoods and communities.”


  • AT&T will build the FirstNet RAN in “opt-in” states or territories at no cost to each jurisdiction, although local public-safety entities will be responsible for paying subscription costs and end-user device expenses.
  • the law that established FirstNet stipulates that individual public-safety agencies and potential first-responder users are not required to subscribe to the FirstNet service.
  • FirstNet and AT&T are pleased to have delivered a plan that meets Minnesota’s unique needs, and we look forward to bringing the network to public safety throughout the Land of 10,000 Lakes.

“Under the law that established FirstNet, governors in all 56 states and territories have the choice of making an “opt-in” decision—accepting the FirstNet deployment plan and allowing AT&T to build the LTE radio access network (RAN) within the state’s borders at no cost to the state—or pursuing the “opt-out” alternative, which would require the state to be responsible for building and maintaining the RAN for the next 25 years.”

FirstNet is a high speed data network for First Responders.  As the FirstNet network is deployed in Minnesota and throughout the country, building owners and operators should treat it like other public safety communication systems.   If the local AHJ requires enhancement for your existing Public Safety systems, there is a reasonable chance an enhancement solution might be needed for FirstNet as well.    Contact your local AHJ or public safety solution provider if you need more information.

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Connected Cities and Their Role in the Wireless Ecosystem

Internet connectivity, at its core, is a civilization changer on the same level as roadways, water systems and electric grids. It is redefining the way people interact with the world, access and share information, and improving the way we live work and play. It’s a universal, global need that supersedes economic status, language and location. Having a global connectivity infrastructure provides the real potential to transform civilization forever.

This quote, taken from the Connected City Advisory Board (CCAB)’s literature, is an excellent summary of the ways in which bringing connectivity to citizens on a global level is as important as it is. For the last few years, the Wireless Broadband Alliance has used its many platforms (including the CCAB, World Wi-Fi Day, and bi-annual Wireless Global Congress events, to name a few) to draw attention to the significance of Connected Cities to the overall wireless ecosystem.

With that being said, it’s crucial to understand that Connected Cities are equally as important to their citizens and visitors. While the connecting of ‘things’ and services is a major part of their success, it is truly the ‘connecting’ of people that makes them invaluable on the global stage. This is especially true when looking at a UN report that states the overall growth of the world’s population could add another 2.5 billion people to urban populations by 2050. Connecting people will go a long way towards strengthening a city’s (and country’s) social and economic health.


  • Internet connectivity is a civilization changer on the same level as roadways, water systems and electric grids.
  • Having a global connectivity infrastructure provides the real potential to transform civilization forever.
  • Connecting people will go a long way towards strengthening a city’s (and country’s) social and economic health.

“The upcoming Congress in New York City (13-16 November) will include both a dedicated Conference Track and Workshop focusing on Connected Cities. It’s fitting, too, that our event is taking place in New York City, which over the last couple of years has become a shining example of a Connected City with the launch of its LinkNYC initiative.”

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New SoftBank Test Builds on Trial Focused on 28 GHz

Japanese mobile telephony operator SoftBank plans to work with Ericsson to conduct a joint trial of 5G in the 4.5 GHz band in dense, urban areas of Tokyo. The two companies said this 5G trial will involve two new radios, virtualized radio access network and evolved packet core RAN, beamforming, massive multiple input multiple output (MIMO) functionality and support services.

In March, SoftBank and Ericsson teamed up for a 5G trial in the 28 GHz millimeter wave band, which followed earlier tests in the 4.5 GHz and 15 GHz bands in Tokyo in 2016.

SoftBank also recently announced plans to deploy Ericsson’s Radio Dot system across Japan to improve indoor coverage in high-density urban areas. Softbank has been testing the technology since 2015.

Hidebumi Kitahara, senior director of mobile netowrk planning at SoftBank, said in December 2016 during a media briefing in Tokyo, that a total of 100 cell sites, mostly in Tokyo, had already been upgraded with the technology. Kitahara also said the technology would be deployed in “a few thousand sites” across Japan next year, with equipment provided by ZTE and Huawei.


  • SoftBank, Ericsson to test 5G in Tokyo.
  • SoftBank believes MIMO technology will represent a key part of the firm’s 5G strategy.
  • Ericsson said that the trial is set to commence once the Japanese telco obtains an experimental 5G license.

“The newly developed lower latency technology is expected to facilitate the development of diverse real-time services such as autonomous driving, and augmented and virtual services – which will become widespread in the 5G era, SK Telecom said.”

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Small Cells Are the Great Enabler

The unprecedented growth of demand for wireless data is radically reshaping the telecommunications landscape. The extraordinary thing is that despite this explosion, the likelihood is that even more dramatic growth lies ahead.

Currently, advanced forms of LTE are being deployed. These will be followed by 5G, which is moving from carrier and vendor labs to field tests. Indeed, 5G is running ahead of schedule. Demand has sparked the development ecosystem and commercial deployments will start before the initial 2020 target.

Optimized-Small-Cell-DASA more basic first step underlies all this, however. These developments depend upon the creation of a far deeper physical infrastructure than has sufficed in the past. Macro base stations must be supplemented by a far more sophisticated and deeper infrastructure.

Many types of small cells will be used to “densify” networks. That’s an awkward word, but a good description of the goal, which is to use small cells and other equipment to add capacity to the network that is already in place.


  • Small cells are a key to fulfilling the new requirements.
  • 5G will feature higher frequency approaches than previously used.
  • At this point, a good deal of the focus is on using 5G for fixed wireless applications.

“The signs seem to be good for the sector. Some, however, say that it has not yet taken off. To date, according to Paul Hanna, the vice president of Global Marketing for Casa Systems, shipments have been a bit disappointing.”

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There’s More to In-building Wireless Than DAS and Small Cells

In-building wireless is a red hot market, particularly given the shift from carrier subsidized deployments to enterprise- or neutral-host led financing models. To better enable enterprise buyers, equipment vendors are looking for ways to take cost and complexity out of DAS and small cells, the two solutions that get the majority of the mindshare when considering the in-building space. But there are more tools in the kit.

Warner Sievers, CEO of Nextivity, said during an interview at the recent DAS and Small Cells Congress event that many companies are “trying to bring the price point down to $1-per-square-foot. We’re operating at half that price point today.” They do that through a hybrid approach that, as the company describes it, “combines the best of active DAS and smart booster technologies,” for in-building wireless coverage in venues up to 200,000-square-feet.

In an off-air application, Sievers said the company has seen lots of international attention, particularly from South America, as it relates to Cel-Fi Quatra. “In this environment, there’s a lot of off-air connectivity. We’re able to really optimize signals to improve the indoor experience of a moderate outdoor signal.”


  • From a product perspective, that’s accomplished by Cel-Fi Quatra, which supports either an off-air application, or deployment in conjunction with a small cell.
  • Nextivity’s network unit can attach to a small cell, then feed the signal to up to four coverage units supplying RF and power over Ethernet cabling.
  • The fear with operators around the world is if you say anyone can hang things off-air, you get these heavily-laden systems that create noise and interference for the base stations that serve them.

“In this scenario, Sievers said Cel-Fi Quatra can cover up to a 50,000-square-foot space, and, in a bid to further make the offering appeal to the enterprise, can generally be installed by IT staff with no specific RF experience.”

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A New Approach to Indoor LTE Coverage

Commercial Mobile Networks have been around for over thirty years.  They began as simple voice networks but have evolved to sophisticated data networks where voice is but one of the many applications supported by the network.  Those early voice networks were analog based: AMPS in North America, TACS/ETACS/JTACS in Europe and Japan, and NMT in the Nordic countries.  As mobile voice networks picked up popularity, digital voice networks replaced these analog networks.  The digital networks were based on a variety of different standards, however most deployments worldwide were based on standards being developed by two global initiatives.  The Third-Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) developed the GSM family which evolved to HSPA and eventually LTE.  GSM based networks were deployed all over the world and were the basis of the largest percentage of mobile networks deployed worldwide.  In a parallel effort, separate but similar affiliated groups, the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) and later The Third-Generation Partnership Project 2 (3GPP2) developed the CDMA family which evolved to EVDO.  CDMA based networks made up the second largest percentage of mobile networks deployed worldwide.

Mobile networks continued to evolve and the 3GPP, 3GPP2 and a new entrant in the broadband mobile network space, the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) who developed the standards for Wi-Fi, competed to develop and gain adoption of new 4G network standards.

Generation Standards Organization Technology
ITU cdmaOne
3GPP2 CDMA2000 1xEV-DO Rev 0
4G 3GPP LTE Advanced

Mobile Network Progression

The 3GPP2, which included standards bodies from around the globe representing CDMA networks, developed a 4G network standard called Ultra Mobile Broadband (UMB) or EV-DO Rev C.  UMB was based on an IP connected core with a next generation radio network using advanced techniques such as Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing (OFDM) and Multiple Input Multiple Output (MIMO) to obtain peak data rates up to 280 Mbps. Due to lack of interest by the major CDMA network operators, UMB development was abandoned and no commercial networks were ever deployed.

IEEE an organization whose standards attained worldwide adoption for the deployment of WLANs developed a 4G WAN standard called WiMAX.  WiMAX was intended to leverage the popularity of Wi-Fi as a complementary standard.  WiMAX was designed such that Wi-Fi devices would connect to WiMAX subscriber nodes therefore enabling the use of existing Wi-Fi devices and making it easy for user adoption.  WiMAX was deployed in a few countries with moderate early success however lost momentum after a short period of time.

The 3GPP developed a standard called Long Term Evolution or more commonly known as LTE.  The initial definition did not meet the IMT-Advanced requirements of a 4G network, however the 3GPP developed enhancements called LTE Advanced which make LTE a true 4G network standard.   LTE shares several similarities to the 3GPP2 UMB standard such as OFDM and MIMO and were both thought to prevail as a widely adopted 4G network standard.  However, both standards required the introduction of new network components requiring significant investments for mobile network operators.  Due to the overwhelmingly larger eco-system around the 3GPP GSM family of networks, mobile network operators around the globe began committing to LTE to avoid the disadvantage of having a higher network deployment cost resulting from a smaller scale.  LTE is the most commonly adopted 4G network standard and has been deployed almost exclusively in mobile networks around the world.  With most mobile networks worldwide based on LTE, this is the first time when essentially the entire mobile industry is focused around one standard.

One globally adopted mobile network standard has a lot of advantages.  The most obvious is the basis of interoperability between mobile network operators.  Should mobile operators choose to establish connectivity between their networks, the capability exists to allow uninterrupted service between networks.  Other advantages include the accelerated development of enhancement features, the more efficient manufacturing of chipsets and the rapid development of network deployment tools.  Collectively these advantages along with the entire 4G LTE ecosystem have allowed mobile network operators, device manufacturers and network equipment manufacturers to provide feature rich 4G network services to users at a faster pace and lower cost.      

In fact, 4G networks are growing so fast, mobile network operators are constantly adding spectrum – upgrading their networks to implement capacity enhancing features and densifying their networks.  The demands to continually add network capacity are so intense that many mobile network operators have had to prioritize capacity enhancements over coverage expansions especially in indoor applications where strain on network resources aren’t being caused by a lack of indoor coverage.  Solutions for indoor coverage often consist of distributed antenna systems and small cell solutions.  These indoor solutions are often costly and almost always require the mobile network operators to participate in some capacity.  If a solution were to exist allowing private enterprise to take advantage of the 4G LTE ecosystem and to build and deploy sharable LTE networks, it could rapidly improve indoor wireless coverage in a shared cost model acceptable to mobile network operators and private enterprise alike.

Today, LTE networks are almost exclusively deployed in licensed spectrum by mobile network operators who pay billions of dollars to lease spectrum from government spectrum regulators.  Although there has been movement with LTE-U and LTE-AA to utilize unlicensed spectrum it has been targeted for mobile operators as a feature to extend the capacity of their existing licensed based networks.  But this could soon change. The MulteFire Alliance completed Release 1 of their specification for an LTE-based technology operating in unlicensed spectrum.  Utilizing MulteFire technology non-mobile operators will have opportunities to deploy LTE networks in unlicensed spectrum.

In addition, in April 2015, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), spectrum regulatory body of the United States, issued a Report and Order establishing the creation of the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS).  And with the creation of CBRS established rules allowing the spectrum to be shared among multiple users such as mobile network operators and non-mobile network operators seeking to utilize the spectrum for private industry needs.  What makes CBRS unique is that it opens the use of 3.5 GHz spectrum in the US, spectrum anticipated to be available in many other countries soon, for LTE. In the US, the spectrum will be shared among exclusive licensees, priority licensees and general authorized access users. It is unknown how the spectrum will be used in other countries.

With the expected global availability of the 3.5 GHz spectrum, a group of wireless technology companies have formed the CBRS Alliance to promote the development of LTE-Based solutions, including multi-operator solutions, utilizing this spectrum.  The CBRS Alliance began with six companies (Access Technologies (Alphabet), Federated Wireless, Intel, Nokia, Qualcomm and Ruckus Wireless (now part of Brocade)) but has now expanded to over 40 companies including some of the largest mobile network operators.  

In prompting the development of LTE-Based solutions in the 3.5 GHz band, the CBRS Alliance is working in cooperation with the Wireless Infrastructure Forum to develop technology and standards which will not only allow LTE networks to utilize the 3.5 GHz spectrum but also to share the spectrum and prevent interference with incumbent government systems. Among the technology being developed are the Spectrum Access System (SAS), Environmental Sensing Capability sensors (ESC) and Citizen Broadband Radio Service Devices (CBSDs).  In addition, development is being focused on building LTE core components of the appropriate size and scale for enterprise applications versus mobile operator networks.

As the key components of a CBRS or MulteFire solution become available along with devices, the creation of private LTE networks becomes a viable solution for private building owners to build and manage wireless coverage within their buildings, and for mobile network operators to access these private networks as Neutral Host Network Providers.

Private LTE NetworksFigure 1

Private LTE networks have the potential to redefine the approach to indoor coverage.  Today, building owners and managers commonly deploy Wi-Fi at the building owner or manager’s expense to allow employees, tenants or customers to access public internet or private network services.  This is largely because Wi-Fi is common in most user devices, the spectrum is accessible without a license and the service is recognized as an essential business requirement.  However, use of Wi-Fi still requires awkward authentication protocols which deter or prevent some users from accessing the available Wi-Fi networks.  For those users they continue to use mobile operator networks which can lack sufficient coverage or capacity within indoor spaces.  

These barriers or biases which have prevented the deployment of Private LTE Networks in the past are being address.  Private LTE networks will simplify authentication prompting users to utilize the Private LTE network rather than the mobile operator networks and will offer similar features and functionality.  As standards are defined around the use of LTE within CBRS and MulteFire, gaps in interoperability will be addressed.  Within the next few years it is expected that building owners, managers or non-mobile network operators will have access to spectrum and devices to launch their networks.  Given the large eco-system around 4G LTE, the technology development with CBRS and MulteFire, Private LTE networks will soon offer the needed coverage and capacity within indoor spaces and as well as a transparent experience for users.


MulteFire Releases Version 1 of Its Specification

MulteFire Alliance released version 1.0 of its specification, according to the consortium’s press release, is based on Third Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) releases 13 and 14.

Release 1.0 enables LTE to operate in unlicensed, shared spectrum. Essentially, as I wrote last week, there are two kinds of spectrum: licensed and unlicensed. The capacity and cost advantages of unlicensed spectrum have led powerful cellular companies and their ecosystems to try to solve the sticky issues that were a barrier to their use of the bandwidth. MulteFire is one such effort.

Unlicensed spectrum is as available to mobile cellular companies as it is to anyone else. The challenge is that their technology was developed in a landscape in which an individual cellular company plunked down a lot of money and got exclusive rights to a portion of bandwidth. For this reason, technology enabling cellular systems to share spectrum – a huge requirement in the fractious world of unlicensed spectrum – was not needed and never developed.

That is not wholly a technical question. There is a lot of money in unlicensed spectrum. The politics of how cellular access is written into networks using unlicensed spectrum is tricky and controversial. The issue is even more of a wildcard as a new administration – and one with a very different philosophical orientation – takes the reins.


  •  There are two kinds of spectrum: licensed and unlicensed.
  • The question now is the fairest system way to give cellular carriers that capability.
  • The full specification will initially be available to consortium members, with outsiders gaining access mid-year.

“The spec implements “Listen-Before-Talk for fair coexistence with technologies using the same spectrum such as Wi-Fi and LAA, as well as co-existence between different MulteFire networks.””