Setting Signals – Interview with Dr Michael, Weber, Kathrein Group CTO

Article provided by Kathrein, originally published on THEANTENNA, The company magazine of KATHREIN-Werke KG - Issue 1/2014. Republished with the permission of Kathrein.

With its "K-BOW" active micro C-RAN solution, Kathrein is entering the field of indoor and campus mobile communications coverage. The system addresses a number of technological challenges, setting new standards for indoor mobile data transmission. An interview with Dr Michael Weber, Kathrein Group CTO.

What triggered the development of this solution?

Dr Michael Weber: Kathrein has been monitoring the indoor solutions market for a number of years and realised that very little is happening in terms of technology even though the market is growing at a tremendous rate. We noticed something else, too. Demand is changing, with solutions offering flexible capacity becoming increasingly important. K-BOW exactly meets this requirement. It is allowing us to write a new chapter in the indoor segment at exactly the right moment. Network operators around the world are in the process of rapidly upgrading their macro-networks to LTE technology. Mobile network users are growing increasingly accustomed to the LTE service and wish to see have it indoors, too. This means that LTE upgrades are needed there, as well. However, existing solutions cost a great deal of money and also have technical weak points. In this respect we are confident that our innovative solution will attract huge interest in the market.

What were considered to be the most important criteria to be met?

MW: Kathrein is a relative latecomer to the market. There are already numerous players in the field of distributed antenna systems. With K-BOW we are driving technological change and intend to lead this change through innovation and quality. Our most important challenge is to solve the increasing problems of network operators with signal coverage. Traditional, static solutions are not sufficient to solve the capacity problems of the future. In contrast, K-BOW can do this. On one hand, the system simplifies planning and installation compared with conventional technology. But its primary advantage is that it provides a future-proof solution for LTEAdvanced upgrades. K-BOW also offers the benefits of conventional solutions such as support for several network operators, frequency bands and mobile communications standards.

What were the biggest challenges?

MW: Everyone wants a mobile communications signal indoors but no-one wants to see an antenna. We set ourselves the aim of offering an attractive design without compromising the functionality of the system. After several attempts we came up with an impressive result, as the feedback at the Mobile World Congress 2014 in Barcelona demonstrates. In order to address the existing problems of conventional solutions, we involved network operators and installation companies in discussions at an early stage so as to gather their feedback and include it in our system. We now need to keep it rolling, which is why we will continue to collaborate closely with network operators.

What makes K-BOW so innovative and unique?

MW: We are establishing a new category in the indoor segment that we call micro C-RAN. K-BOW is not a DAS system and it is not a small cell. It is an amalgamation of both solutions the outcome of which gives network operators, building owners and other providers an easy-to-use solution for the long term. K-BOW will benefit from the automation of small cells and from the versatility of multioperator, multi-band and multi-standard features. Any base station can be connected to K-BOW irrespective of the system manufacturer. What is special about our system is that capacity can be distributed flexibly. Data traffic within buildings or across groups of buildings can be concentrated where it occurs. This means that the provision of capacity for each building and application can be increased by between 25 and 40 per cent. Here K-BOW is pursuing a strategy based on automatic and dynamic adjustment of capacity distribution. This allows energy to be saved. Capacity is reduced to a minimum overnight and energy consumption can be lowered by up to 35 per cent. Another important point to emphasise is the simple planning and installation. We offer a number of tools such as a smartphone app that simplifies start-up operations. K-BOW follows the "one-visit" principle. This means that end customers are only disrupted once in their rooms, i.e. during installation. Everything else is automated and changes to the system can be performed remotely. K-BOW is above all a solution for the long term. Besides the conventional standards of GSM and UTMS, K-BOW supports LTE with 2x2 MIMO in the 1,800 MHz and 2,600 MHz bands from the outset. The system is also ready for LTE-A features such as CoMP, i.e. coordinated multi point, and carrier aggregation. With K-BOW, network operators and building owners invest in the future.

What are the target groups for the solution?

MW: Principally network operators since they can achieve better coverage and increased customer satisfaction. But K-BOW is also of interest to building owners who wish to cater for the constantly changing requirements of customers such as relocations within buildings. Installation businesses are also likely to be interested in the subject since K-BOW opens up new sources of income through maintenance and operation.

How will mobile communications users benefit from K-BOW?

MW: Everybody has experienced and been annoyed by a poor or even total lack of signal within a building. The real advantage of K-BOW is that it provides the same LTE experience indoors and outdoors. And this is quite important as more than 80 per cent of mobile communication connections are made inside buildings. K-BOW is easier to plan and install than traditional solutions, and more buildings can be optimised for mobile communications than in the past. Users therefore have the long-term prospect of a better signal in even more buildings.

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