MWC 2019: 5G, the right model for deploying the right technologies

Without a robust and reliable radio wave propagation model, radio engineering is not possible. The benchmark-setting model developed by Orange is constantly being updated, most recently due to the upcoming arrival of 5G.

"The model developed by Orange is the only one to date to integrate and characterise the spatio-temporal diversity of the propagation channels."

Since the 1990s, Orange has been developing its own propagation model, which first came onto the market in 2007. Nowadays, it is the “gold standard” for the field and is viewed as the world’s best model; serving as a base for the design and maintenance of the majority of the 3G and 4G networks used across the world. It is used by almost 300 customers, including, for the most part, operators and manufacturers, as well as regulatory agencies.

A top model which continues to evolve

Distributed as a software license across the three leading radio engineering platforms in the world (Infovista Planet, Teoco Asset and Forsk Atoll), Orange’s model is subject to continuous research and improvement. A mandatory optimisation policy, that guarantees up-to-date maintenance and efficiency, ensures the model draws closer to reality and keeps on reducing the associated computation times in spite of ever more complex algorithms.

In 2018, a new historic milestone was reached when the model was updated with the launch of the 500 version, once again making it even more unique on the radio engineering market.

Indeed, the 5G standard’s operating conditions are a game-changer and lead to a significant update – not to say upgrade – of the model.

Perfectly suited to high frequencies

The utilisation of higher frequencies and the implementation of Massive MIMO focal technologies, make 5G a major breakthrough in terms of how mobile networks perform. This is also the case in the radio propagation world. Where smooth operation of a single-antenna system depends solely on signal strength, Massive MIMO, which uses multiple antennas, makes best use of the spatio-temporal properties of propagation. This diversity should therefore be incorporated into the model: “it still simulates the signal strength, but must now reproduce how it builds up”, explain Benoit Riche and Yohann Bénédic, research engineers at Orange, “namely, which proportion arrives directly, which not, how delayed… Specifically, the model establishes the propagation channel’s impulse response, actually breaking down the received signal into its multipath compounds. Such accurate simulations did not use to be necessary, but 5G technologies now exploit these phenomenons to increase speeds. Moreover, the model developed by Orange is the only one to date which can carry out these direct diversity simulations”.

4D propagation simulations

In addition to strength and diversity, the 500 version is capable of simulating other characteristics of propagation channels, such as phase differences, changes in polarisation, delays, etc. This indeed makes the model perform “4D” simulations, in which the 3D topography (terrain height, actual shape of buildings), natural and superficial materials, the four propagation phenomena as well as the arrangement of the MIMO antennas are accounted for. “Some characteristics that were overlooked in previous network generations now have a significant impact on the 5G standard and new modules had to be developed and integrated in order to simulate them. This includes, for example, vegetation and some natural phenomena such as hydrometeors. The more the operated frequencies increase, the more we depend on the accuracy of building shapes. For example, in its current version, the model is the only one in the world to handle the hole in the Grande Arche de la Défense.”

Network performance guarantee

All of these advances in radio wave propagation modelling are essential to 5G deployments and to ensure that future networks are efficient. By providing highly realistic and accurate simulations, the model paves the way for accurately designed and planned radio systems. Beyond this and combined with other radio engineering tools such as antenna optimisation solutions, the model can be used for other applications, such as improving the coverage of existing networks. The 500 version is a good starting point for 5G.

From research to software distribution by partners, this model illustrates how Orange shares and proposes its innovations to ecosystems, in all markets including B2B.

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Live streaming has become increasingly widespread. With the addition of 5G, this service can be dramatically improved at all levels, including image quality, download times, interruptions and lag. Faced with today’s generations’ enthusiasm for live feeds, researchers are now working to adapt live streaming TV so it can be done on the go. The Goal: Lag-Free Live Streams Getting closer to what’s happening live is one of the main challenges in the field of live streaming. Yet, streaming over the Internet using Wi-Fi or 4G still results in a lag of 30, 40 or even 50 seconds on tablets or smartphones. This lag will particularly hit home for any soccer fans who have ever heard their neighbor watching TV and cheering for a goal they haven’t seen yet. It also affects participants in time-limited interactive TV game shows and televised broadcasts by figures of authority in relation to announcements, alerts or disasters, for example. Ensuring service continuity, particularly when faced with high demand, is another challenge of live streaming. At Orange Innovation, researchers are therefore thinking about how they can make improvements in the field of TV streaming on the go, using a combination of 5G, video streaming technologies (multicast, low latency), network bandwidth allocation (network slicing) and edge computing. Their work has primarily focused on mutualizing streams; a key way of saving bandwidth. Dominique Thômé, Product Manager Innovation Data TV, explains that “Unlike unicast technology, which broadcasts streams as many times as there are simultaneous connections, multicast should allow a single stream to be broadcast to thousands of people connected to a large 5G zone. This mutualization prevents bandwidth loss and, consequently, service interruptions from network congestion. Another advantage, which is of great importance to Orange, is that it consumes less energy and therefore contributes to the transition to a low-carbon economy.” Recognizing the Know-How of Carriers Experiments carried out in the Orange laboratory have yielded interesting results. A real-time readjustment of video quality to prevent network saturation resulted in each customer being able to watch TV with only five seconds of lag, confirming the feasibility of 5G live streaming on the go. In fact, faced with ever-increasing volumes, some broadcasters are beginning to turn to carriers to broadcast their TV streams. They need players that are able to transmit this huge amount of data while ensuring optimal quality, in order to avoid any latency problems. Thibaut Mathieu, Director of Innovation for Interactive & Multiscreen Services at Orange says that “Our pioneering approach toward 5G live streaming highlights the valuable role that network carriers play, right at the heart of the system, compared to OTT players (“over the top,” such as the Tech Giants), both in terms of technology and business. We will be able to get involved in data transmission, with optimal mutualization technology that will save money and energy.” These technologies are consistent with Orange’s CSR commitment, both in terms of carbon footprint (lower energy consumption) and inclusion (broadcasting the right information at the right time). More than Just Entertainment The challenge goes far beyond the traditional TV broadcasting market itself. In the context of the health crisis, brands have been quick to understand the value of live streams to generate sales and are starting to venture into “Live Shopping.” Originating from China, this large-scale approach to teleshopping consists of an online event where presenters, influencers or personalities showcase products live to a digital audience who are able to order products or ask questions. Live Shopping is attracting more and more brands around the world. “With hundreds of thousands of people connected at the same time, its large scale will certainly create capacity issues” says Thômé. “This is another case where mutualization will ensure quality of service.”

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