Huawei say now is the time to Build 5G-Oriented Digital Indoor Networks

Huawei logo 140Huawei are already looking ahead at the evolution of 5G for in-building services, where 90% of wireless data is consumed. Here we can expect 100Mbps data rates, and identify the technologies and stepping stones towards that nirvana. They also foresee that in-building systems will support both low and high band 5G alongside existing 4G and earlier generation technologies.



In the 5G era, indoor services will make up a dominant proportion

According to a Gartner's report released in June 2017, 11 countries have already planned to deploy 5G-based networks from 2019 to enable services such as enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB) and Cognitive Things of Internet (CIoT).

Statistics have shown that the proportion of indoor services is approximately 65% to 90% in 4G, varying between countries and regions. A number of analyst reports have forecast that indoor traffic will witness an annual growth above 50% by the end of 2018 prior to 5G deployment. This shows that the in-building scenario will become the main arena of mobile services for operators in both current 4G and upcoming 5G eras.

5G indoor network requirement

Widely accessible HD video services will require a mobile experience rate of at least 10 Mbps per connection. When the forthcoming 360˚ HD Video or 3D video services become available, the per-connection experience rate will need to be 80 to 100 Mbps. For AR/VR services, 100 Mbps will be necessary to enjoy an ordinary experience and 3.2 Gbps to go premium. Indoor networks must support an omnipresent experience data rate of approximately 100 Mbit/s while smoothly moving to 5G networks. Enabling such huge-bandwidth services requires a flexible architecture to accommodate rapid capacity expansion and support 4 x 4 and 8 x 8 MIMO. One analyst report concludes that only a mere 36% of mobile users are satisfied today with their indoor mobile service experience. This is indicative of the need to significantly improve indoor network coverage.

5G mobile networks will use C-band (3.5GHz) and mmWave (30GHz+) that are on much higher frequency bands than 2G, 3G, and 4G. High-band 5G signals will have greater link loss when penetrating through walls. For example, C-band signals will have an 8 to 13 dB greater link loss than sub-3GHz signals when propagating through a 1 cm thickness of concrete wall. The mmWave band has even greater link loss, making signals on this band even more difficult to travel through any walls. To ensure consistent experience for indoor and outdoor customers, operators need to build indoor networks in parallel with outdoor macro.

According to the first draft of 3GPP Release 16 released in September 2017, the performance of 5G indoor networks are required to reach unprecedented heights. As shown in the following table, for example, the peak rate of 5G indoor hot spot reaches 1Gbps DL, the data traffic density reaches 15 Mbps/m2, the number of wireless connections reaches 250,000/km 2, and the end-to-end latency on the Internet application requires 0.5ms, positioning accuracy requires minimum 0.5 meters.



Indoor hot spot

Peak rate


Data traffic density


Number of wireless connections

wireless connection reliability

E2E latency

Positioning accuracy











99.9% -





Characteristics of 5G indoor network

Obviously, the 5G indoor network will co-exist for a long time with 3G/4G networks for both high and low bands. But the above performance places new challenges on the 5G indoor network architecture, bandwidth, high density, reliability and O&M. Huawei, the main indoor solution vendor think some key factors should be involved in 5G indoor network:

Active antenna: 5G indoor network must support a peak data rate of 20 Gbps for eMBB and a traffic density of 10 Mbps per square meter. This requires the 5G indoor network to provide an RF bandwidth of at least 100 MHz. 5G network must support high frequency band (such as C-band and mmWave band) to achieve maximal spectrum efficiency through large-scale MIMO deployments. These networks must further support dynamic cell splitting, Carrier Aggregation, and high-order modulation to address unbalanced traffic among different periods within a single day. Passive antennas alone cannot adequately deliver speeds exceeding 100 Mbit/s between different terminals. The solution involves the use of active antenna head-ends on an indoor distributed network to help realise massive MIMO and End-to-End networking that includes high and low frequencies.

Transmission over Ethernet cable or optical fiber: In targeting a switch to 5G, the architecture of the indoor network must allow 5G NRs (New Radios) to be rapidly overlaid onto LTE network for integrated networking and 5G-like new services. Traditional RF cables and indoor network couplers do not support new frequency band of 5G NRs (including both C-band and mmWave band). Deploying new RF cables in indoor areas is costly and in a number of specific cases can prove impossible due to a lack of extra room for new cables. Operators must use transmission cables that are easy to deploy and deliver high bandwidth. One option is to use Ethernet cable or optical fiber to replace RF cables.

Visualized O&M: In an indoor distributed network, coordination with building owners and complex installation and commissioning results in costly O&M. In a 5G network, fast deployment and visual O&M are regarded as basic requirements. This is because visualized O&M allows for real-time monitoring for the status of the massive number of head ends and other network elements. It also allows Mobile AI to help realize automated network resource allocation in response to the conditions of adjacent channels and fluctuating user densities. In the event of network faults, automated diagnostics and self-healing can be performed to minimize manual O&M costs and maximize return on investment by lowering network OPEX.

Service Diversification: The development of mobile internet and wireless communications allows users to enjoy not just voice and short message services. HD videos, wireless VR/AR, precise indoor locating, navigation, and big data based services will certainly become the mainstream trend. This requires mobile indoor network to support a diverse range of services.

Selecting the best 5G-oriented indoor solution

It is increasingly important to accurately deploy indoor networks. As new services keep emerging in indoor environments, applying 5G technology to indoor networks is becoming a new trend. Ensuring omnipresent service consistency in indoor and outdoor environments is evolving into a basic network requirement. Operators must ensure that the network architecture supports flexible capacity expansions and that leading 5G-oriented indoor networks can be built while addressing constantly growing capacity demands. This is emerging as an increasingly vital issue with rapid approach of 5G networks.

There are two major indoor distribution network solutions. One is traditional indoor solutions featuring DAS systems that are originated from the eras of 2G and 3G and are mainly used to address the issues of weak indoor coverage. The other alternative is developed based on digital technology designed to enable premium MBB services and bridge network capability openness platforms and IoT networks. This digital indoor solution is conducive to cut installation and O&M costs. This presents as a perfect option for operators to build competitive and future-oriented indoor networks featuring indoor digitalization as an unavoidable inevitability in moving towards 5G networks.

The benefits of digital indoor networks are multifold. First, digital indoor distributed networks provide huge capacity and fast, flexible capacity expansion. They are an optimal method to allow operators to unleash suppressed traffic in hotspots to increase revenues. Second, these types of networks support capability openness and accurate positioning, which are features crucial for operators to expand service boundaries and discover new services and business models. This invariably leads to the advantage of adding new proposed sources of revenue for many operators. Third, networks such as these allow for fast deployment and visualized O&M to help operators reduce installation costs and network OPEX. This will mean a considerably large saving in manual labor and resources and a plausible likelihood of delivering increased ROI. Statistics showed that the 4G digital indoor networks are 4 to 10 times the unit-area traffic of the traditional networks. Meanwhile, the data of usage (DOU) can be 5 to 8 times that of the traditional networks with increased O&M efficiency at 30% higher or above. 5G-oriented digital mobile indoor networks will further lead to an expedited increase in DOU, coupled with a significant improvement in O&M efficiency. Therefore, we suggest that at their earliest opportunity operators immediately begin building 5G-oriented indoor networks using digital solutions. It is of great urgency that no time is spared and steps to realize this goal are quickly implemented.

Evolution toward 5G Network

Over the course of a smooth evolution to 5G, there are steps for operators to ultimately build fully comprehensive 5G indoor networks.

1) Build 5G-oriented indoor networks in this stage through digital indoor solutions. This helps ensure that the network architecture is ready for the evolution to 5G. This can also enable several 5G services (for example, eMBB and NB-IoT services) over existing networks to develop the 5G service behavior patterns of indoor users.

2) Integrate existing LTE networks and 5G NRs in the early 5G stages. It is safe to predict that 5G networks in the infancy stage will only serve in high-density locations where the existing LTE indoor networks are available for basic coverage. This is an intentional decision to help ensure a favorable service experience in both indoor and outdoor locations.

3) Build full-5G indoor networks when 5G terminals become completely universal and are able to provide superior 5G services.

Operators must make current indoor distributed network oriented towards 5G deployment to ensure a smooth evolution. Digital indoor networks satisfy the standards of both existing and future 5G network and are able to perfectly meet the needs of 4G, 4.5G, and 5G in terms of capacity, experience, O&M, and services. They can maximize ROI, and from our perspective, are an optimal and also an inevitable choice for the success of 5G.


Huawei is a sponsor of ThinkSmallCell. Read more about their small cell solutions at http://carrier.huawei.com/en/products/wireless-network/small-cell

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#1 Vinayak said: 
Excellent Crisp Article
0 Quote 2018-01-17 19:01
#2 Graham Payne said: 
Very good article and we very much share the vision that digital in-building systems are the future. There are of course lots of challenges to overcome not least Operators network teams who have grown, known and loved macro sites and tower rollout, changing the skill and mindset to be more in-building led is a huge one. The Huawei report of 65 to 90% of traffic being within a building and only 36% of users satisfied with in-building service aligns with previous reports we have seen. Then add to that a need for 100Mbps data rates and clearly the only way to do this is using digital in-building systems.

Multiple Operators approaching each landlord is going to be a challenge too, hence the need for neutral businesses to facilitate in a way similar to the Wifi model, either using shared spectrum or working with the Operators to provide service into each building.

For landlords and developers think of your building as an antenna, the smartest buildings need to be antenna first and digitally cabled from the outset.
0 Quote 2018-01-18 09:00
#3 Paul Rhodes said: 
Taking into consideration the demand for capacity, and Graham's comment about operator inertia, what are the Huawei shared / unlicensed spectrum plans - e.g. MuLTEfire and 5.8-6.2GHz to create an MNO-independent radio platform?
0 Quote 2018-01-29 16:30
#4 Paul Rhodes said: 
....and 3.8-4.2GHz for likely lightly-license d allocation.....
0 Quote 2018-01-29 19:43
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