September 29, 2021
When mobile operators spend more than $80 billion on something, you can bet they are expecting it to be an investment that pays off. Such is the case with C-band, which generated that much financial interest (and commitment) during the FCC’s mid-band spectrum auction. So, how do contactors – and by extension operators – ensure they get the maximum return on investment (ROI) for C-band? By ensuring those installations meet established key performance indicators (KPIs).
Why Such an Investment in C-band?
C-band (figure 1) has such appeal because it brings multiple benefits in many verticals and applications, particularly in 5G. It is part of Frequency Range 1 (FR1) and offers a good balance between coverage and high throughput. As part of 3GPP Release 15, three bands – n77, n78, and n79 – were identified for 5G operation in the C-band.
With 100 MHz of bandwidth, C-band can truly enable enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB) use cases for 5G. About 520 MHz of mid-band spectrum will be made available for future public and private 5G networks. A key consideration is that much of the spectrum, which is currently being used by different entities from the federal government to satellite services, needs to be cleared.
C-band Deployment Challenges
Contractors installing C-band base stations may have a different level of attention in terms of planning, deployment, and maintenance. Some key consideration for C-band deployment include spectrum clearance to identify the presence of unnecessary signals that may not have been cleared. Post network launch interference detection and interference hunting can be performed when an interference-related issue is identified.
Another interference-related concern is the effect of 5G base stations on the satellite receive bands. Advanced 5G features, such as massive MIMO and beam steering, deliver significant power and can potentially interfere and saturate the low noise block (LNB) downconverter of the satellite antenna system and cause interference. This is certainly possible if the C-band base stations are close to the satellite earth station. Therefore, it is important during the planning phase to understand the impact of towers on the satellite earth station.
Selecting the Best Partners
On first blush, it appears that contractors will need the proper test tools to successfully deploy C-band. It goes far beyond that, however. A true partner will provide a 360° solution that includes hardware, financial considerations, technical expertise, and support.
Trusted, Proven Solutions – Line sweep tests will be integral to proper installation of C-band. The integration of eCPRI and service level agreements (SLAs) for new mid-haul network elements for C-band mean fiber testing will be necessary. To meet timelines, reduce subsequent truck rolls, and ensure the network operates according to specification, contractors can’t leave anything to chance.
Anritsu has been the leader in line sweep testing for two decades and has launched a series of industry-firsts in OTDR technology. That position has served as the foundation for a new generation of field test solutions that meet the time, accuracy, and measurement capability necessary for C-band.
Additionally, that legacy has led to mobile operators specifying Anritsu equipment be used when testing base station deployment, installation, and maintenance. Failure to use operator-approved instruments results in not receiving payment for work done.
Financial Flexibility – Providing solutions that have proved their worth in the field is only half the story, however. The pandemic and associated economic impact have been felt by everyone in all industries, including contractors in the wireless space. For that reason, financial flexibility is necessary to offset the investment in personnel and test solutions to efficiently meet operator timelines and contract conditions.
Anritsu SmartPay™ is a test equipment acquisition program designed to give contractors purchasing power and flexibility that work within their budget. It protects cash flow, minimizes acquisition risk and, in some cases, allows payments to be treated as an operating expense.
Getting the Best ROI
Flexible financing helps improve cash flow and contributes to optimal ROI. There are other methods to help reap a strong financial payoff for the C-band investment.
Lowest Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) – Test solutions need to hold up to field applications and are built on flexible platforms so test capability can be expanded efficiently. One benefit of the Anritsu portfolio is that it has a track record of operation in the most rigorous environmental conditions. Each field solution is also designed to be easily expanded, as well as have intelligent measurement capability. The result is instruments that can be used for years, giving them a lower cost of ownership compared to other options.
Ease-of-Use – Field instruments should be easy to use and intuitive. Built-in measurements allows tests to be done with a few keystrokes. The result is field technicians of any experience level can conduct necessary measurements.
Certified Training – Given the probability that new staff will be brought on to accommodate C-band deployment projects, contractors will have greater confidence in testing if technicians are properly trained. Anritsu offers instructor-led courses and e-learning classes on all the key measurements to help prepare field technicians for the task at hand.
Mobile operators often require proof of Anritsu certification in awarding a contract, and verification that a certified representative was on-site during the deployment and installation. Therefore, scheduling certified training courses is essential for success and payment.
Efficient, Comprehensive Testing – Interference sweeps. Interference hunting. Passive Intermodulation (PIM). Delay and jitter. Packet or Frame loss. The test toolbox for contractors is full, due to this laundry list of measurements for C-band. Having a single-source instrument provider can streamline the purchase process while also help simplify field measurements for technicians, especially those with limited experience.
There also is the need for proper close-out reports. Apps and tools that allow close-out reports to be prepared, saved as pdf files, and sent to operators from the site location are available. Time and money are saved and operators have confidence that new C-band base stations have been installed according to specification.
Contact your Anritsu Sales Rep today for more information on Anritsu C-band solutions, from instruments to support and financing. You can also contact your representative to request a quote or get prequalified for financing.