Test and optimise LTE 450MHz, without handsets

How do you test and optimise LTE 450MHz, when there are no handsets on the market?

In December, Amr Ashraf, RAN and Software Solution Architect and Trainer at Digis Squared, gave us his insights into LTE 600MHz band and network optimisation. In this blog, he provides an update on the LTE 450MHz band, the commercial opportunities it enables, and how to overcome the impact on testing and network optimisation when there are no handsets available on the market.

The background: why use 400-450 MHz for telecoms?

Amr explains, “Communications in the 400-450 MHz band – also called ‘LTE 450MHz’ – have a longer wavelength, lower frequency, and lower energy than the frequencies used by 5G. They have favourable propagation characteristics, and deliver good coverage (and therefore lower infrastructure costs), along with better in-building penetration.”

Electromagnetic Spectrum, and LTE 400-450 MHz [1]

“Let’s think about how the characteristics of this band can be best commercially used in the telecom sector,

  • Coverage and capacity: Due to the physical properties of the frequencies involved, very good indoor penetration and coverage can be achieved with a small number of sites. Compared with higher bands, it requires a smaller number of base stations to give a broad reach, achieving significant economic benefits in covering large areas with a dispersed population.
    However, standardised equipment does not support channel bandwidths greater than 5 MHz. As a result, the 400 – 450 MHz band is ideal for networks with high coverage requirements but low to moderate capacity requirements – for example, it enables some very efficient commercial opportunities for low volumes of data sent by IoT devices in rural areas.
    Mainstream consumer devices do not include LTE 450MHz support (and are unlikely to do so at any point soon), so this band is also largely free of congestion. It, therefore, has the potential to be used to offload M2M traffic away from premium frequency bands – leaving more capacity for lucrative, higher-margin consumer services on those premium bands.
  • High security of radio sites is economically feasible due to the small number of sites needed. As a result, LTE 450 MHz networks can be designed to deliver far higher reliability levels than higher frequency networks. Example application: as fewer sites can be more economically physically secured, a long-lasting battery backup can be deployed.
  • Private Networks: With its high coverage, but modest capacity capabilities, LTE 450MHz is not suitable for mass-market communication. Instead, we expect this band to be mostly used for essential services by PAMR (Public Access Mobile Radio) networks in the B2B and B2G segments.
  • Security: Since sensitive applications have high-security requirements, stand-alone networks that run independently and have no direct links to public networks or the internet are essential.”

History of 400MHz & telecoms

“Use of the 400-470 MHz band varies widely globally. Even within one Regulatory geography, its use is fragmented, being allocated to many different users and technologies in non-contiguous blocks – often including civil and military applications across business, maritime, amateur, aeronautical, fixed link and public sector radio.”

Illustrating diversity and fragmentation of current UK 420-470MHz spectrum, by user (frequency/bandwidth not to scale), March 2021 [2]

“Between neighbouring regulatory regions, historically there has been little alignment across borders, which can lead to interference issues. This is starting to change! Within Europe for example, CEPT (European Conference of Postal and Telecommunications) manages recommendations on how frequencies are used, and supports coordination agreements with neighbouring countries. Lack of alignment on frequency use adds to the complexity of developing equipment compliant with the needs of divergent territories, for example, UK and EU.”

“Historically, some parts of the world assigned 450 MHz band to analog mobile, and then later adopted for CDMA. Once widely used around the world, a mature ecosystem still exists for CDMA technology, but it is now heading towards the end of its lifecycle.”

“Since 2019, these very low frequencies have gained interest in Europe especially around their use in 4G-based LTE networks for IoT and critical communications, including PMR, thanks to their excellent propagation characteristics, making them particularly useful for delivering coverage over long distances in rural areas.”

“Standardisation and operationalisation of this technology has been a focal point for the 450 MHz Alliance for years, with LTE becoming the natural and future-proof successor, particularly for IoT. The members of the 450 MHz Alliance are driving the creation of a new mobile ecosystem and bringing together carriers, spectrum owners as well as equipment, terminal and solution vendors to drive the development of mobile networks in the 450 MHz frequency band worldwide.”

Standardisation has been progressed by the international telecoms standards body, 3GPP RAN, which approved two new bands in the 400 MHz+ frequency range at its 84th Plenary Meeting (3rd-6th June, 2019 in Newport Beach, California),

  • Band 87, uplink 410-415 MHz and downlink 420-425 MHz
  • Band 88, uplink 412-417 MHz and downlink 422-427 MHz

“This was a significant step forward in the 400 MHz band’s harmonized production of chipsets, modules, devices, and network equipment. Bands 31, 72, and 73, which are located between 450 and 470 MHz, were also specified by 3GPP RAN in previous years,” Amr explained.

A complete picture of the 400 MHz frequency range [3]

“Band 450MHz is limited to a maximum 5 MHz channel size, the maximum practical due to the 450 MHz band’s large wavelength. The band supports up to a 5 MHz carrier in 2×2, providing up to 37 Mb/s of total channel capacity and connectivity beyond 100 kilometres.”

At the end of 2020, the 450 MHz Alliance reported that there were 125 devices supporting 450 MHz (Band 31, 0% of which were phones). Network deployment stats were reported for 380MHz, 410MHz and 450MHz combined: 74 countries globally, with consultations underway in a further 13 countries. [4]

B31 450 MHz LTE coverage prediction, Halberd Bastion [5]

Commercial deployments

“The 400MHz spectrums have a low frequency and wide coverage range, making them commercially suitable for SCADA, LV tracking, smart grids, water monitoring, and remote installations in substations for many IoT/M2M applications.”

“An example of such a commercial use case is found in the four German electricity transmission system operators, who have recently made a case for the energy sector to be allocated 450 MHz LTE mobile radio bands. To address the challenge of incorporating millions of new decentralised producers and users into the grid, such as electric cars and heat pumps, while retaining network reliability, they propose using 450 MHz LTE bands, and compare it the implementation already in place for emergency services who use LTE-capable frequency bands (eg, 700 MHz).” [6]

“In Ireland, ESB Networks have already successfully acquired the rights for 2x 4MHz of spectrum in Band 87 of 410MHz, to facilitate “transformation to a low carbon electricity system through smart technologies” and help it “deliver a more secure, reliable and sustainable electricity network.” [7]

“Additionally, 2020 saw the launch of the first LTE 450MHz Cat1 NB-IoT smart meters, utilizing the in-building penetration, lower network operating communication costs that 450MHz LTE brings to address this large commercial opportunity.” [8]

“For the first time, M2M applications for PMR/PAMR use cases, such as those for operators of critical infrastructure in electricity, transportation, and health, presented a forecast on volumes in the millions, if not tens of millions. This has provided the catalyst the major chipset and module vendors needed to commit to 450 MHz. Additionally, dedicated 450 MHz push-to-talk phones enable voice and community communication, providing a highly resilient solution for emergency communications.”

Virtual Access GW2300 Series [9]. Industrial routers like this deliver LTE throughput speeds over the B87 410MHz frequency spectrum.

Several European countries have recently allocated spectrum in the 410–430 MHz range to essential communications by Electricity Grid Operators or PPDR (Ireland, Poland, Czech Republic).

As Amr explains, “These ongoing actions at standardisation bodies, in tandem with the work of commercial companies such as the power transmission businesses in Germany, and device manufacturers, will definitely boost ecosystem development in this frequency range. We are seeing more and more interest in this technology to efficiently and reliably deliver IoT communications, both in-buildings and rural areas.”

How do you test in the LTE 400MHz-450MHz band?

“Given the absence of mobile handset support for this band currently, traditional network testing and optimisation solutions will struggle to be able to test in this band,” explains Amr. “However, at Digis Squared, the INOS IoT kits already support LTE 450MHz, as they utilise Quectel BG95-M4 chipsets.”

Developed in-house by Digis Squared, INOS is an intelligent, automated testing, benchmarking and analysis platform for network operators and service providers, delivering drive testing (DT), in-building solution (IBS) capability, end to end IoT system testing, and much more, whilst decreasing both the time taken to complete the work and opex cost.

“We are therefore able to immediately support clients who wish to test and optimise LTE 450MHz IoT implementations, as well as CSPs who wish to ensure their network is fully optimised, or want to include this frequency in their drive testing and IBS assessments.”

In conversation with Amr Ashraf, Digis Squared 5G & LTE RAN & Software Solution Architect, and Trainer.

LTE 450MHz optimisation & INOS

Our team can help yours with,

  • Support or consultation on how to deploy, test or re-farm LTE 450 MHz frequencies
  • LTE 450MHz optimisation
  • Using INOS in your network deployment or benchmarking

Please get in touch: use this link or email sales@DigisSquared.com .

Discover more about INOS, and INOS for 5G.

Keep up to speed with company updates, product launches and our quarterly newsletter, sign up here.

Digis Squared, independent telecoms expertise.



  • B2B: Business to Business
  • B2G: Business to Government
  • CSP: communications service provider
  • CEPT: European Conference of Postal and Telecommunications
  • DT: drive testing
  • IBS: in-building solution
  • INOS: Intelligent Network Optimisation Solution, a Digis Squared tool
  • LV: low voltage
  • M2M: machine to machine communications
  • PAMR: Public Access Mobile Radio
  • PMR: Private Mobile Radio
  • PPDR: Public Protection and Disaster Relief radio
  • SCADA: Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition, system of software and hardware elements that measure and monitor data in real-time, and control equipment, usually automatically, remotely.

Image credits: Karsten Würth, windmills at Biedesheim, Germany.

Digis Squared joins Intel Network Builders

Yasser Elsabrouty, Digis Squared Co-Founder and System Integration Business Unit Director announced, “We are delighted to collaborate with Intel, and become a Partner within the Intel Network Builders ecosystem program, as we work together to deliver optimised world-class telecom network solutions.”

“Digis Squared joins Intel Network Builders ecosystem program and brings with it the deep experience and expertise of the Digis Squared team in ultra-reliable network configuration and optimisation. In addition to our commercial work on virtual network enhancements, our system integration capabilities are a great fit with Intel’s objective to create world-changing technology that enriches the lives of every person on earth. As the pandemic has brought into sharp focus, our ability to collaborate internationally, and nurture the health and well-being of colleagues, friends and family, relies on strong and reliable mobile network communications.”

In conversation with Yasser Elsabrouty, Digis Squared Co-Founder and Director of System Integration Business Unit.

To learn more about how the Digis Squared team can help you with multi-vendor network optimisation, reliable infrastructure configuration and more, please use this link or email sales@DigisSquared.com.

Keep up to speed with company updates, product launches and our quarterly newsletter, sign up here.

Digis Squared, independent telecoms expertise.

About Intel® Network Builders

The Intel® Network Builders ecosystem program accelerates network transformation by connecting all of the players that are driving new solutions to the market, including service providers, end users, infrastructure, software and technology vendor.

The ecosystem offers members technical support technology training, technology matchmaking, co-marketing opportunities and more. These programs help companies to optimally utilize Intel technologies in their solutions, and facilitate joint collaboration.

There are now over 400 Ecosystem Partners.

Image credit: the Intel® Network Builders logo and graphics are copyright and trademark Intel.

The “digis2” logo is copyright and trademark Digis Squared Limited.

Digis-One ◦ Unified Fault Management for multi-vendor, multi-technology networks

Why do telecom networks need a Unified Fault Management solution?

Digis-One is a Unified Fault Management (UFM) solution, delivering multi-vendor and multi-technology carrier-grade capability for telecom SOC (Service Operations Centres) and NOC (Network Operations Centres). But why is it needed?

Mobile networks today are a patchwork of systems, with solutions from multiple-vendors, becoming more complex as layers of IoT and 5G capability are added – the result of decades of commercial decisions, technology availability, and technical strategies. As the telecom sector is inherently defined by international standards, this mix-and-match approach should deliver a coherent system, but there are some critical elements which struggle to work together.

Network Operations Centre (NOC) engineers need to undertake fault and performance management activities, in addition to routine, repetitive tasks: fault detection, events enrichment, impact analysis and trouble ticketing creation – and all of this is undertaken manually.

A smart Unified Fault Management solution (UFM) is crucial to unify and automate all fault management activities.

Finding and resolving sub-optimal performance issues is often more complex than fault resolution. Improving performance in one system may create a knock-on consequence to another, which may not appear immediately, and may slowly creep before it triggers an alarm. When NOC teams have to log in to multiple, discrete NMS to view each component, it is impossible for them to assess the full picture.

“AI, 5G and automation are the key technologies driving digital transformation”

Source: EY (1)

Digis-One – UFM

A multi-vendor and multi-technology carrier-grade solution, used by Service or Network Operations Centers (SOC/NOC), focusing on fault management unification across all network and IT nodes.

The Digis Squared team have combined their knowledge of network failure occurrence mechanisms and resolution procedures, and our AI and automation skills, to develop Digis-One – a single consistent interface into all the Network and IT nodes in your network, with intelligent troubleshooting and optimisation.

“Digis-One intelligently assesses the data from all the Network and IT nodes it’s connected to. Using automated rules, root cause is identified against a library of recommended actions and troubleshooting steps, thereby overcoming native compatibility issues.”

Yasser ElSabrouty, Co-Founder, and Director of Sales & Business Development ME & Africa

See the full picture

Digis-One delivers,

  • One platform: rich, intuitive web interface, with a fully customisable single view.
  • Technology: all system components are Cloud Native Computing Foundation certified with a mesh of micro-services components.
  • Agility: setup can be changed on the fly, no loss of service with its static predefined load balancing rules.
  • Automation: fully-fledged library of “Generic / Vendor-specific” correlation and automation rules, network alarms, plus their recommended actions, and all troubleshooting steps pre-loaded. RPA ensures faults are consistently identified and swiftly resolved, minimising failure recovery time. Additionally, stable services outside standard working hours can be achieved by automating network operations and monitoring.
  • Cost efficiency: efficient system architecture and a single interface = simplified operations, administration and maintenance.  Efficiency also increases customer satisfaction due to prompt network failure response, which in turn helps retain customers and improve brand image.

Additional Digis-One benefits include,

  • Rapid integration, and elastic scalability: as components continue to be added to your network, the additional NMS they come with can be easily integrated into Digis-One.
  • Alarm grouping and pivoting
  • AutoPilot: the first step towards zero-touch operation
  • Commercially deployed: now.

Ensuring your network works

As mobile networks are enhanced with IoT, edge-computing and 5G, the ever-increasing complexity of fault management, demands that AI and automation are used to swiftly help your teams identify and resolve faults, and optimise network performance. Now more than ever, ensure your network works.

Digis Squared, independent telecoms expertise.

This blog post is also available as a stand-alone white paper.

To discuss how Digis-One can help your business, please use this link or email sales@DigisSquared.com to arrange a convenient time for an informal conversation.

Keep up to speed with company updates, product launches and our quarterly newsletter, sign up here.



  • CSP: Communications Service Providers
  • IoT: Internet of Things
  • NOC: Network Operations Centre
  • NMS: Network Management System
  • SOC: Service Operations Centre
  • UFM: Unified Fault Management

Image credits: Nathan Bang (patchwork), Jackson David (telecoms tower)

LTE 600MHz ◦ Network benchmarking & optimisation with INOS

The background: why is the 600MHz band being used for LTE?

Mobile data usage continues to grow throughout the world, and the pandemic has massively impacted forecasts and expectations, causing telecom operators and CSPs to bring forward their deployment decisions.

“The limited amount of spectrum available below 1 GHz will ultimately run out of capacity. This puts mobile broadband at risk in emerging markets, rural areas and inside buildings. Therefore, long-term
planning is key to enable countries to offer great mobile services for everyone.”

GSMA, October 2019

So what can be done to identify more spectrum for mobile broadband? Countries working on the digital TV switchover can consider including 600MHz for mobile broadband. North America is leading the way – USA auctions were completed in April 2017, Canada in April 2019, and Mexico in 2020!

GSMA [1]

600MHz LTE benefits

We asked Amr Ashraf, RAN and Software Solution Architect and Trainer at Digis Squared, to give us his insights into LTE 600MHz band.

“Over the last couple of years we’ve been starting to hear about the deployment of very low band for mobile communication.  Now, we have commercial networks working on one of the most important low bands, 600MHz.”

Halberd Bastion [2]: Band 71 600 MHz LTE coverage prediction

“600MHz is likely to need about 0.8 cells to cover the same area as a 700MHz cell. So 600MHz will be excellent for providing coverage over a given area. And, as an added bonus, the 600MHz signal is likely to penetrate most buildings – great for indoor coverage.”

“Ideally, an operator will have a selection of low band (600MHz, 700MHz and 90MHz) spectrum to provide wide coverage and in-building coverage together with higher bands (1.8GHz, 2.1/2.6GHz, etc.) to provide capacity at specific locations with small cells, including in-building distributed antenna systems. The trick is in deploying the bands efficiently and economically to meet the market needs.”

… and issues

“On other hand, I don’t think that the 600MHz band will be that useful for 5G implementation, as we can’t use all the new transmission techniques with a low band like Massive MIMO.”

“In order for MIMO to work effectively, the antennas need to be spatially separated such that they are uncorrelated. And, the lower the band, the larger the antenna and the required separation between them. At the 600MHz band, it would be incredibly difficult to physically fit more than two uncorrelated antennas inside handsets, given their current sizing. Our calculations therefore assume that 5G and 4G in the 600MHz band will only make use of 2×2 MIMO.”

“There will be some problems to be faced in the reallocation of systems currently utilising this band, like DTV, and also some wireless devices like MICs. However, 600MHz LTE will be one of the most important bands during the next 10 years for full 4G coverage, particularly for rural areas.”

What problems are encountered deploying the 600MHZ band?

With any new network deployment, testing and optimisation are vital to ensure network performance, and also address any inadvertent impacts on existing networks. Whilst a limited number of activities can be undertaken centrally, drive testing, and in-building testing are critical to understanding the real customer experience in the field.

Developed in-house by Digis Squared, INOS is an intelligent, automated testing, benchmarking and analysis platform for network operators and service providers, delivering drive testing (DT), in-building solution (IBS) capability, and much more, whilst decreasing both the time taken to complete the work and opex cost.

Using cloud-controlled mobiles mounted in cars or taken around buildings, INOS collects and uploads data to the cloud, and eliminates the need for a laptop or engineers in the car, or out and about inside buildings. INOS can receive updated test scripts in the field to instantly re-analyse live network configuration changes, avoiding expensive follow-up field trips. It minimises the sometimes chaotic nature of drive tests, and ensures your staff can work alone at Covid-19 safe distances.

One of the key issues with any drive testing tool, such as INOS, is that there are very few mobile phones available for drive testing in this 600MHz LTE frequency, and where there are, drive test solutions don’t use them.

The good news: uniquely, INOS supports LTE 600MHz band

The Digis Squared team have extensively tested a large range of mobile phones, and the best-performing mobile in the LTE 600MHz band that we have found so far is the Google Pixel 5.

After detailed testing in specific locations where 600MHz LTE is in the live network, our teams have found a significant enhancement in capability using this device in our testing portfolio.

Digis Squared’s INOS tool assessing LTE 600MHz band: Coverage (RSRP)
Digis Squared’s INOS tool assessing LTE 600MHz band: Quality (SINR)
Digis Squared’s INOS tool assessing LTE 600MHz band: MIMO performance (spatial rank)
Digis Squared’s INOS tool assessing LTE 600MHz band: Internet speed (DL PDCP throughput)

LTE 600MHz optimisation with INOS

We’ve already started drive testing this capability with live networks. If you or your team would like to discover more about LTE 600MHz optimisation, or how INOS can help you in your network deployment or benchmarking, please get in touch: use this link or email sales@DigisSquared.com to arrange an informal chat.

In conversation with Amr Ashraf, Digis Squared 5G & LTE RAN & Software Solution Architect, and Trainer.

Digis Squared, independent telecoms expertise.

Keep up to speed with company updates, product launches and our quarterly newsletter, sign up here.


  1. GSMA
  2. Halberd Bastion
  3. For more information about INOS, click here.


  • CSP: communications service provider
  • DT: drive testing
  • DTV: digital TV
  • IBS: in-building solution
  • INOS: Intelligent Network Optimisation Solution, a Digis Squared tool
  • MICs: wireless microphones
  • MIMO: multiple-input and multiple-output. A method for multiplying the capacity of a radio link using multiple transmission and receiving antennas to exploit multipath propagation.

Image credit: Gurwinder Singh

Dubai ◦ New office to support business expansion in the Middle East

In conversation with CEO Ziad Khalil, and CCO Mohamed Hamdy, we discuss the new Dubai office.

This latest expansion comes as part of a year of solid business growth at Digis Squared, despite the difficult circumstances 2020 has brought with it. Digis Squared’s London HQ, and Technology & Customer Support Centre in Cairo now have over 150 staff, with additional staff in-country working alongside clients in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

Ziad and Mohamed share insights into this new investment, and how this milestone fits into our business expansion plans.

“Thanks to the confidence clients in the Middle East have shown in us, we are pleased to announce that we have opened offices in Dubai.”

Ziad Khalil, Digis Squared Co-Founder & CEO

With business continuing to expand in the Middle East, the new office space in Dubai will be a regional hub, and ensure that the growing Digis Squared UAE team has a Covid-19 secure space to meet clients, and collaborate in-person safely.

“2020 has been a very busy year for the Digis Squared team,” Ziad explains. “We have worked with our clients to address massive changes in mobile network demand caused by the pandemic, re-dimensioning and optimising network performance. Our staff have worked incredibly flexibly, adapting swiftly to remote working and finding new ways to collaborate virtually with our clients. Now our teams are increasingly addressing 5G technology deployment projects, vendor changes and O-RAN introductions, particularly in the Middle East.”

“This has been a tough year – difficult, busy, but for our business, ultimately successful”, Mohamed shared with us. “Our team has restlessly supported customers during this difficult time to ensure the demand for mobile communications could be met. In parallel, we have invested heavily in our in-house AI tools and new innovations this year, especially in 5G and VoLTE, and extended the expertise we have in these fields. Now, here comes the harvest, with more clients entrusting us to be their telecom services partner of choice, resulting in the opening of our new Regional Office in Dubai.”

“With this investment in our new office in Dubai, Digis Squared is reinforcing its commitments to clients in the city and across the region. It will ensure excellent facilities for our local team who are busy supporting new and extended contracts, particularly in the Gulf Region,” Ziad added. “Looking forward to 2021, this location is well situated to support our business expansion and growing presence in the region. This investment strengthens the local support and capabilities we can deliver to our clients and staff, and demonstrates our commitment to them.”

“2020 has reinforced for all of us the value of communication and collaboration. Thank you to our customers and partners, for the trust you have placed in us, from all at the Digis Squared team.”

Mohamed Hamdy, Digis Squared CCO

In conversation with Ziad Khalil, Digis Squared Co-Founder & CEO and Mohamed Hamdy, CCO.

Can we help you? Please contact us via this link or email sales@DigisSquared.com to arrange an informal conversation.

Keep up to speed with company updates, product launches and our quarterly newsletter, sign up here.

Digis Squared, telecoms expertise when you need it.

Image credit: Robert Bock

Digis Squared joins TIP, Telecom Infra Project


Amr Maged, Digis Squared Co-Founder and Chief Strategy Officer announced, “We are proud to join the international Telecom Infra Project, whose members are working together to drive infrastructure solutions and advance global connectivity. This vital collaborative work will ensure that everyone benefits from the best possible communications – something we have all become acutely aware of at this time when so many people around the world can not physically meet with family, friends, work colleagues and clients.”

“We firmly believe in the importance of high quality, national and international connectivity. Digis Squared was formed to help our clients resolve the complex issues which often arise when a patchwork of solutions from multiple vendors is deployed. Today, our O-RAN work with clients is showing a very strong market demand for improved, flexible inter-connectivity, and we are confident that telecoms infrastructure solutions will grow stronger, and more quickly with the collaboration of the TIP community.”

In conversation with Amr Maged, Digis Squared Co-Founder & CSO.

If you would like to learn more about how the Digis Squared team can help you with network optimisation, OpenRAN and more, please use this link or email sales@DigisSquared.com to arrange an informal chat.

Keep up to speed with company updates, product launches and our quarterly newsletter, sign up here.

Digis Squared, independent telecoms expertise.

About the Telecom Infra Project (TIP)

The Telecom Infra Project (TIP) is a global community of companies and organizations that are driving infrastructure solutions to advance global connectivity. Half of the world’s population is still not connected to the internet, and for those who are, connectivity is often insufficient. This limits access to the multitude of consumer and commercial benefits provided by the internet, thereby impacting GDP growth globally. However, a lack of flexibility in the current solutions – exacerbated by a limited choice in technology providers – makes it challenging for operators to efficiently build and upgrade networks. Founded in 2016, TIP is a community of diverse members that includes hundreds of companies – from service providers and technology partners, to systems integrators and other connectivity stakeholders. We are working together to develop, test and deploy open, disaggregated, and standards-based solutions that deliver the high quality connectivity that the world needs – now and in the decades to come. Find out more: www.telecominfraproject.com


  • O-RAN & Open RAN: via standardised radio interfaces and interoperability, hardware and software components from multiple vendors operate over network interfaces that are “open and interoperable”
  • TIP: Telecom Infra Project

Image credit: the TIP logo and graphics are copyright and trademark TIP. The “digis2” logo is copyright and trademark Digis Squared Limited.

Technology sunset ◦ Navigating a route from legacy networks to the future

In conversation with Digis Squared CTO, Abdulrahman Fady, we discuss mobile network technology sunset issues and opportunities.

As 5G rollouts gather pace globally, and new technology deployments continue their unstoppable march, many networks are also grappling with what to do about legacy technologies. In 1991 Radiolinja launched 2G in Finland, and 2001 brought the first 3G launch, achieved by NTT DoCoMo in Japan – both network technologies are still in active commercial use around the world, but for how much longer?

Abdulrahman Fady, CTO at Digis Squared, has worked in the technology sector for more than 20 years, and joined Digis Squared in 2018. In this blog post he shares his analysis of mobile network migration strategy and implementation in the context of network technology sunset issues and opportunities.

“Spectrum resources are finite, and operators wanting to launch new technologies need to either license new spectrum, if available, or re-allocate spectrum used for 2G and 3G. In most regions now re-allocation is the only option.”

“These old legacy technologies, 2G and 3G, they’ve been around for so long, that it’s tempting to think you could just switch them off and re-allocate the spectrum when utilisation drops below a certain threshold. But these old technologies continue to serve some really important markets. Firstly, low-income families often utilise older handsets which can only connect to 2G or 3G networks, and these provide a vital connection to the internet and mobile apps, across all geographic regions. These older handsets also tend to be simpler – appreciated by elderly users who don’t seek the complexity of smartphones.”

“And secondly, IoT. Early IoT deployments are often limited to only being able to connect to 2G or 3G networks, and physical replacement in many IoT use cases is frequently prohibitively expensive or geographically difficult.”

But some networks have already decommissioned their 2G networks – particularly Singapore, New Zealand and Australia. How did they achieve that?

“In Australia and New Zealand it’s the MNOs which have driven their 2G shut down. A low number of 2G M2M customers and the relative wealth of their consumer customers has mitigated most of their risks, but care still needs to be taken in this type of situation. If you are the first operator in a territory to switch off the old legacy network, you effectively force the churn of those 2G-only customers who won’t or can’t upgrade to your competitors – and so if you’re the last operator to switch off your 2G network, you might well have “acquired” all the low ARPU, low margin 2G consumers and IoT connections. Depending on the region, the regulator may intervene to force the maintenance of a rationalised legacy network, with lower capacity and coverage for low demand but critical IoT infrastructure, and vulnerable low income groups.”

“Other Asian countries have worked with regulator-led projects to decommission 2G, and reallocate network spectrum. But the commercial elements of these projects are not easy: M2M migration costs had to be negotiated in Singapore, New Zealand had to facilitate individual migrations, and continue to support a million smart meter connections.”

There are other commercial impacts too. “Mini-links and other microwave services on base stations were able to handle voice-only 2G and 3G demand, but when 2G and particularly 3G services are switched-off this drives an increase in demand for backbone services, and this in turn reduces the need for tower services, backhaul and transmission services.”

“In Europe, conversely, 3G networks are being turned off first, as there are a greater number of legacy M2M connections in the territory. These 3G devices can default down to the earlier 2G technology – a fallback strategy initially conceived to address coverage issues when 3G first launched, is now helping the more advanced technology become obsolete earlier!”

Partnering for change

“Whenever a network is switched off, the impacts on the remaining technologies will be considerable,” Abdulrahman explains. “Typically the switch off is more of a switch-over, as cell capacity is first reduced and then de-commissioned. Re-balancing and optimisation of the network loads is active and ongoing throughout the transition process, being undertaken with care to achieve minimum disruption. Working with strong, experienced partners in both the strategy and implementation phases, who can flexibly handle projects as unexpected issues arise, is crucial. Add multi-vendor network components into the mix, and the benefits of working with staff who have experience across all vendors and technologies can be vital to achieving a smooth network migration.”


“Whilst technology sunsets can initially seem complex, with careful consideration and planning, the process will deliver considerable benefits. The new network technologies reduce power usage and carbon footprint, and deliver enhanced speed, bandwidth and security. And, as day follows night, it is inevitable – it’s always better to be prepared and ready to make the most of the opportunity a new day brings!”

In conversation with Abdulrahman Fady, Digis Squared CTO.

Discover more

If you would like to learn more about how the Digis Squared team can help you with technology sunset and 5G strategy, deployment or optimisation, please use this link or email sales@DigisSquared.com to arrange an informal chat.

Keep up to speed with company updates, product launches and our quarterly newsletter, sign up here.

Digis Squared, independent telecoms expertise.



  • CAT-M1: see LTE-M.
  • NB-IoT: Narrowband Internet of Things. One of two data networking technologies available on 4G (the other is LTE-M, aka CAT-M1). Intended for narrow band (250 kbps) low power data applications and does not support voice communications.
  • LTE-M: LTE Machine Type Communication. Also known as Cat-M1. One of two data networking technologies available on 4G (the other is NB-IoT). Provides considerably higher bandwidth (1Mbps), supports voice and full mobility.

Image credit: Quino Al

5G ◦ Why is it so complex to deploy?

In conversation with Digis Squared CTO AbdulRahman Fady, we explore some of the complexities and opportunities.

5G is a hot topic, with new handsets coming to market, and networks expanding globally. Abdulrahman Fady, CTO at Digis Squared, has worked in the technology sector for more than 20 years, and in this blog post he shares his views on how the deployment of this latest generation of telecom technologies will bring new problems to solve, and new opportunities to grasp.

So please share with us Abdulrahman, why is 5G so complex to deploy?

“By 2025, 5G networks are likely to cover one-third of the world’s population.”

Source: GSMA [1]

5G rollout, complexity and issues

“Everyone is talking about 5G and how important it is for the ICT industry. Deploying 5G will change and benefit our societies, however, to deliver the real benefits of 5G a lot of challenges need to be addressed, starting with infrastructure and security, and expanding across all spheres into people culture and anthropology, and far from the expertise and competencies of the average ICT engineer.”

“I don’t think this will be an easy journey! It will be a really tough but exciting journey, where people have to learn how to implement adequate automation and AI techniques to make use of the data 5G delivers – it simply won’t be possible to assess the volume of data without AI. Technically, I believe there will be a strong competition between legacy RAN vendors and O-RAN vendors as they compete for market leadership – this will deliver benefits for operators and CSPs, and drive innovation and identification of new efficiencies.”

5G & IoT: “many of its technical capabilities have been designed with Industry 4.0 applications in mind:

  • Ultra-Reliable Low Latency Communication (URLLC) is vital for real-time communications between machines
  • Greater bandwidth and support for higher device density enables use cases that generate more data traffic and host a greater number of devices or sensors
  • Network slicing allows virtual separation of networks, enhancing security and reliability
  • Mobile Edge Computing allows critical network functionality to be retained at the edge, further enhancing resilience and operational continuity”
Source: GSMA [2]

“In the field of IIoT and C-IoT, I think there will be a lot of new ideas generated as nerds and ICT people get their hands on 5G tech. As these different approaches come together – the nerds exploring what the new tech and new devices can do, and ICT staff searching for solutions to address specific issues – they will bounce ideas of each other, and there will be real energy and dynamism as they race to bring new innovations to market.”

“5G will be a huge opportunity for the big cloud providers like Amazon, Google and Microsoft to change the way MNOs work, delivering massive real-time analysis capability, new opportunities for collaborative international teams to work together, system resilience and efficiency.”

“However, it’s not all good news! I think 5G security will be a showstopper in many countries, limiting the deployment of all its functions in some places. These issues will in turn bring great opportunities for third parties and SIs to play a far bigger role in the ICT ecosystem.”

The biggest issue

“But do you want to know the biggest issue I see? The number one challenge limiting 5G spreading swiftly worldwide, and blocking the real benefits of 5G deployments, is the complexity of handsets, the UEs and terminals.”

MIMO (Multiple Input Multiple Output) “MIMO has been used in wireless communications for a long time now — it’s common for both mobile devices and networks to have multiple antennas to enhance connectivity and offer better speeds and user experiences. MIMO algorithms come into play to control how data maps into antennas and where to focus energy in space. Both network and mobile devices need to have tight coordination among each other to make MIMO work.”

Source: Qualcomm [3]

5G uses Massive MIMO and expands on the existing MIMO systems, by adding a much higher number of antennas on the base station – this helps focus energy, which brings massive improvements in throughput and efficiency. As well as all the additional antennas, both the network and mobile devices implement more complex designs to coordinate MIMO operations.

  • 5G utilises different parts of the radio spectrum to deliver performance, capacity and coverage
  • mmWave spectrum: best for dense urban areas and crowded indoor environments. Doesn’t travel very far, so an array of antennas is used for beamforming, which concentrates the radio energy to extend the range.
  • sub-6 GHz spectrum: best for broad 5G coverage and capacity with faster, more uniform data rates both outdoors and indoors for more users, simultaneously.

“5G handsets are super-sophisticated: they need to support Massive MIMO techniques, along with beamforming, sub-6GHZ bands, and mmWave for mobile. Designing all of this to work together is putting real pressure on antenna and RF designs – and then the ultimate challenge, physically fitting all of this into a beautiful handset design!”

“And if that’s not complex enough, we all expect our mobile devices to have incredibly efficient batteries, and yet remain small and lightweight, and deliver performance enhancements across 4G, 3G and GSM. You need very strong modems and processors deployed inside 5G handsets – and all of this in addition to the complexity 5G adds to software, OS and Kernel layers. That’s why it is not an easy job to deliver high-end 5G handsets!”


“There are many challenges, opportunities and battles to come as 5G rollout continues, and it will also create real opportunities and big returns if you have positioned yourself and your company right within the ecosystem.”

In conversation with Abdulrahman Fady, Digis Squared CTO

If you would like to learn more about how the Digis Squared team can help you with 5G strategy, deployment or optimisation, please use this link or email sales@DigisSquared.com to arrange an informal chat.

Keep up to speed with company updates, product launches and our quarterly newsletter, sign up here.

Digis Squared, independent telecoms expertise.



  • C-IoT: Consumer Internet of Things (typically, consumer devices and applications in the consumer electronics space such as smartwatches or smart thermostats)
  • CSP: Communications Service Providers
  • ICT: Information and communications technology
  • IIoT: Industrial Internet of Things (interconnected sensors, instruments, and other devices networked together with computers’ industrial applications, including manufacturing and energy management)
  • Massive MIMO: a set of multiple-input and multiple-output technologies for multipath wireless communication, in which multiple users or terminals, each radioing over one or more antennas, communicate with one another.
  • O-RAN: Open RAN – via standardised radio interfaces and interoperability, hardware and software components from multiple vendors operate over network interfaces that are “open and interoperable”
  • SIs: System Integrators
  • URLLC: Ultra-Reliable Low Latency Communication

Image credit: Denys Nevozhai

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AbdulRahman Fady, Digis Squared CTO

New 5G capability

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Now more than ever, test and optimise your 5G network.

To discuss how our independent tools and vendor-agnostic expertise can help your business, please use this link or email sales@DigisSquared.com to arrange an informal chat.

Keep up to speed with company updates, product launches and our quarterly newsletter, sign up here.

Digis Squared, independent telecoms expertise.


  • CSP: Communications Service Providers
  • INOS: Intelligent Network Optimisation Solution, one of Digis Squared’s AI-led automated tools.
  • MNO: Mobile Network Operator
  • OpenRAN: via standardised radio interfaces and interoperability, hardware and software components from multiple vendors operate over network interfaces that are “open and interoperable”
  • QoE: Quality of Experience
  • QoS: Quality of Service

Image credit: Tim Trad