Digis Squared’s team complete INOS migration from local on-premises deployment to first cloud-based installation enabling “Radio Testing as a Service”, with Intel® Xeon® Gold 6338N Processor, in the Intel Lab.
Thanks to membership of Intel Network Builders, work undertaken in the Intel Lab has enabled the Digis Squared team to run INOS over the Intel® Xeon® Gold 6338N processor, in the first cloud-based installation of INOS. This work is the first step in our assessment of INOS as a cloud-based solution with Intel processors. Further work is planned with the Intel Lab team assessing other enhanced processors and benchmarking performance enhancement.
Yasser Elsabrouty, Digis Squared Chief Business Officer and Co-Founder said, “Thanks to Intel Network Builders and membership of Intel Winners Circle, INOS is now providing Radio Testing automation over the cloud, enabling “Radio Testing as a Service” over private or public cloud. The cognitive testing tool can seamlessly manage large amounts of data in a multi-tenant environment, providing full automation and real-time reporting.”
“Delivering INOS Testing as a Service over the cloud will increase efficiency, convenience and scalability, delivering the instant capability to run thousands of radio network tests from anywhere, anytime, in combination with smart automation, real-time reports and KPI deviation alerts. Digis Squared’s cognitive INOS tool just became a whole lot smarter!”
Running 25 INOS Radio Field Tests in the Intel Lab, the following enhancements were measured, and benefits observed,
1. Increased cores & threads
The Intel® Xeon® Gold 6338N processor enabled Digis Squared to setup 2 or more parallel INOS containers serving two (o more) different customer accounts. In the field, this extra capability enabled by the Intel® Xeon® Gold 6338N processor would mean that,
More copies of INOS modules can run together in parallel, providing higher processing capability
Lower response time and faster handling for APIs and web requests
Duplicating INOS running modules presents high availability
When assessing response time across all 25 tests, the results show that the Intel® Xeon® Gold 6338N easily handles the volume of data as data payload increases x2.5 over the 25 tests.
2. Max Turbo Frequency: the INOS platform receives high traffic bursts periodically, due to the nature of telecoms. The increased max turbo frequency of the Intel Xeon processor empowers INOS to handle these bursts without any probability of outage.
3. Intel® Turbo Boost Technology 2.0 Frequency: Increases the capability of INOS to receive big sudden bursts of requests, keeping stable progress and high performance (i.e. no delay on data retrieval, no delay on rendering data to maps and tables, and reduced time to prepare reports.)
4. Number of UPI links: INOS consumes a huge volume of processor capability and RAM. To optimise INOS performance, we are looking not just for capacity of the processor, but also how this processor chip interconnects with the rest of the system components. The Intel® Xeon® Gold 6338N presents better integration with various I/O devices reflecting in INOS performance, especially when handling large bursts of input data files.
5. Max memory size: For INOS, more memory means more concurrent users, more software threads running in parallel, and an increase in the number of docker containers running simultaneously. The increased max memory size indicated in this table will deliver at least three or more times the number of INOS containers when using the Intel® Xeon® Gold 6338N.
6. Intel® AES-NI & Intel® Trusted Execution Technology: INOS SW runs on sensitive client data, and this capability will save data from any corruption and violation trials.
Conclusions & next steps
Having successfully completed this first assessment with the Intel Lab, the Digis Squared team are confident in the deployment of INOS as a cloud-based solution utilising Intel® Xeon® Gold processors, delivering optimised performance and enhanced speeds.
Yasser concluded, “Further work is planned with the Intel Lab team assessing other enhanced processors and measuring performance enhancement, and then, mutual testing with Open RAN market leaders!”
Differentiation through operational excellence. ◦ Ahmed Zein, Digis Squared Co-Founder and Chief Operations & Delivery Officer, shares his experience and thoughts on the vital role the Operations function plays in differentiating your business. Plus, as his new Managed Services team gets ready for the commercial launch of a network, he shares insights into key areas of current focus.
Differentiation and success
What differentiates leading organizations from their less successful rivals? More often than not, it comes down to how they manage their Operations. No matter how great the business strategy, or how large the investment, the Operations Team, the efficiency and customer experience they can achieve, can ultimately determine which business wins and who is left behind.
A workplace philosophy where problem-solving, teamwork, and leadership are core to the way people work together and collaborate, results in the continuous improvement of an organization,” shared Ahmed. “Focusing consistently on the customers’ needs, keeping employees positive and empowered, and continually improving the current activities in the workplace to deliver a better outcome in the future – all of this requires energy and commitment. However, this is a virtuous circle of improvement – keep doing it, and you’ll keep improving, the more energy and commitment you put in, the bigger the improvement you’ll get out.
There are five key areas I’ll be focussing on with the Digis Squared team during this phase. Working together, the team in the Digis Squared Delivery and Operations Centre in Luanda, backed up with staff in our Technology and Customer Support Centre in Cairo, will ensure an on-schedule, optimised network launch, and maintain smooth operational performance throughout.
One: Preparing the Squad
As with any project we work on, preparing the squad for this mission is our top priority. Designing a complete program, and establishing a high achieving attitude and sports-behaviour in the team and its structure, help us all to succeed. The squad needs a dynamic attitude to problem-solving, and an ambitious target to achieve success together.
With all our projects, we carefully consider the specific skills, experience and expertise we need. In recruiting the squad it’s also critical to our success together that we have a strong and aligned sense of purpose, and a strong fit with the Digis Squared culture and sports-team ethos. It’s vitally important to the way in which we operate that we work together as a squad – we help each other, we share knowledge, we learn from and help each other. It’s about both leadership and personal accountability, as well as knowledge sharing. In an area as complex as network technology, almost all issues can only be solved by working together, asking questions, and listening to the experience and ideas of others. We achieve and learn more together.
And this is one of the key differences between Operational Efficiency and Operational Excellence. Efficiency focuses only on how things are done, and doing them better – faster, cheaper, fewer errors, continuous improvement. These are the basics. But Operational Excellence is far wider, it aims to create a culture within the team and company that is conducive to efficient and sustainable long-term growth. The strongly aligned sense of purpose, solving problems and succeeding together as a squad, that is vital to achieving Operational Excellence.
Two: Multi-Vendor Management
Vendor management is not as simple as monitoring a mathematical set of KPIs, and a lengthy document filled with SLA words. As a team, we know that the success of any operations is reliant on sound relationships, and clear communications. The Digis Squared way is to always try and bridge the gaps in understanding, to clarify discussions, to identify a mis-fit in technologies, or a gap within a contract and resolve misunderstandings before they become problematic – and critically, to propose a solution.
Yes, of course we report on KPIs, and when an SLA isn’t being hit,but we also work hard to bridge that gap between the vendor and the operator. We work hard to build connections with the vendor’s teams, and work collaboratively together, running user acceptance tests and handovers across all domains.
Three: Performance & Field Management through NOC
Digis Squared’s Managed Services will ensure we achieve full monitoring of the network, corrective and preventive maintenance, network configuration and change management. All of this will be accomplished with operational excellence strategies by improving network availability, maintaining all network KPIs, enhancing quality of service to end customers, improving customer experience and reducing operating cost, as well as capitalizing on network automation and automating all automatable network procedures, across both front and back-office activities.
One of the most important KPIs in Managed Services contracts is the focus on Network Performance KPIs as one of the most important goals. Digis Squared’s cognitive tools are used to provide active monitoring of the network. We use INOS for drive testing, and there are plenty of recent blogs about that! [See list at end of blog.]
Digis-One is a key tool for any Operations team. We typically passively monitor the network performance using Digis-One, our cognitive, multi-vendor, multi-technology Unified Fault Management (UFM) solution delivering centralized dashboard and alarming monitoring system for the Front and Back Office Teams. Digis-One facilitates all systems/interfaces monitoring, in addition to automating the most time-critical manual work, including automated generation and assignment of Trouble Tickets to the team responsible for solving the network issue. Digis-One delivers a significant impact on SLAs and Mean Time to Repair.
Generally, when undertaking a Managed Services contract, field maintenance is one of the top priorities. Responsive teams on the ground undertake corrective and preventive actions across the network, fixing issues before they become a problem. The Operations Squad assess KPIs, and proactively lead the way to ensuring improved customer experience. Working together, this delivers efficiency, expansion and business success.
The field maintenance service will utilise available data (network, environment, events etc.) and our cognitive tools to schedule preventive maintenance plans and optimise resource utilisation. Mindful of the various contractual SLAs and targets, together, I field maintenance and NOC teams will ensure complete coordination and alignment for all field and site access activities.
Four: Clear Change Management
A newly launched network encounters a lot of dynamic changes and interactions across all domains. I’ve experienced the dynamic situations new network deployments encounter many times before, and know that creative thinking, sound analytical practices and strong teamwork can together solve the issues which will arise. Actively managing and considering the sequence of changes require deep consideration and experience. Careful planning is needed to consider how unforeseen risks or incidents will be handled, what processes will be followed, and how unplanned changes will be addressed.
We’re at a really exciting stage of this project. Combining the skills, expertise and experience of our staff, and our AI-led tools and processes, we’re confident the squad we are building will deliver differentiation through operational excellence.
Five: Application Development Management
As a greenfield mobile network, benefits from the high demands and expectations of the commercial teams to launch ambitious, state of the art products & services to the market, pushing at the competitive and technological edge of possibilities.
With this in mind, the Digis Squared team believe it is important to bring the concept of Application Development Management, ADM, with a DevOps flavour to this Managed Service contract. Merging the development and IT/BSS operations, the goal of our ADM team is to reduce the time between a system needed development or change and its deployment into the production environments. In turn, this reflects on and enhances the time to market to materialize a commercial requirement into a real technical output, deployed on the product IT/VAS nodes. To put that another way, we’ll be using ADM techniques to develop, test and deploy rapid, noticeable improvements in an ongoing continuous loop, perhaps even before the end customer notices there was ever an issue.
Working in this way, as a DevOps team, both the development staff, and the staff in charge of operations, are in deep communication with each other – they are ONE team! There is enhanced cross-knowledge and collaboration between the developers and IT operations, assessing and solving issues together, and a more seamless workflow that eliminates sizeable knowledge silo’s which are found in traditional models. The result is the smooth deployment of technology, such as software and updates in the safest, most reliable way possible.
Differentiation through operational excellence
It’s an exciting time for the Digis Squared team globally, and we’re ready for this. It’s great to work with clients with clear ambitions, and high targets for excellence. Sharing knowledge, ensuring utilisation of cognitive systems and clear processes, building a superb team. We’re working closely with our client and the other partners to ensure this new network achieves commercial success, and one of the secrets in how we will achieve that together is with differentiation through operational excellence.
In conversation with Ahmed Zein, Digis Squared Co-Founder and Chief Operations & Delivery Officer.
With an ever-growing volume of wireless network traffic produced inside buildings, network design and performance must be evaluated from within buildings. In this blog post, we assess the growing need for indoor coverage and the impact of the pandemic, plus Digis Squared RAN and Software Solution Architect and Trainer, Amr Ashraf, describes how in-building coverage testing without an engineer on-site can be undertaken, with INOS.
The ever-growing importance of in-building coverage
Often quoted research (1) estimated that “approximately 80 percent of wireless data traffic originates or terminates within a building”. Anecdotally, that figure is far higher now. Lockdowns and work-at-home mandates of the Covid-19 pandemic, plus the growing need to digitally maintain contact with friends and family are sure to have driven this even higher.
The pandemic has generated, and increased, specific needs for wireless connectivity indoors,
• Switch to working at home • Increase in voice traffic and video conferencing/communication, gaming and streaming traffic as we stay connected online at home to friends and family • Apps handling proximity detection/tracking and alerts about infected contacts • Tele-medicine: urgent care assessments and consultations, updating families unable to visit, remote assessments and advice, maintaining safe care-homes for the elderly and hospice patients
Even aside from the pandemic, the explosion in social media and mobile-centric content generation and consumption has dramatically increased the volume of mobile data consumed indoors.
But if indoor coverage is poor, then this impacts both operator revenue, and, perhaps more critically, brand loyalty and churn, as the need to connect now, indoors is far higher than any remaining loyalty consumers (and businesses) have for an operator’s brand.
Testing wireless connectivity inside buildings
Digis Squared RAN and Software Solution Architect and Trainer Amr Ashraf shares insights into the challenges and solutions for testing indoor coverage.
“Indoor network testing presents its own set of challenges, not encountered when undertaking traditional outdoor drive-testing. These indoor challenges include everything from gaining physical access to the site, to collecting as much relevant benchmarking data as possible in a single pass, and determining whether solutions provide data uploads to the cloud and data processing in a timeframe that enables a technician to test and troubleshoot network issues in one visit – if there is poor network coverage indoors, this may impact the speed at which we can assess the results!”
“Indoor testing today utilises smartphone and tablet applications, with all equipment packed discretely into a backpack-based test solution for indoor network testing. This approach has led to the number of walk-testing options for interior settings significantly expanding in recent years. Then, with detailed plans or architecture drawings of the building, and an efficient walking route planned out, a team member can be tasked with wearing the back-pack, starting the app, and walking through the route.”
“As mobile network operators and communications service providers have concentrated more and more on in-building coverage, they often encounter a problem: they are unable to gather all the measurements they need in a single test walk.”
“Critically, it’s no longer necessary for the person walking the route inside the building to be an engineer. The technical assessment can be undertaken by skilled staff, remotely, ensuring your scarce engineering resource can be deployed efficiently across many projects. When an issue is detected during the building walk-through, the network can be optimised remotely – and because the INOS testing and analysis takes just 15 minutes from receipt of data, our aim is to ensure that we can re-test and re-walk the improved area as part of a single visit to the building.”
“One of our clients described testing a distributed antenna system at a major convention centre that served four wireless operators using three different wireless technologies across multiple channels, for a total of about 20 different operator/technology/band combinations, each of which required a separate measurement. A complex configuration, but one which is quite common in large business-focused buildings.”
“The indoor network testing for this project was carried out with INOS using the Digis Squared proprietary backpack-based In-Building Test Suite. In contrast to user-equipment-based backpack testing systems, which are typically restricted by the number of devices and technologies that can be tested concurrently, the INOS solution depends on a scanning receiver intended for multi-technology networks. That is to say, we are not constrained, there is no technical limit on the number of devices we can use in the testing.”
Undertaking an in-building survey
“The INOS backpack is a multi-technology integrated solution for testing and measuring multi-device mobile networks. Whether it’s for conducting an indoor or outdoor walk or cycle test, or an outdoor drive test, the INOS backpack offers a small design for portability and simple movement. Data interaction is accomplished by using a WiFi hotspot to link an Android tablet (as a controller unit) to test terminals. A powerful solution for portable multi-network benchmarking, supporting up to 20 test terminals and a scanner for testing and measuring simultaneously.”
“The measurements are transferred to the cloud for additional data management and processing, and the testing is undertaken according to the test plans given by the controller unit.”
“We use an Android tablet to operate all of the testing equipment in the backpack, connected via Wi-Fi to the test phones, which are also integrated into the backpack. This configuration gives the technician complete control over the devices, enabling them to add pinpoints throughout the in-building walk as data is collected, or repeat sections immediately after dynamic network optimisations are implemented.”
“Recently, a global Tier One mobile operator used the Digis Squared INOS backpack testing technology to investigate networks in Cairo. They wanted to undertake benchmarking on their own network, as well as those of their main rivals, both inside buildings and outside. Data speeds, latency, and web browsing durations were among the main performance parameters they tested with INOS, as were dropped calls and RSSI signal levels. Once captured, the INOS data collected was sent over the air to the INOS cloud-based platform for immediate automated analysis and presentation via an analytics dashboard.”
INOS advantage compared with traditional approaches
“One of the primary advantages INOS delivers is our very quick analysis and reporting capability. After just a few minutes of testing, we can practically immediately provide a comprehensive report with all KPIs.”
“The vast majority of network coverage-related complaints occur indoors, traditionally necessitating an engineer to visit the customer’s house or office to undertake a network evaluation – this legacy approach results in high operational costs, and scheduling delays in identifying the issue.”
“Let’s compare that with the INOS solution. Anyone can be tasked with capturing data with INOS, no technical knowledge is needed to carry the backpack around the building or location of interest. It is not necessary to divert a skilled engineer out in to the field to capture data – on some projects we’ve tasked Uber drivers with taking an INOS bag around a pre-defined route, and returning it to us, or asked a member of the admin team to cycle a route with the INOS backpack. The INOS system can even be utilised to submit a self-service complaint to skilled RF optimization specialists in the office, who can then undertake an initial assessment remotely using the INOS kit controller and web application. And of course, as only one person is needed to take the bag in a car, or walk it around a building, the solution is also Covid-19 safe.”
“INOS also enables operators and suppliers to capture data in the field remotely, analyse the data, determine which issues can be solved remotely, and then efficiently schedule and resolve problems which can only be addressed in the field .”
“If you want to know more, we’re always happy to chat through what we can do to help you. Meet us at MWC22 or let’s fix up a call online.”
In conversation with Amr Ashraf, Digis Squared RAN and Software Solution Architect.
Managed Services from Digis Squared will maximise mobile network efficiency and give Africell’s customers in Angola an outstanding user experience.
November 2021: Africell Angola has awarded Digis Squared a multi-year contract to provide end to end Managed Services to support the launch of Africell’s new network in Angola. In this article, Africell Angola CEO Christopher Lundh and CTIO Faissal Abdallah discuss the partnership with Digis Squared’s CCO, Mohamed Hamdy, and explain why it will contribute to the success of Africell’s launch in Angola.
Optimising digital connectivity
The multi-year contract will see Africell Angola benefiting from Digis Squared’s end to end Managed Services capabilities, covering Radio, Core, BSS, VAS and Field.
“Digis Squared’s tools will help our systems work smartly and efficiently”, says Christopher Lundh, CEO of Africell Angola. “We have been impressed by Digis Squared’s commitment to transferring skills to local staff, a goal which aligns with our own, and we are confident in their experience of multi-vendor systems. It is exciting to have Digis Squared join our new network team.”
“We thank Africell Angola for the trust they have invested in us with this significant commitment”, said Mohamed Hamdy, CCO of Digis Squared. “The contract for Managed Services will enable the new Africell Angola network to launch smoothly and undertake a successful rollout of solutions to customers. Digis Squared’s resources, AI assisted tools, and processes will ensure Africell Angola’s end-to-end services perform at their peak. With our support, Africell’s customers in Angola will be able to experience a revolution in network excellence and performance.”
Supporting Africell’s mission in Angola
Africell Angola’s mission is simple: to help Angola grow by providing innovative, affordable and reliable mobile services.
“The telecoms sector is key to the future success of Angola,” explains Christopher Lundh, “and we will play a big part in this success. Our team of staff and suppliers is tasked with building a network that excites customers, keeps pace with new technologies, and fulfils our vision of leading a digital transformation in Angola.”
Africell Angola’s CTIO Faissal Abdallah added, “The technical solutions we deploy now will form the backbone of the systems we use for decades ahead. Making sure that the complex web of systems deployed can work together seamlessly and resiliently is vital if Africell Angola is to be a network which delivers innovation, affordability and reliability over the long term – working in this new partnership with Digis Squared will enable us to achieve that.”
Africell Angola selects Digis Squared for in-building coverage optimisation
Digis Squared have also been entrusted with an additional contract for Africell in Angola, handling in-building coverage optimisation. In this workstream, Digis Squared will utilise their AI assisted tools including Digis One, INOS, and iPM solutions. Developed in-house by Digis Squared, these tools deliver 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, as well as Unified Performance and Fault Management and much more, whilst decreasing both the time taken to complete the work and OpEx cost. These AI-led tools are ideally suited to analysing and optimising multi-vendor, multi-technology network implementations, including 5G.
“The contract for in-building coverage optimisation is significant to Digis Squared. When considered alongside our Managed Services contract, it shows that there is real momentum in our southern Africa business operations,” said Mohamed Hamdy. “It’s an exciting time for Digis Squared, and we are grateful to all our clients for the faith they have shown in selecting us. The team are excited to apply their skills, tools and experience to benefit Africell Angola and their clients.”
In partnership with Africell, Digis Squared aims to develop and enhance the capability of local engineers and other technical professionals, increasing their skills and experience. The target is to create a significant number of skilled jobs in the local Angola telecoms market. Says Mohamed Hamdy: “This is a key part of how we work. Digis Squared is committed to developing local employees who can benefit from our international multi-technology and multi-vendor experience and form a vibrant and capable cohort of local engineers in Luanda”.
About Africell: a fast-growing mobile operator with a pan-African footprint Africell provides mobile network coverage and related technology services to more than 12 million subscribers in sub-Saharan Africa. In January 2021 Africell won a competitive international tender process for a telecommunications license in Angola. Africell will launch mobile network services in Angola 2022.
These two new contracts between Africell Angola and Digis Squared follow the recent Digis Squared announcement of new offices in Luanda. With business continuing to expand across central and southern Africa, the new Digis Squared office space in Luanda will serve as a regional hub and give the growing Digis Squared team a Covid-19 secure space to meet clients and collaborate with colleagues.
In this case study, Bassel Mashaka, RAN Senior Manager at Africell Group, and Ahmed Ma’moon, Digis Squared’s Account Manager for Africell Group, describe how Africell’s mobile networks were optimised remotely and safely during the Covid-19 pandemic. They share details of the cooperation within Radio, Field Optimisation and Core Optimisation Services, that were successfully delivered in 2020 – including +85% improvement in mobile data downlink throughput in most improved cells – and talk about the expanded scope of the teams’ collaboration in 2021.
Africell, one of the fastest-growing mobile operators in Africa
Africell provides voice, messaging, data, mobile money and other integrated telecoms services to over 12 million subscribers in 4 countries. It has over 60% of the market in Sierra Leone and The Gambia, and up to a quarter of the market in Democratic Republic of the Congo (including in Kinshasa, the capital city). In January 2021 Africell won a competitive international tender process for a telecommunications license in Angola, and has announced a target to launch services in Angola by the end of 2021.
Optimising Africell mobile networks remotely during Covid-19
At the start of 2020, as the pandemic struck, workers and students had to rapidly adjust to working from home where possible. Mobile data demand shifted in new and unpredictable ways and mobile network operators and service providers had to sprint to keep up.
Ahmed Ma’moon reflects on this time: “It was at the start of Q2 of 2020 that Digis Squared was selected by Africell Group to undertaken network optimisation work. When talking with Bassel Mashaka about how to confront the challenge, we appreciated the Africell team’s willingness to collaborate and consider new ideas – including undertaking the network optimisation work remotely, using Digis Squared’s cloud-based tools, putting an unprecedented emphasis on health and safety.”
Bassel Mashaka recalls, “The optimisation work we completed with Ahmed and the Digis Squared team ensured we could support our customers as normal working patterns were turned inside out and efficient digital communication between family and friends became more important than ever. The teams worked quickly and unfussily to optimise our networks’ performance. Together, with Digis Squared, we positioned Africell to be able to withstand unpredictable changes in demand and kept our customers connected throughout the pandemic.”
Case study ◦ Optimising Africell mobile networks during Covid-19, safely and remotely
Ahmed shares more about the early stages of the project: “Following previous work we had undertaken for Africell, and the early achievements in terms of network performance and customer experience, Africell awarded Digis Squared contracts for band re-farming and frequency planning services. This new project was focused on two operations, where we worked on preparation ahead of LTE expansion.”
“Working safely and remotely, the Digis Squared team delivered an over-achievement in the band re-farming service in Sierra Leone. Our team were able to re-farm more bandwidth than the planned portion without affecting the re-farmed band.”
“Driven by the successful co-operation between the two business in Radio Services, Africell then mandated Digis Squared to work on the Core Network Optimisation Service in Sierra Leone. Throughout, we also undertook targeted activities to improve network capability.”
“The Digis Squared achievements in 2020 were acknowledged by the Africell Teams and Senior Management in Radio and Core Domains”, Ahmed says. “We are pleased that this hard work led to the renewal and expansion of the network support services contracts for 2021, covering Radio Optimisation, Field Testing and Optimisation, and Core Optimisation.”
Mohamed Hamdy, Chief Commercial Officer at Digis Squared added, “The technical success that the Digis Squared team has delivered for the Africell Group is a great example of the type of collaborative, and long-term relationships our teams build with partners. I’m proud to look back on how their expertise, combined with perseverance during pandemic and cloud-based Digis Squared tools ensured that we could remotely deliver these achievements for Africell, and help them to ensure their customers and communities remained connected.”
In conversation with Bassel Mashaka, RAN Senior Manager at Africell Group, Ahmed Ma’moon, Digis Squared’s Account Manager for Africell Group, and Mohamed Hamdy, Chief Commercial Officer at Digis Squared.
As mobile data usage continues to increase globally, it becomes ever more vital to ensure that mobile network infrastructure is optimised to maximise data throughput efficiently and continue to deliver excellent customer Quality of Experience. This case study looks at some recent System Integration work Digis Squared delivered to a Tier One Operator in the Middle East, which achieved over 30% improvement in mobile data downlink throughput.
Data growth – why optimisation will always be vital
Forecasts of mobile data growth are based on difficult to imagine numbers: exabytes. 1EB = 1 exabyte = 1000000000000000000 bytes = 1,000 petabytes = 1 million terabytes = 1 billion gigabytes
Whilst mobile data forecasts vary significantly – in the data set shown above, Ericsson and Cisco have a 75% variance in their 2026 forecasts – it is clear that mobile data traffic will increase significantly in the next 5 years.
With over 106 5G network launches so far globally , 5G is forecast to account for as many as 1.2 billion connections by 2025 , and the GSMA estimate over 20% of these mobile connections – a substantial amount of this mobile data traffic – will be carried over new 5G networks by 2026.
Data varies by source, but today video traffic is estimated to account for over 60% of all mobile data traffic, and some forecasts project it will increase to 77% by 2026 . Therefore, the ability to optimise mobile data traffic, particularly for video usage, is of great importance to Communication Service Providers (ComSPs), and this is primarily achieved via the optimisation of TCP.
Video & TCP optimisation: vital for delivering excellent customer QoE
Transmission Control Protocol (TCP), is the key transport protocol for all internet traffic; it drives video streaming, file transfers, web browsing, and communications. Additionally, it establishes and manages traffic connections and congestion, handles transmission errors, and enables us to share resources with billions of connected devices, globally, simultaneously.
TCP is ever-evolving, to address new issues and continually improve optimisation as new technologies are deployed. Without efficient tuning, TCP can cause more optimisation issues than it solves. An optimised TCP implementation delivers increased goodput (lower error rate in data throughput), improved network efficiency, high TCP transfer speeds, lower retransmission rates, and more consistent TCP round-trip times – and who doesn’t want all of that?! All of this translates into improved Quality of Experience for customers, and as our expectations of device experience continue to rise, TCP becomes ever more vital.
With mobile data traffic rising exponentially, the increasing pace of 5G deployment, and growth in data-intensive video calls, video content and online gaming, the need for CSPs to optimise their network has never been greater.
Intel case study | Video & TCP optimisation for a Tier One Operator in the Middle East
In 2020 Digis Squared was selected by a Tier One Operator in the Middle East to manage the entire System Integration of end-to-end services and implementation for video and TCP optimisation on top of the packet core, over 3 core sites.
Yasser ElSabrouty, Digis Squared Co-Founder and System Integration Business Unit Director, explained that “Selecting Intel processors ensured we could confidently deliver the performance and reliable scalability that is vital for efficient and demanding TCP optimisation. Customers’ expectations of QoE continue to escalate. The pandemic has normalised video interactions far faster than any forecast. We are all experiencing more video calls for communication to mitigate lack of in-person interactions with friends, family, clients and colleagues due to lockdowns and changed working practices. Plus, there is far greater use of video on social media and content platforms as we try to alleviate boredom and entertain each other. As 5G rolls out, people will expect continued improvements – buffering, patchy connectivity, dropped video calls all immediately impact network reputation. Maintaining efficient and optimised TCP requires solutions built on expertise, investment and the right equipment.”
“Working for this Tier One client, the Digis Squared team project managed the integration of this solution, selecting and managing vendors, implementing all elements of hardware and software, and optimising the solution to deliver the maximum efficiencies across the data network.”
“The project delivered considerable benefits to the client, and end customers. The Digis Squared project team benchmark data measured,
a 27% increase in processing cores 
50% increase in bandwidth over previous generation Xeon processors 
30% down link throughput enhancement, thanks to the data traffic optimisation achieved. 
We’re really proud of what we’ve been able to achieve for this client, knowing that their end-users will benefit from improved QoE that they can really see.”
In conversation with Yasser ElSabrouty, Digis Squared Co-Founder and System Integration Business Unit Director.
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.”
“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.”
“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.
“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. 
“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).” 
“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.” 
“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.” 
“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.”
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
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!
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.”
“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.
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.
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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 
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 
“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 
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.”
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.
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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”
Enhanced 5G benchmarking and testing capability, OpenRAN functionality testing, and multi-vendor 5G chipset support, the latest major new features added to INOS ensure clients have access to valuable commercial capability.
INOS – the independent telecoms network benchmarking, drive-test and in-building solution developed in-house at Digis Squared – has just been enhanced to deliver major new features to our telecom operator, CSP* and Regulatory clients, including those managing Private Networks. These new features deliver significant new capability to uncover and resolve even more telecom network issues, and enhance customer QoE and network QoS.
“The new 5G INOS features announced today will help MNOs better understand and optimise their network performance, including in deployments with complex multi-vendor architectures and OpenRAN. This is great news for our clients needing Covid-19 safe solutions to optimise their 5G infrastructure, for Regulators working to obtain an independent view of total network performance, and ultimately to the end customer seeking a better connection.”
Now supporting multi-vendor 5G chipsets: Huawei, Samsung and Qualcomm flagship mobiles.
OpenRAN functionality testing, end to end, from radio through to interoperability and benchmark testing between OpenRAN and Legacy RAN
Ensures you can pin-point which component in your multi-vendor ecosystem needs to be optimised or investigated further.
Cloud control – for instant updates, and Covid-19 safety
Our cloud-controlled INOS automated testing platform delivers both drive testing, and in building survey data, enabling operators and service providers to efficiently obtain the insights needed for key decisions.
Our tools need just one person in the vehicle or building – no engineers are needed on-site, ensuring that they can do their work safely and together we can keep our communities connected.
Detailed, actionable automated reports are generated within just 15 minutes after tests are completed.
Additionally, our real-time-view ensures you can immediately take action to address performance issues, and optimise your capability whilst engineers are still in the field. Make adjustments, OTA update test parameters and re-run your analysis swiftly.
Independent telecoms network analysis and benchmarking just got smarter.
Know your strengths, and weaknesses, across all network technologies. Now more than ever, ensure you know the capability, performance, quality of experience and coverage of your voice and data networks, and that of your competitors, so that you can optimise your assets efficiently. Discover more about how INOS can help you, here.
Now more than ever, test and optimise your 5G network.