OpenG

OpenG (also called small cell or micro cell)

A new way to manage the convergence of WiFi and Cellular data networks.

WiFi and cellular are separate things
Historically there has been a divide between the use and purpose of cellular and wifi technologies. Cellular networks would be used strictly for telephone calls while WiFI was used only for data. These separate networks have traditionally been managed by the cellular carriers (AT&T, Verizon, ETC) for the cellular networks, and individual enterprises for the WiFi side. Cellular companies would build and maintain towers so that their customers could have access to wireless calling. Enterprises would install and maintain in-house WiFi networks and pay for a connection to the internet to allow users to access the internet.

1

WiFi and cellular are not so separate
Over time these technologies have merged so that it makes almost no difference which network you are on. On most cellular plans you can make calls over the wireless LAN, Skype and Facetime also blur the lines between cellular and WiFi. Technologically these two methods of data transmission are very different. Different frequencies mean different radio technology built in to devices that can take advantage of both. WiFi is typically installed inside buildings, there are many locations where WiFi is installed outdoors but it is typically limited to areas adjacent to an area of indoor coverage provided by a single company. Cellular radio equipment is typically installed on towers outside in order to reach a much larger number of customers. WiFi does not reach far outside of a building and cellular RF does not penetrate large buildings very well.

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DAS (Distributed Antenna System)
To bridge the gap a business entity that wants to extend cellular coverage throughout a building would have to install a purpose built system that would bring cellular RF into the building. Think of an antenna on the roof feeding a network of internal antennas that send and receive the cellular signal throughout. Each of the cellular carriers operates on different frequencies so a combination of these systems would have to be made to cover all of the carriers. The cost of this system will be borne by the building owner not the cellular provider. So the company is paying for the Wireless LAN, the data pipe to the internet, and a separate cellular DAS (distributed antenna system) all to allow users to have access to both the local wireless LAN and their cellular network.

3

Cellular Offload
The next step was to have WiFi “offload” the cellular network. This is where the cell companies would allow telephone calls use the WiFi data network as well as having smart phones automatically switch to available WiFi instead of staying on LTE (or whatever flavor they offer). WiFi manufacturers came up with things like Hotspot 2.0 to try to bridge the gap between cellular and WiFi. These were not widely adapted and eventually didn’t get the job done.

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OpenG – Small Cell – Micro Cell
The new OpenG initiative brings the cellular data network directly to the wireless LAN. New spectrum has been allocated for this purpose. 150 MHz in 3.5 GHz is now available (has been in other countries for a while) for use for interior cellular offload. This means that AP’s will need to have the current 2.4 and 5 GHz radios as well as a new 3.5 GHz radio built in. Additionally, client devices will need to be capable of the new 3.5 GHz network. A wireless LAN will be designed and installed in a building that will now have both WiFi and Cellular connectivity available. All of this data will egress through the firewall so the additional ISP requirement will need to be paid for by the enterprise (not the cellular carrier) but for any company that would have installed a cellular DAS this is a much cheaper solution to install and manage.

5

WiFi will be run on the existing AP hardware while the cellular network will run on the new 3.5 GHz hardware

All of this can be done… Will it?
All of this isn’t a “done deal” just yet. Like anything new a lot of pieces need to come together to make it work.

The hurdles:

– FCC allowing unlicensed use of this portion of the 3.5GHz frequency

– WiFi manufacturers adopting the idea and finding value in building new hardware

– Client device manufacturers adopting the idea and finding value in building new hardware

– Cellular providers allowing the hooks into their systems.

Where we are now:

– The 3.5GHz spectrum is currently being tested for this use in China, and Japan

– Dozens of other European, African, & South American countries are allocating this spectrum for this use

– Ruckus is talking about having 3.5 GHz OpenG products on the shelf by the end of 2016

– Qualcomm and Intel plan to have chipsets ready in 2016 – Some newer smartphones are already capable in other countries

Additional Reading:

– Ruckus Says OpenG can make LTE work better indoors (http://goo.gl/R43xpx)

– Ruckus OpenG FAQ (https://www.ruckuswireless.com/openg)

– 3.5 GHz spectrum rules create opportunities for equipment makers and service providers
(http://www.rcrwireless.com/20150922/opinion/reader-forum-fcc-spectrum-rules-create-business-opportunities-tag10)

Mike Wade
VP Wireless Engineering
Hula Networks

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