Nokia Bell Labs uses drone to deliver ‘breakthrough’ F-Cell to office rooftop

Nokia drone
A drone with an F-Cell on top of a Nokia office in Sunnyvale, California. Image: Nokia

Nokia Bell Labs said it has developed a breakthrough in small cell technology that cuts wires, costs and time from the deployment process.

Dubbed "F-Cell" technology, it essentially enables a "drop and forget" small cell deployment anywhere. In fact, Bell Labs recently demonstrated what it describes as the world's first drone-based delivery of an F-Cell to a Nokia office rooftop in Sunnyvale, California. The F-Cell wirelessly, self-powered, self-configured and auto-connected to the network and instantly began to stream high-definition video, the company said in a press release.

To hear Nokia tell it, the company is solving the problems that have plagued small cell deployment for so long. The F-cell architecture is comprised of a closed loop, 64-antenna massive MIMO system placed in a centralized location that is used to form 8 beams to 8 energy autonomous (solar powered) F-Cells; each of the cells has been redesigned to require minimum processing power so that the solar panel is no larger than the cell itself. In that way, the F-Cell technology sustainably solves the challenge of small cell and backhaul cabling, deployment and expense challenges, the company said.

"F-Cell is a key breakthrough in massively scalable and massively deployable technology that will allow networks to deliver seemingly infinite capacity, imperceptible latency and connectivity to trillions of things," Marcus Weldon, president of Nokia Bell Labs and Nokia’s CTO, said in the release. "Nokia Bell Labs is again excited to re-invent the future and help drive what we believe will be a technological revolution, underpinned by the creation of a new digital network fabric that will transform human existence."

The architecture supports non-line-of-sight wireless networking in frequency division duplex (FDD) or time division duplex (TDD) mode, and it supports the parallel operation of up to eight individual 20 MHz channels, allowing for a system throughput rate of ~1Gbit/s over existing LTE networks.

Nokia said that in the future, this architecture will scale to enable up to tens of Gbit/s using higher spectral bandwidth, new spectral bands and a larger number of antenna arrays.

At the CTIA Super Mobility 2016 trade show in Las Vegas last month, Nokia’s F-Cell won the CTIA Emerging Technology (E-Tech) 2016 Award for cutting-edge mobile products and services transforming Wide Area Networks (5G, 4G and LTE 4.5).

Nokia has been busy at its Sunnyvale facility. Last summer, the company was granted Special Temporary Authority (STA) from the FCC to conduct indoor 5G prototype demonstrations there.

For more:
- see this press release

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