Space Data today became the first network operator to use a 4G LTE product offering from Lemko designed specifically for use in remote rural areas that eliminates the need for the operator to purchase costly core network infrastructure.
“Our product is software,” explained Brian Ponte, vice president of business development for Lemko, in an interview. When the software is installed on Linux servers at each individual cell tower, “we enable full core functionality in a 4G network,” Ponte said.
Space Data initially is deploying the Lemko offering in a single-cellsite network in a remote Alaskan village. Depending on the tower height, a single tower should be able to cover a radius of about five miles when AWS spectrum used and about twice that distance when 700 MHz spectrum is used, Ponte said.
Although Space Data is best known for using weather balloons to deploy small radio transceivers to serve remote areas, the new Alaskan LTE deployment does not involve that network. Instead the network will use satellite communications for backhaul. Ponte noted, however, that communications among people in the village would never touch the backhaul network.
Lemko has sold 2G and 3G versions of its all-IP distributed mobile wireless network architecture for some time and those products are in use in Canada, Alaska and remote regions of other western U.S. states, Ponte said, adding that the company expects to have other customers for its 4G offering soon. Some customers have ample fiber available and rely on it for backhaul, while others use a combination of fiber, coax and microwave, Ponte said.
Ponte noted that the Lemko offering would be an excellent way for 700 MHz license holders to meet impending build-out requirements. “They can use the LTE system for fixed wireless to start,” noted Ponte. “It’s upgradeable via reconfiguring the software to nomadic use . . . and also to fully mobile operation.”
Cloud-based solutions are another option for small wireless network operators that cannot afford the investment in certain core network infrastructure. But Ponte said those solutions use considerable backhaul bandwidth and may be too costly for some network operators. “That bandwidth gets very expensive, especially because of the timing and jitter requirements of LTE,” said Ponte.
Ponte noted that the Lemko software relies on Internet communications at Layer 7 of the OSI model. Unlike traditional LTE core networks, the Lemko solution does not require the configuration of virtual circuits to interconnect network elements, he said. When multiple cellsites are used, individual servers communicate with each other in a peering fashion. “Through the Web, the operator can look at all of the systems,” said Ponte. “Even though each site has its own server, the core is virtualized.”