Parallel Wireless recently showcased its Open Radio Access Network (RAN) technology at AfricaCom 2018 which it says allows mobile network operators to simultaneously roll out 2G, 3G, and 4G infrastructure as easily and cost-effectively as Wi-Fi.
“At Parallel Wireless we make a substantial claim,” said sales director for the Southern African region, Lux Maharaj.
“For a given radio frequency output power, we have the world’s smallest radio with the lowest power consumption.”
Maharaj explained that their technology doesn’t need a cabinet with equipment at the bottom of a base station, no air-conditioning, no feeder cables, and fewer batteries and solar panels.
Their system virtualises the entire radio access network into an element Parallel Wireless calls the HetNet Gateway, or heterogenous network gateway.
“The base station controller, mobile switching centre, radio network controller, security gateway, home gateway—you name it—it’s all virtualized into a single 1U server,” said Maharaj.
In addition to reducing the data centre footprint, energy requirements, and deployment time of rolling out a cellular network, Maharaj said that Parallel Wireless allows operators to deploy any two radio access technologies as and when they please, at no additional cost.
Rural sites can also be meshed at a very low cost to aggregate back to a single backhaul site. Basically all that remains for operators to do at the site is clean the solar panels, replace batteries, and clearing the bird nests in the VSAT dish antenna.
These features make the technology particularly well-suited for rolling out to underserved areas.
“Today in Africa, very few operators can actually claim to have laid a bridge to cross the digital divide,” Maharaj said, referring to the concern that technology was further dividing the world into those who have access to telecommunications and the Internet, and those who don’t.
“The capital and operational expenditure for creating such a bridge is often a no-go business case. We have changed that equation,” said Maharaj.
While their Open RAN system is helping to bridge the digital divide in roll-outs to rural areas, Maharaj said that Parallel Wireless is not only focused on the underserved market.
“Our solutions can be deployed in urban and suburban areas, for network densification, and even indoors. We can deploy on street poles, on the side of building walls, inside a hut, mall, essentially anywhere without the need for expensive site leasing and unsightly towers.”
Parallel Wireless also has mobile base stations.
“When people think of a cellular network, they tend to think of these fixed towers and base stations,” said Maharaj. “But you can have a base station in a backpack, in a vehicle, on a ship, on an oil rig, inside a mine, and on a drone or Helikite.”
This has potential applications for the public safety sector, enterprises, and even public transit, he said.
When Parallel Wireless first presents its technology to network operators, their first response is disbelief, Maharaj said. However, they soon realise that the technology is an innovative solution to reduce their costs, and introduces potential revenue streams in other market segments.
“Operators are realising that traditional vendors have locked them into a continuous cycle of upgrade costs, charges for feature introduction, charges for number of users, charges for capacity, and even charges for neighbour relations.”
Parallel Wireless has deployments throughout Africa and around the world.
“In fact, we are on all continents, except Antarctica for now,” Maharaj said.
Telesol in Ghana has selected the technology to roll out to underserved communities, and Parallel Wireless has deployments in Uganda, Somalia, and Senegal.
It also completed a trial earlier this year with Telefónica in Latin America to connect remote communities.
This article was published in partnership with Parallel Wireless.