Traditional deployments of LTE networks are in large systems serving thousands of cells from centralized data centers. New use cases require a different approach to deploying a mobile core network.
LTE in a box is a core network in a small format which provides easy configuration and operation and does not require special skills to be managed. Functionality-wise this is a complete core network, performance wise it is sufficient for a small number of cells and subscribers, operational wise it is the equivalent of a home router or a CPE.
Since 2009 CND has been pioneering LTE core network technology with OpenEPC. OpenEPC is a highly efficient and complete software-only mobile core network which not only supports LTE but also Wi-Fi, 2G and 3G. CND has publicly demonstrated long time ago a complete LTE core network in low power and small footprint like the Raspberry Pi. With these credentials CND is best positioned to create a comprehensive LTE in a Box solution. CND has LTE in a Box in portfolio since 2014, but has resisted calling it LTE in a box because it can also support 2G, 3G and Wi-Fi.
CND solution is simple to manage and intuitive with a web management interface and pre-configured settings. It is still nevertheless flexible and can be modified to include support only for LTE or also the remaining access technologies supported. Several options are available regarding the authentication of subscribers as well as backhauling. For example it can be deployed with an external connection to a central HSS or with internal HSS, or both. It is possible to include offload capabilities to the public internet or only internal communications.
LTE in a box is an enabler for new use cases and interesting scenarios, some are only applicable in certain regions.
For example, in some countries there is LTE spectrum which can be used unlicensed, just like Wi-Fi. Several operators are offering enterprises their own network for their premises using Small Cell technologies and minimal core networks in a box that perform direct offloading at the site. They act as an MVNO when outside the buildings. With OpenEPC however, the entire Core Network can be deployed on site, eliminating external dependencies. In countries where there is no such unlicensed spectrum concessions the incumbent MNOs offer LTE-in-a-Box for enterprise at remote locations.
Another interesting scenario is for remote isolated areas connectivity. In these cases 2G technology is supported allowing users with any SIM card to access connectivity with the so called Honey-Pot solution. CND is supporting a number of projects in Africa with these characteristics.
Last but not least there are use cases in which the mobile network is mobile itself and in these cases having a small format that can run even on batteries is a game changer. This last scenario is particularly interesting in the Public Safety and critical communications sector.
The “box” we are using is a low-cost no moving parts, no cooling required hardware which has Intel® Atom™ CPU D525 @ 1,8GHz, 2 cores, 4 threads, 4GB RAM and 6xGbps interfaces, is able to handle 1-10 cells with 2G/3G/LTE and WiFi. The container-based deployment allows for co-hosting of customer’s applications.