Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Mohamed A. Ali

Subject Categories

Electrical and Electronics


5G, Heterogeneous Networks, HetNets, LTE-A, PON, Small Cells


The global demand for mobile-broadband data services has experienced phenomenal growth over the last few years, driven by the rapid proliferation of smart devices such as smartphones and tablets. This growth is expected to continue unabated as mobile data traffic is predicted to grow anywhere from 20 to 50 times over the next 5 years. Exacerbating the problem is that such unprecedented surge in smartphones usage, which is characterized by frequent short on/off connections and mobility, generates heavy signaling traffic load in the network "signaling storms". This consumes a disproportion amount of network resources, compromising network throughput and efficiency, and in extreme cases can cause the Third-Generation (3G) or 4G (long-term evolution (LTE) and LTE-Advanced (LTE-A)) cellular networks to crash.

As the conventional approaches of improving the spectral efficiency and/or allocation additional spectrum are fast approaching their theoretical limits, there is a growing consensus that current 3G and 4G (LTE/LTE-A) cellular radio access technologies (RATs) won't be able to meet the anticipated growth in mobile traffic demand. To address these challenges, the wireless industry and standardization bodies have initiated a roadmap for transition from 4G to 5G cellular technology with a key objective to increase capacity by "1000Ã? by 2020". Even though the technology hasn't been invented yet, the hype around 5G networks has begun to bubble. The emerging consensus is that 5G is not a single technology, but rather a synergistic collection of interworking technical innovations and solutions that collectively address the challenge of traffic growth.

The core emerging ingredients that are widely considered the key enabling technologies to realize the envisioned 5G era, listed in the order of importance, are: 1) Heterogeneous networks (HetNets); 2) flexible backhauling; 3) efficient traffic offload techniques; and 4) Self Organizing Networks (SONs). The anticipated solutions delivered by efficient interworking/ integration of these enabling technologies are not simply about throwing more resources and /or spectrum at the challenge. The envisioned solution, however, requires radically different cellular RAN and mobile core architectures that efficiently and cost-effectively deploy and manage radio resources as well as offload mobile traffic from the overloaded core network.

The main objective of this thesis is to address the key techno-economics challenges facing the transition from current Fourth-Generation (4G) cellular technology to the 5G era in the context of proposing a novel high-risk revolutionary direction to the design and implementation of the envisioned 5G cellular networks. The ultimate goal is to explore the potential and viability of cost-effectively implementing the 1000x capacity challenge while continuing to provide adequate mobile broadband experience to users. Specifically, this work proposes and devises a novel PON-based HetNet mobile backhaul RAN architecture that: 1) holistically addresses the key techno-economics hurdles facing the implementation of the envisioned 5G cellular technology, specifically, the backhauling and signaling challenges; and 2) enables, for the first time to the best of our knowledge, the support of efficient ground-breaking mobile data and signaling offload techniques, which significantly enhance the performance of both the HetNet-based RAN and LTE-A's core network (Evolved Packet Core (EPC) per 3GPP standard), ensure that core network equipment is used more productively, and moderate the evolving 5G's signaling growth and optimize its impact.

To address the backhauling challenge, we propose a cost-effective fiber-based small cell backhaul infrastructure, which leverages existing fibered and powered facilities associated with a PON-based fiber-to-the-Node/Home (FTTN/FTTH)) residential access network. Due to the sharing of existing valuable fiber assets, the proposed PON-based backhaul architecture, in which the small cells are collocated with existing FTTN remote terminals (optical network units (ONUs)), is much more economical than conventional point-to-point (PTP) fiber backhaul designs. A fully distributed ring-based EPON architecture is utilized here as the fiber-based HetNet backhaul. The techno-economics merits of utilizing the proposed PON-based FTTx access HetNet RAN architecture versus that of traditional 4G LTE-A's RAN will be thoroughly examined and quantified. Specifically, we quantify the techno-economics merits of the proposed PON-based HetNet backhaul by comparing its performance versus that of a conventional fiber-based PTP backhaul architecture as a benchmark.

It is shown that the purposely selected ring-based PON architecture along with the supporting distributed control plane enable the proposed PON-based FTTx RAN architecture to support several key salient networking features that collectively significantly enhance the overall performance of both the HetNet-based RAN and 4G LTE-A's core (EPC) compared to that of the typical fiber-based PTP backhaul architecture in terms of handoff capability, signaling overhead, overall network throughput and latency, and QoS support. It will also been shown that the proposed HetNet-based RAN architecture is not only capable of providing the typical macro-cell offloading gain (RAN gain) but also can provide ground-breaking EPC offloading gain.

The simulation results indicate that the overall capacity of the proposed HetNet scales with the number of deployed small cells, thanks to LTE-A's advanced interference management techniques. For example, if there are 10 deployed outdoor small cells for every macrocell in the network, then the overall capacity will be approximately 10-11x capacity gain over a macro-only network. To reach the 1000x capacity goal, numerous small cells including 3G, 4G, and WiFi (femtos, picos, metros, relays, remote radio heads, distributed antenna systems) need to be deployed indoors and outdoors, at all possible venues (residences and enterprises).