The five-minute CIO: Madalina Suceveanu, Vodafone Ireland

10 Mar 2017

Madalina Suceveanu, CTO of Vodafone. Image: Naoise Culhane

‘The internet of things is a key component of the Gigabit Society and 5G,’ said Madalina Suceveanu, the talented CTO of Vodafone Ireland who achieved a 1Gbps mobile broadband breakthrough this week.

Earlier this week, Vodafone Ireland achieved a new benchmark of 1Gbps broadband speeds on its mobile network.

The company also revealed plans to invest €500m across its networks in Ireland in the next three years.

Spearheading these developments is CTO Madalina Suceveanu.

‘Vodafone has a long history of innovation in the IoT space’

Suceveanu joined Orange Romania in 1997 as an expert in network planning.

In 2011, she became the first woman to manage the technology department at France Telecom.

As technology director at Vodafone Ireland, she oversees the company’s ambitious network roll-outs as it hurtles towards the Gigabit Society, the internet of things (IoT) and, ultimately, 5G.

1Gbps is an amazing speed breakthrough, how did you achieve it and what technologies were involved?

We achieved it by combining 60MHz of spectrum in two frequency bands in a live site. The main technologies involved were:

  • 4G carrier aggregation, which allows us to combine different spectrum bands;
  • 256 QAM, which enables us to use the spectrum more efficiently by squeezing more information in the same amount of resources; and,
  • 4×4 MIMO, which creates four parallel streams of data between the network and the device, hence increasing the speed of data transfer.

All of the above brings the spectral efficiency to very high levels and enables us to achieve the high speeds with only 60MHz in just two frequency bands.

Was it a difficult engineering challenge and what will happen next on the road to 5G?

It was challenging because we wanted to work in real-life conditions.

For the live trial where we achieved the gigabit speeds, the site had around 25-30 other active users whilst we were running the tests.

Regarding the road to 5G, we already deployed some of the 4G evolution technologies mentioned above in our commercial network in some areas of Dublin, and will continue to roll them out nationwide in the next few months. These 4G evolution features increase the speeds and capacity of our 4G network by up to 30pc in download and 50pc in upload, allowing customers to, for example, send files to the cloud with transfer speeds of up to 112Mbps, or download content with speeds of up to 300Mbps.

As more and more frequency bands are made available, and more and more parallel streams (with the MIMO technology mentioned) can be created, the speeds will continue to increase.

Note that the IoT is a key component of the Gigabit Society and 5G. On that regard, we have already trialled in our live network a new standard called NB-IoT (narrowband IoT), which will efficiently deliver extensive coverage, extended battery life and low-cost receiver to be used in machines such as smart meters and home appliances to enable smart cities, smart homes, smart cars etc.

5G will then combine the 4G evolutions mentioned with some more technologies to create the new standard. Some architectural change in the network, as well as the use of high-transmission technologies such as fibre, will need to be part of the evolutionary journey.

As well as 4G evolution, Vodafone is also trialling NB-IoT. How is Vodafone in Ireland gearing up for the internet of things?

Vodafone has a long history of innovation in the IoT space (previously machine to machine, or M2M) and has been an industry leader for years.

NB-IoT is another step in that direction, where Vodafone is answering real customers’ needs around a cheaper technology that will allow more people and companies to jump on board the IoT train.

The fact that it also provides increased coverage and long battery life as well as a secured licensed environment makes it a significant step towards a wide adoption of IoT.

Vodafone is proud to enable that evolution in the Irish market with the current trials and the commercial launch in the summer.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years