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Freescale's LTE Small Cell Ambitions

Dan Jones

Freescale is expecting carriers to use its next generation of small cell chips to help fill in coverage holes in LTE networks.

Freescale Semiconductor Inc. announced its next generation of small cell "system-on-a-chip" (SoC) products Tuesday. The QorIQ Qonverge B3421 basestation SoC handles processing from the radio front-end to the backhaul, according to the chipmaker.

Stephen Turnbull, wireless marketing manager for Freescale's digital networking business, tells Light Reading that the silicon can support two different LTE frequencies (dual-carrier) and up to 256 simultaneous users. Turnbull says that a "development vehicle" is available to small vendors now and he expects to see the silicon in commercial use in 2015. (See AT&T: 3G Small Cells in 18 US States.)

Turnbull says that Freescale is focusing on LTE for this generation of products, having worked on multi-mode -- 3G, 4G, and WiFi -- for its previous products. "We've not seen that really strong push we anticipated for multi-mode," Turnbull says. (See Small Cells: Who's Buying?)

Vendors and carriers are pushing for advanced LTE features from the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) release 10 and 11 specifications, however, Turnbull states. "Carrier aggregation is a big one," Turnbull tells us. (See Why You Should Care About LTE-Advanced (Eventually).)

With carriers completing -- or getting close to completing -- their LTE networks, Turnbull expects that one of the next stages for carriers will be filling in the gaps with public access small cells. "We're shipping today with discrete products into the metro[cell] market," Turnbull says. (See Know Your Small Cell: Home, Enterprise, or Public Access?)

Fiber optic provider Fibertech Networks LLC recently said it has launched the first commercial outdoor metro small cell site for an unnamed Tier 1 wireless carrier in the US, but Turnbull says that there is other work going on too. (See Fibertech Claims US Small-Cell First.)

"Yeah, I saw that," says Turnbull of the Fibertech announcement. "But there's other types of backhaul than fiber right?"

He states that carriers can use WiFi, non-line-of-sight microwave and even LTE relays in downtown areas. In fact, he states, that carriers are now "quite bullish" about their ability to deploy small cells.

— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading

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User Rank: Light Sabre
2/24/2014 | 2:54:52 PM
Re: Enterprise spectrum
I think that there is nowhere to go but up, however. 

The United States is a big place - it's tough to balance coverage with capacity. If you're out in the middle of nowhere, yes, there might be coverage issues. But it is much improved. Especially if you are a Verizon customer. 
User Rank: Blogger
2/18/2014 | 6:22:31 PM
Re: Enterprise spectrum
I think that still tends to depend where you are, outside of cities in the US the coverage can still be pretty ropey.
User Rank: Light Sabre
2/18/2014 | 4:13:05 PM
Re: Enterprise spectrum
I think bullish is a very good position for the carriers to be in. Coverages are getting better, and deploying more small cells will be important in filling in those small gaps. Dropped calls are lessening, and it seems like data is everywhere now.

I like it - a big improvement ever since smartphones started to proliferate. 
User Rank: Light Sabre
2/18/2014 | 6:07:13 AM
Enterprise spectrum
Small cells can only proliferate with an enterprise spectrum independent of the carriers. If we get that, you will see the demand go from hundreds a month to millions. Imagine personalized push ads everywhere you go and free data and voice at home. Whichever HW company buys that spectrum, will own that market and it's back haul. Cisco has enough money to do it, and I am surprised that they have not done it already.
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