Light Reading

Know Your Small Cell: Home, Enterprise, or Public Access?

Dan Jones
2/11/2014
50%
50%

Not all small cells are created equal, so let's look at the key differences between the various small basestations that share the "small cell" moniker.

The central concept of a small cell is basically the same: A small cell is a diminutive, self-contained basestation that extends coverage at the edge of the macro network. In theory, such a unit can help fix voice and data coverage holes, add capacity where needed, and increase data connection speed. The crux of the idea being that the closer a user is to a cellular radio, the better the network performance will be.

Small cells, however, diverge into three distinct flavors from that point on. Here's how we categorize them:

Femtocells
Femtocells -- otherwise known as home basestations -- are the most mass-market member of the small cell clan right now. AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) and Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) have sent out more than a million of these units each. Femtocells are backhauled over a user's cable broadband or DSL connection and can be used to conquer deadspots in the home, improve call quality, and improve mobile data speeds. The units can typically be deployed by the user themselves. (See Top 6 Small Cells Movers & Shakers.)

Enterprise Small Cells
Enterprise small cells are intended to provide coverage to all or part of a floor of an office building or other indoor space (and sometimes even an outdoor space) and are most often deployed en masse within buildings to provide blanket coverage. With the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) trend, providing cellular coverage throughout offices is becoming crucial for many businesses. The basestations are typically backhauled over the enterprise Ethernet network. Enterprise small cells are often promoted as a less expensive alternative to distributed antenna systems (DAS) for providing cell coverage. This sector is starting to climb out of its hype-cycle with some deployments now underway. (See SpiderCloud Eyes LTE Enterprise Small Cells in 2014, Joint Qualcomm & AlcaLu Small Cells Due Mid-Year, Ericsson Expects Smooth Sailing for Radio Dot and Slide Show: Cisco's Small Cell Bureau .)

Public Access Small Cells
Public access small cells are basestations intended to improve voice and data coverage in large malls, stadiums, and outdoor public spaces. They can be mounted in buildings, on outer walls, or on lamp posts and other utility poles. These are the units that are proving most difficult to bring to commercial service, with many tests and trials still ongoing. In addition to the problems associated with site acquisition, this type of small cell is arguably the most difficult to deploy, often requiring new backhaul connections, and posing power supply challenges, especially when the units are located that might be mounted up a pole or high on a building. They also tend to produce more transmit power, so can pose more potential interference problems with the macro cellular network. (See Fibertech Claims US Small-Cell First, 3G, 4G & Wi-Fi: AT&T Plans Small-Cell Threesome and Small Cells: The Battle for the Lamp Post.)

Heavy Reading is predicting that there will be 700,000 public access small cells in service worldwide requiring new backhaul connections by the end of 2017. The wireless CTO of Taqua LLC , John Hoadley, recently told Light Reading that he expects up to 50% of all the public access small cells will require new backhaul connections. (See How Heavy Reading Called Small Cells Right.)

Here's some of the basic requirements for the different types of small cells.

Table 1: Small Cell Types & Requirements

Type Typical applications Radio connections Backhaul connections Number of simultaneous calls supported RF power output Coverage Range
Femtocell Indoor residential 2G/3G Home DSL/Cable Up to 8 Up to 20mW 5 to 20 meters
Enterprise Small Cell Indoor private & open access, outdoor private access 3G/WiFi (integrated multimode systems supporting 3G, WiFi and LTE arriving soon) Ethernet Up to 32 on 3G Up to 250mW 5 to 200 meters
Public Access Small Cell Outdoor & large in-building coverage (airports/ stadiums) 3G/WiFi (integrated multimode systems supporting 3G, WiFi and LTE in tests) Fiber/ Microwave/ Copper-over-Ethernet Up to 64 on higher-power units 250mW to 5 Watts 10 to 2,000 meters (rural sites will get better range)
Sources: Heavy Reading, vendor data

A note on terminology
I've stuck to femtocells, enterprise small cells, and public access as the terminology for this little primer. Others have used picocell and nanocell to describe the smaller variants of home and enterprise small cells. Metrocell, meanwhile, is the term often used to describe larger public access small cells. Given the profusion of differing terminology used in this industry it seems more helpful -- to me, at least -- to describe the small cell by the application for which it will be used.

If you agree, disagree, or have more to add on the definitions of small cells, please chime in on the message board below.

— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading

(33)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Page 1 / 4   >   >>
danny_be
50%
50%
danny_be,
User Rank: Lightning
2/21/2014 | 2:48:27 AM
Re: What About Security?
Hi Dan,

I agree that this is what used to be. but as US operators are exploring the ways to cope with that issue while deploying small cells, they found that 1588 with combination of boundary clock (BC) at the optical nodes (that brings the master clock accuracy closer to the edges) and transparent clock (TC) at the wireless backhaul links, does the job very well.

Danny

 
DanJones
50%
50%
DanJones,
User Rank: Blogger
2/19/2014 | 5:23:54 PM
Re: What About Security?
Danny,

 

Mark Wiess at NIST said that he thinks that European carriers are paying more attention to alternative sync methods than their US counterparts.
DanJones
50%
50%
DanJones,
User Rank: Blogger
2/19/2014 | 5:22:31 PM
Re: What About Security?
Check this story from last year:

http://www.lightreading.com/mobile/mobile-security/were-jamming-gps-weakness-could-sink-wireless/d/d-id/706895
danny_be
50%
50%
danny_be,
User Rank: Lightning
2/15/2014 | 3:14:09 PM
Re: What About Security?
GPS is needed only if the backhaul is not delivering SyncE or 1588 signalling. See the small cell forum spec for backhaul network to get more info about it.
smkinoshita
50%
50%
smkinoshita,
User Rank: Light Sabre
2/15/2014 | 1:52:49 PM
Re: What About Security?
@Dan:  I never even considered jamming -- how common would that be?  And for what purposes?
Mcgyver7
50%
50%
Mcgyver7,
User Rank: Light Beer
2/15/2014 | 4:21:41 AM
Small Cell Forum Classification
Isn't it reasonalbe to classify the small cell as Small Cell Forum did like Home, Enterprise, Urban and Rural?

 

Home=Residential, Urban=Metro, Rural=Outdoor.....

 

 
DanJones
100%
0%
DanJones,
User Rank: Blogger
2/13/2014 | 4:18:37 PM
Re: Which small cell is right for you?
I should credit Patrick and Gabriel with helpful suggestions and changes when I was putting this together.
DanJones
50%
50%
DanJones,
User Rank: Blogger
2/13/2014 | 4:16:27 PM
Re: What About Security?
One of the bigger worries around LTE small cells is that they are supposed to GPS to sync with the network and they could be targeted with malicious jamming.
psorsky
50%
50%
psorsky,
User Rank: Light Beer
2/13/2014 | 4:06:31 PM
Which small cell is right for you?
It's encouraging to see some intelligent analysis (Dan!) that explains the many varieties of "small cell" being developed. I suspect that as 4G penetration expands, we will see a blurring of demarcation between those defined as "public access" and those defined as "enterprise", mainly driven by BYOD inside the enterprise.
anthony.nima
0%
100%
anthony.nima,
User Rank: Light Beer
2/13/2014 | 4:02:49 AM
Re: What About Security?
@smkinoshita: Yes security factors should be checked constantly. I think it's a vital factor since security controls everything. If there is no security then the real value of it is not there. So security plays a major role in everything that has been automated.  
Page 1 / 4   >   >>
More Blogs from Jonestown
Cisco CEO predicts the digitization of everything will change, like, everything!
The connected car is driving the IoT market now, but that's just the start of it.
It's the Claure and Legere show! Sprint and T-Mobile CEOs trade barbs -- or at least retweets -- over rival Super Bowl ads.
Google is now backing or actively exploring three ways of delivering cheaper Internet connectivity to the world: satellites, drones and balloons.
Flying killers turn into duckface enablers!
Flash Poll
From The Founder
The New IP is actually bigger even than business. Like another hugely important tech that Light Reading is digging into right now, the New IP has the potential to change the world by fundamentally advancing what it is possible for people to achieve with communications.
LRTV Interviews
Ericsson CEO Talks Telco Data Center Tech

3|4|15   |   05:45   |   (0) comments


At Mobile World Congress, Ericsson CEO Hans Vestberg discusses telco data center technology, business models, small cells and more.
Between the CEOs
EXCLUSIVE: Cisco's Chambers on Reinvention

3|3|15   |   8:24   |   (1) comment


Light Reading CEO Steve Saunders talks transformation and virtualization – including Light Reading's independent testing of the vendor's virtualization solutions – with Cisco CEO John Chambers at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.
LRTV Documentaries
The Three Cs of MWC15

3|2|15   |   2:33   |   (1) comment


My visit to this year's Mobile World Congress is going to dominated by three Cs – cloud, cells and coffee.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei Shares Its Vision of the Future of Mobile Networks Innovations

2|26|15   |   2:30   |   (0) comments


Mobile broadband is changing our lives. It's reshaping the Internet, industry, and society. It allows us to freely connect with one another anytime, anywhere. At this year's Mobile World Congress, Huawei will share its latest insights and newest ideas and technologies that will shape the future of MBB. They will showcase their end-to-end MBB solutions that will ...
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Accelerate Digitizing, Boost Digital Business

2|26|15   |   6:14   |   (0) comments


A new digital revolution is leading us to a better connected world. Together with millions of digital partners, Huawei will help CSPs to build their digital service ecosystem and aggregate a wide variety of digital services. In this video, we find out how Huawei is going to help CSPs implement digital operations.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
The Secret Recipe to Enabling Hyper-Growth Industries

2|26|15   |   3:38   |   (0) comments


With a number of successful cases on network capability exposure, Huawei is going to share the secret recipe to enabling hyper-growth markets with a step-by-step approach.
LRTV Documentaries
BTE 2015 Is Bigger & Even Better

2|25|15   |   03:13   |   (4) comments


This year's Big Telecom Event (BTE) in Chicago is going to provide more opportunities than ever for networking, getting to grips with key industry challenges and opportunities and, equally as important, having some fun.
LRTV Interviews
Light Reading ICT Leaders Roundtable at MWC 2015

2|12|15   |   1:07   |   (2) comments


On Sunday March 1, 2015, Light Reading will host an ICT Leaders Roundtable in partnership with Huawei. At this half-day event, CIOs, analysts and researchers will discuss key industry trends like virtualization in the cloud with a specific focus on new business models. Located at the luxurious Renaissance Hotel near the Fira Barcelona, space is limited so please ...
LRTV Documentaries
Going Green in 2015

2|12|15   |   02:04   |   (0) comments


Energy efficiency is set to be an incredibly hot topic in the telecom industry this year.
LRTV Custom TV
SDN & NFV: Where Are We Going From Here?

2|11|15   |   11:27   |   (0) comments


Vitesse Semiconductor CTO Martin Nuss gives his perspective on why SDN and NFV should be tightly interconnected and how he sees the industry moving forward.
LRTV Documentaries
Time for Gigabit Europe?

2|9|15   |   01:27   |   (4) comments


Gigabit broadband networks are springing up all around the US and they'll soon become more commonplace in Europe.
LRTV Interviews
Brocade Brings New IP Vision to 2020 Vision Executive Summit

2|3|15   |   4:23   |   (0) comments


In December 2014, Light Reading gathered telecom executives in Reykjavik, Iceland to discuss their vision for high-capacity networks through the end of the decade. The intimate, interactive meeting was set against the backdrop of Iceland's spectacular natural beauty. As one of the event's founding sponsors, Brocade's Kelly Herrell shared his company's strategy at ...
Upcoming Live Events
March 17, 2015, The Cable Center, Denver, CO
April 14, 2015, The Westin Times Square, New York City, NY
May 12, 2015, Grand Hyatt, Denver, CO
May 13-14, 2015, The Westin Peachtree, Atlanta, GA
June 8, 2015, Chicago, IL
June 9-10, 2015, Chicago, IL
June 9, 2015, Chicago, IL
June 10, 2015, Chicago, IL
All Upcoming Live Events
Infographics
Net neutrality, broadband services and the current outlook on data consumption, as presented by the New Jersey Institute of Technology.
Hot Topics
Internet Pioneers Decry Title II Rules
Carol Wilson, Editor-at-large, 3/2/2015
Small Cells Enabling Location Services
Sarah Thomas, Editorial Operations Director, 2/25/2015
Verizon Takes Radio Dot to Detroit, VoLTE Overseas
Sarah Thomas, Editorial Operations Director, 2/27/2015
FCC Adopts Title II Rules
Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, 2/26/2015
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed
Webinar Archive
BETWEEN THE CEOs - Executive Interviews
Check out Light Reading's interview with Jay Samit, the newly appointed CEO of publicly traded SeaChange International Inc. With a resume that includes Sony, EMI, and Universal, Samit brings a reputation as an entrepreneur and a disruptor to his new role at the video solutions company. Hear what he had to say about the opportunities in video, as well as the outlook for cable, telco, OTT and mobile service providers.