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        ADD A COMMENT
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
Happn takes location-based dating to a whole new level -- maybe a level too far.
Tech IPOs could suffer if stock market losses prove to be more than just jitters.
Cellphones and rollercoasters don't mix.
One from our WTF department! Marshall -- the amp maker -- intros an Android smartphone.
Consumers have no way of knowing if the aftermarket Sprint phone they're buying will work on the operator's network -- and that's burning Sprint's MVNOs.
From The Founder
Against the odds, Huawei is growing its telecoms networking equipment business in the US -- that should be ringing some alarm bells for domestic vendors.
Flash Poll
Live Streaming Video
CLOUD / MANAGED SERVICES: Prepping Ethernet for the Cloud
Moderator: Ray LeMaistre Panelists: Jeremy Bye, Leonard Sheahan
Between the CEOs
CEO Chat With Jeff Miller, ActiveVideo

8|28|15   |   19:05   |   (0) comments


Jeff Miller, President and CEO of ActiveVideo, talks to Light Reading founder and CEO Steve Saunders about the impact of virtualization on the TV and video distribution market.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Vodafone: Mobile Money Is About Customer Trust

8|27|15   |   06.36   |   (0) comments


Light Reading spoke with Vodafone's Ian Ravenscroft about the unique responsibilities and opportunities facing operators handling customers' financial transactions over the network.
Telecom Innovators Video Showcase
Palo Alto Networks on Expanding in the Carrier/Service Provider Market

8|26|15   |   07:54   |   (0) comments


Alfred Lee from Palo Alto Networks tells Steve Saunders about their new chassis-based system, the PA-7080, and how it can benefit service providers compared to legacy firewalls.
LRTV Custom TV
Global Services Forum Preview

8|25|15   |   02:36   |   (0) comments


Light Reading's CEO and Founder Steve Saunders talks about Huawei's upcoming Global Services Forum with the help of Heavy Reading's Patrick Donegan and Teresa Mastrangelo.
Telecom Innovators Video Showcase
Infoblox on DNS Threat Index

8|19|15   |   04:39   |   (0) comments


Dilip Pillaipakam from Infoblox talks to Steve Saunders about his company's core network services.
Between the CEOs
CEO Chat With Ihab Tarazi, Equinix

8|14|15   |   20:18   |   (1) comment


Equinix CTO Ihab Tarazi talks to Light Reading founder and CEO Steve Saunders about the dramatic changes in the data center, cloud and interconnect markets and discusses the impact of SDN and NFV in the coming years.
Telecom Innovators Video Showcase
The Netformx Ecosystem

8|14|15   |   09:39   |   (1) comment


Ittai Bareket, CEO of Netformx, talks with Steve Saunders about the Netformx Ecosystem, which employs cutting-edge prescriptive analytics to help solution providers maximize profits.
Telecom Innovators Video Showcase
Versa Networks on Leveraging VNFs

8|12|15   |   07:37   |   (0) comments


Kumar Mehta, founder and CEO of stealth mode startup Versa Networks, talks with Steve Saunders about how providers can best leverage virtualized network functions (VNFs).
LRTV Custom TV
Transforming the Network Through OPNFV

8|5|15   |   7:09   |   (0) comments


Sandra Rivera, VP Data Center Group; GM Network Platforms Group, Intel Corporation, on OPNFV Arno and how the industry is coming together to accelerate the deployment of NFV and transform the network.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei ONS Product Demo

8|3|15   |   6:01   |   (0) comments


Huawei shows at Open Networking Summit 2015 in Santa Clara how its SDN and NFV solutions embrace openness.
LRTV Custom TV
End-User or Enterprise Benefits to the New IP

7|30|15   |   04:27   |   (1) comment


Andrew Coward discusses what the New IP means to end users or enterprise customers. He explains compelling reasons, including how every customer can get their own network, from the transformation to the New IP.
LRTV Custom TV
Network Visibility & the New IP

7|30|15   |   02:23   |   (0) comments


Mukund Srigopal provides an explanation of what network visibility is and how it is essential as service providers transition to the New IP. In addition, the importance of the network packet broker is discussed.
Upcoming Live Events
September 16-17, 2015, The Westin Galleria Dallas, Dallas, TX
September 16, 2015, The Westin Galleria Dallas, Dallas, TX
September 16, 2015, The Westin Galleria Dallas, Dallas, TX
September 29-30, 2015, The Westin Grand Müchen, Munich, Germany
October 14-15, 2015, New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, New Orleans, LA
November 5, 2015, Hilton Santa Clara, Santa Clara, CA
November 17, 2015, Santa Clara, California
December 1, 2015, The Westin Times Square, New York City
December 2, 2015, The Westin Times Square, New York City
All Upcoming Live Events
Infographics
Cisco's cloud and virtualization portfolio can increase business agility and innovation by building a more flexible network architecture.
Hot Topics
Verizon Hums a Driving Tune
Sarah Thomas, Editorial Operations Director, 8/26/2015
Gogo Approved to Speed Up In-Flight WiFi
Sarah Thomas, Editorial Operations Director, 8/24/2015
Could Market Volatility Hurt Tech IPOs?
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 8/24/2015
Sprint's Claure: '3 to 5 Years' to Turnaround
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 8/25/2015
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed
September 22, 2015
Media Begins With “Me”
Webinar Archive
BETWEEN THE CEOs - Executive Interviews
Jeff Miller, President and CEO of ActiveVideo, talks to Light Reading founder and CEO Steve Saunders about the impact of virtualization on the TV and video distribution market.
Equinix CTO Ihab Tarazi talks to Light Reading founder and CEO Steve Saunders about data center, cloud and the impact of virtualization in the coming years.
Cats with Phones
Cats Are a Smartphone's Best Friend Click Here
Whoever said cats didn't live to please their humans?