Light Reading
Small cells - they're not just one size fits all.

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
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!
The scary thing is that this massive Las Vegas show could get even bigger, thanks to the Internet of Things (IoT).
The FAA has put out a holiday how-to video about the rules surrounding any shiny new drone for you get for Christmas.
Maybe the point of Apple Global SIM goes beyond offering consumers a brief whiff of choice when using their shiny new iPad.
Flash Poll
From The Founder
It's clear to me that the communications industry is divided into two types of people, and only one is living in the real world.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Dr. Dong Sun Talks About Carriers' Digital Transformation & Huawei’s Telco OS

1|29|15   |   6:28   |   (0) comments


Dr. Dong Sun, Chief Architect of Digital Transformation Solutions at Huawei, discusses how telecom operators can become digital ecosystem enablers and deliver optimal user experiences that are in real-time, on-demand, all-online, DIY and social (ROADS).
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei's Chief Network Architect Talks about Network Experience & Operators’ Strategies

1|29|15   |   3:39   |   (0) comments


In the digital age, network experience has become the primary productivity especially for telecom operators. In this video, Wenshuan Dang, Huawei’s Chief Network Architect, discusses how carriers can tackle the challenge of infrastructure complexity in order to enhance business agility and improve user experience.
LRTV Documentaries
The Rise of Virtual CPE

1|27|15   |   01:38   |   (5) comments


As NFV strategies evolve from tests and trials to production telco networks, expect to hear a lot about virtual CPE (customer premises equipment) rollouts during 2015.
LRTV Documentaries
Optical Is Hot in 2015

1|23|15   |   01:56   |   (2) comments


Optical comms technology underpins the whole communications sector and there are some really hot trends set for 2015.
LRTV Custom TV
Policy Control in the Fast Lane

1|22|15   |   2:57   |   (0) comments


What's making policy control strategic in 2015 and beyond? Amdocs talks with Heavy Reading's Graham Finnie about the key factors driving change in the data services landscape. Find out what his policy management research reveals about the road ahead for policy control – and sign up for
LRTV Documentaries
Highlights From the 2020 Vision Executive Summit

1|21|15   |   4:33   |   (2) comments


In December 2014, Light Reading brought together 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, Cisco's Doug Webster shared his company's ...
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei Pay-TV Partner Harmonic, Helping Carriers Accelerate 4K Video Deployment with Huawei

1|20|15   |   5:42   |   (1) comment


At IBC, Peter Alexander, Senior Vice President & CMO at Harmonic, speaks about the growing interest in pay-TV service and its branching into multiple devices.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Sony Marketing Director Olivier Bovis Discusses the Outlook for 4K and Cooperation With Huawei at IBC 2014

1|20|15   |   6:50   |   (0) comments


At IBC, Olivier Bovis, Marketing Director of Sony, speaks about the coming of the 4K era.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei Pay-TV Partner Envivio, Helping Carriers Accelerate 4K Video Deployment

1|20|15   |   2:57   |   (0) comments


At IBC, Olivier Bovis, Marketing Director of Sony, speaks about the coming of the 4K era.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Pay-TV's Networked Future

1|20|15   |   6:29   |   (0) comments


At IBC, Jeff Heynen, Principal Analyst at Infonetics, speaks about the future of the pay-TV industry and its transition.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Jeff Heynen: Distributed Access Will Help MSOs Compete in the Future

1|20|15   |   2:26   |   (0) comments


At IBC, Jeff Heynen, Principal Analyst at Infonetics, speaks about moving to distributed access and the future trend of cable business.
LRTV Interviews
Cisco Talks Transformation

1|20|15   |   13:02   |   (0) comments


In December 2014, Steve Saunders sat down with Cisco VP of Products & Solutions Marketing Doug Webster at Light Reading's 2020 Vision executive summit in Reykjavik, Iceland. They spoke about Cisco's approach to network virtualization as well as how service providers can begin to monetize high-capacity networks through the end of the decade.
Upcoming Live Events
February 5, 2015, Washington, DC
February 19, 2015, The Fairmont San Jose, San Jose, CA
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
September 9-10, 2015, The Westin Galleria Dallas, Dallas, TX
September 29-30, 2015, The Westin Grand Müchen, Munich, Germany
November 11-12, 2015, The Westin Peachtree Plaza, Atlanta, GA
December 1, 2015, The Westin Times Square, New York City
December 2-3, 2015, The Westin Times Square, New York City
Infographics
Hot Topics
Google Continues Gigabit Expansion
Jason Meyers, Senior Editor, Gigabit Cities/IoT, 1/27/2015
Comcast Apologizes to 'A**hole' Brown
Mitch Wagner, West Coast Bureau Chief, Light Reading, 1/29/2015
US Ops Spend $32.5M to Bring 4G to Chicago's Subways
Sarah Thomas, Editorial Operations Director, 1/30/2015
Cablevision's New WiFi Try – Freewheeling Enough?
Mari Silbey, Independent Technology Editor, 1/26/2015
Overture Builds on NFV Foundation
Mitch Wagner, West Coast Bureau Chief, Light Reading, 1/27/2015
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed
Webinar Archive
BETWEEN THE CEOs - Weekly Executive Interview
Join us live for 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 has to say about the opportunities in video, as well as the outlook for cable, telco, OTT and mobile service providers.