Light Reading

Lessons From Your Friendly Neighborhood Small Cells

Michelle Donegan
News Analysis
Michelle Donegan
6/16/2014
50%
50%

LONDON -- Small Cells World Summit 2014 -- Despite reservations among many mobile operators about deploying public access small cells in urban areas, some operators have already ventured into outdoor deployments. AT&T, Orange, and Vodafone shared their experiences from trials and commercial deployments at the small cells gathering here in London. (See Urban Jungle Is Still Too Wild for Small Cells and Small Cell Forum Tackles Urban, Virtualization.)

AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), for example, has deployed HSPA+ small cells to fill in coverage gaps in some residential neighborhoods in an effort to improve customer experiences in areas where the natural landscape degrades or impedes wireless signals.

"Most of our need is still coverage based, and we're also looking at congested outdoor environments," said David Orloff, director of small cells platforms, radio access and devices. "There are some cases where the cost of [deploying] a macro site is too high or you can't get [planning] permission; then, small cells make sense."

Orloff discussed three of AT&T's deployments. The first involved installing a cluster of 15 small cells in a high-income, residential neighborhood at the edge of five macrocells that provided poor coverage. In another rollout, the operator placed 22 small cells in a suburban area near a school where dense foliage and the terrain blocked macro coverage. And in the third example, 13 small cells were deployed at the edge of 13 macrocells located in a difficult terrain that, again, did not provide good coverage.

Each of these clusters of small cells is carrying live 3G traffic today.

The key with these deployments is designing and optimizing the small cell clusters for interacting with the nearby macrocells, noted Orloff. "For small cells, it's the interaction with the macro network that largely enables good customer experience," he said.

AT&T has deployed small cells in more than 30 states, according to Orloff. While he didn't specify the number of units deployed, he said the total includes indoor, outdoor, public, private, residential, large and small enterprise varieties. (See AT&T Gets 'Opportunistic' With 4G Small Cells and AT&T Readies LTE-Only Small Cells, Eyes Multimode by 2015.)

Orange cools on hotspots for now
Over in Europe, Orange (NYSE: FTE) has also deployed some outdoor small cells for addressing coverage needs, although the numbers are "quite moderate," said Benoit Graves, the operator's small cell project manager. "It's definitely part of our mid-term strategy."

"A well-located outdoor small cell provides great coverage indoor," he added.

But when it comes to using outdoor small cells to improve network performance in congested environments, Graves said that access to sites and backhaul were still big challenges, particularly in Western Europe. "Once this is sorted, there is a clear place for outdoor small cells."

Also, in Orange's case, the rollout of LTE in its European markets will likely add capacity in some of those congested areas, which would delay the need for an additional capacity boost from small cells. "It's still cheaper to use all the spectrum you have first, then deploy outdoor small cells," he said. "We intended to deploy more 3G small cells a couple of years ago, but now there's 4G."

Vodafone's Dutch experience
Vodafone Netherlands has been rolling out various flavors of small cells over the last four years. Jinglong Zhou, the operator's small cell program manager, explained that it all started with 3G femtocells, an experience that taught the operator that small cells are not only about radio, but the whole network.

About two years ago, the operator deployed 3G small cells in outdoor rural and city areas. "The deployment was fast and cheap, so we were really happy internally," said Zhou. "However, from a quality point of view, it was not a good experience because the handover ratio was not good."

Zhou said this was primarily due to different protocol support in the small cells and the macrocells at that time. Put simply, the operator didn't have the right product available when it first tried outdoor 3G small cells two years ago.

Now, the situation is different and the operator has been trialling an outdoor HetNet of 3G, 4G, and WiFi small cells in a joint project with the City of Maastricht.

So far, Zhou said that the initial result is promising and that a combination of outdoor 3G and 4G small cells can improve network performance.

Vodafone first publicly proposed the concept of deploying small cells outdoors -- dubbed "metro femto" at the time -- at the Small Cell Forum's annual gathering six years ago. (See Vodafone Dreams of Metro Femto.)

A lot has changed since then, but some fundamental challenges (such as backhaul and site acquisition) remain the same for outdoor public access small cells.

— Michelle Donegan, contributing editor

(1)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View        ADD A COMMENT
AJ Allred
50%
50%
AJ Allred,
User Rank: Light Beer
6/17/2014 | 10:46:07 AM
New technology but old bureaucrats
Nice article.  As a former site acquisition guy, I keep thinking we really need better local government regulation of wireless.  No matter how good our technology gets, we still have to overcome bureaucrats at the street level.

Is there a community of land use people who are working on best practices for getting permits?  I'm in.
Flash Poll
From The Founder
Last week I dropped in on "Hotlanta," Georgia to moderate Light Reading's inaugural DroneComm conference – a unique colloquium investigating the potential for drone communications to disrupt the world's telecom ecosystem. As you will see, it was a day of exploration and epiphany...
LRTV Documentaries
Cable Eyeing SDN for Headend, Home Uses

5|26|15   |   05:57   |   (1) comment


CableLabs is looking at virtualizing CMTS and CCAP devices in the headend, as well as in-home devices, says CableLabs' Karthik Sundaresan.
LRTV Documentaries
Verizon's Emmons: SDN Key to Cost-Effective Scaling

5|22|15   |   03:53   |   (0) comments


For Verizon and other network operators to ramp up available bandwidth cost effectively, they need to move to SDN and agree on how to do that.
LRTV Documentaries
Lack of Universal SDN a Challenge

5|21|15   |   04:51   |   (3) comments


Heavy Reading Analyst Sterling Perrin talks about how uncertainty about SDN standards and approaches may be slowing deployment.
LRTV Custom TV
Steve Vogelsang Interview: Carrier SDN

5|20|15   |   05:02   |   (0) comments


Sterling Perrin speaks to Steve Vogelsang, Alcatel-Lucent CTO for IP Routing & Transport business, about the new Carrier SDN-enabling Network Services Platform and the operator challenges it solves.
LRTV Custom TV
Carrier SDN: On-Demand Networks for an On-Demand World

5|20|15   |   20:52   |   (0) comments


Steve Vogelsang, Alcatel-Lucent CTO for IP Routing & Transport business, talks about requirements and benefits of Carrier SDN during the keynote address at the Light Reading Carrier SDN event May 2015.
LRTV Documentaries
The Security Challenge of SDN

5|19|15   |   02:52   |   (0) comments


CenturyLink VP James Feger discusses concerns that virtualization could create new vulnerabilities unless network operators build in safeguards.
LRTV Custom TV
NFV Elasticity – Highly Available VNF Scale-Out Architectures for the Mobile Edge

5|18|15   |   5:50   |   (0) comments


Peter Marek and Paul Stevens from Advantech Networks and Communications Group talk about their NFV Elasticity initiative and the company's latest platforms for deploying virtual network functions at the edge of the network. Packetarium XL and the new Versatile Server Module: 'designed to reach parts of the network that other servers cannot reach.'
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Bay Area Spark Meetup 2015

5|14|15   |   3:54   |   (0) comments


Developed in 2009, Apache Spark is a powerful open source processing engine built around speed, ease of use and sophisticated analytics. This spring, Huawei hosted a meetup for Spark developers and data scientists in Santa Clara, California. Light Reading spoke with organizers and attendees about Huawei's code contributions and long-term commitment to Spark.
LRTV Custom TV
The Transport SDN Buzz

5|12|15   |   06:01   |   (1) comment


Sterling Perrin, senior analyst at Heavy Reading, speaks with Peter Ashwood-Smith of Huawei and Guru Parulkar of ON.Lab about the evolution of transport SDN and the integration of technologies.
LRTV Custom TV
Next-Generation CCAP: Cisco cBR-8 Evolved CCAP

5|5|15   |   04:49   |   (0) comments


John Chapman, Cisco's CTO of Cable Access Business Unit and Cisco Fellow, explained the innovation design of Cisco's cBR-8, the industry's first Evolved CCAP, including DOCSIS 3.1 design from ground-up, distributed CCAP with Remote PHY and path to virtualization. Cisco's cBR-8 Evolved CCAP is the platform that will last through the transitions.
LRTV Custom TV
Meeting the Demands of Bandwidth & Service Group Growth

5|1|15   |   5:35   |   (0) comments


Jorge Salinger, Comcast's Vice President of Access Architecture, explains how DOCSIS 3.1 and multi-service CCAP can meet the demands of the bandwidth and service group growth.
LRTV Custom TV
DOCSIS 3.1: Transforming Cable From Hardware-Defined Network to Software-Defined Network

4|29|15   |   03:48   |   (0) comments


John Chapman, Cisco's CTO of Cable Access Business Unit and Cisco Fellow, explains how DOCSIS 3.1 can transform cable HFC network to a more agile software-defined network.
Upcoming Live Events
June 8, 2015, Chicago, IL
June 9, 2015, Chicago, IL
June 9-10, 2015, Chicago, IL
June 10, 2015, Chicago, IL
September 29-30, 2015, The Westin Grand Müchen, Munich, Germany
October 6, 2015, The Westin Peachtree Plaza, Atlanta, GA
October 6, 2015, Westin Peachtree Plaza, Atlanta, GA
All Upcoming Live Events
Infographics
Procera has gathered facts, stats and customer experience feedback from a survey of 540 users from across the globe.
Hot Topics
10 Alternate Uses for Tablets
Eryn Leavens, Copy Desk Editor, 5/22/2015
Bidding War for TWC Looks Likelier
Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, 5/22/2015
Eurobites: Alcatel-Lucent Trials 400G in Czech Republic
Paul Rainford, Assistant Editor, Europe, 5/26/2015
Comcast Targets 6 New Gigabit Markets
Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, 5/21/2015
Potholes Lurk in Indian Smart City Project
Gagandeep Kaur, Contributing Editor, 5/22/2015
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed
BETWEEN THE CEOs - Executive Interviews
On May 29th 10 AM ET, Steve Saunders, founder and CEO of Light Reading, will be drilling into the "pains and gains" of NFV with Saar Gillai, SVP & GM for NFV at Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ) (HP). He has defined a four-step NFV model describing a sequence of technology innovation. It's a must-read doc for any network architect looking to get to grips with their NFV migration strategy. Join us for the interview, and the chance to ask Saar your NFV questions directly!
With 200 customers in 60 countries, Stockholm-based Net Insight has carved out a solid leadership position in one of the hottest vertical markets going in comms right now: helping service providers and broadcasters deliver video and other multimedia traffic over IP networks. How has Net Insight managed to achieve this success in the face of immense competition from the industry giants?
My ongoing interview tour of the leading minds of the telecom industry recently took me to Richardson, Texas, where I met with Rod Naphan, CTO and SVP, Solutions, ...
Cats with Phones
Too Fluffy to Talk Click Here
Elmer found that his bountiful fur got in the way of meaningful conversation.