& cplSiteName &

Small Cells: Finding Answers in 2014

Naveen Bhatia
4/14/2014
100%
0%

For the past few years small cells have been touted as the answer to the data deluge pouring onto 3G and 4G cellular networks.

With explosive smartphone growth, consumer expectations have quickly advanced from basic voice to high-speed data and enhanced quality of service (QOS) standards. Not surprisingly, carriers are looking for options to meet this exponential surge in data demand, with macro cell tower deployment inadequate to keep pace with constantly increasing customer needs.

Small cells -- tiny standalone basestations that increase network coverage and capacity -- have been hailed as the answer. So far though, carrier forecasts have fallen well short of actual deployments, with only a few hundred manifesting in 2013. Slowly but surely, however, this is starting to change. (See How Heavy Reading Called Small Cells Right.)

Why has it taken so long?
We all know that with localized coverage, small cells can give subscribers in a particular small pocket of coverage the needed capacity in a spectrum-efficient manner. They can offload macro traffic in both indoor and outdoor environments, especially during peak hours. Building out a vast network of small cells seems like a no-brainer. (See Know Your Small Cell: Home, Enterprise, or Public Access?)

However, the complexity of figuring out all of the intricacies has stalled a significant number of projects. For each small cell, carriers must be able to provide power, appropriate backhaul connectivity to the core, and seamless integration with the existing macro network. They've also got to work their way through local zoning bylaws, which has proven a very time- and labor-intensive part of the process. (See Small Cells: The Battle for the Lamp Post.)

The result has been a challenging start for many carriers, despite numerous optimistic projections from wireless analysts and the providers themselves. (See Multimode Small Cells Get Stalled in Labs.)

Things are starting to change
As the industry has begun to mature, a combination of technologies is being considered as part of the small-cell solution, and a "toolbox" is essentially being developed to address a range of different commercial-grade deployment scenarios.

For example, for commercial deployments, carriers are focusing on leveraging the latest indoor and outdoor small-cell solutions. The indoor solutions will focus on improving poor in-building cellular performance, supporting between 8 and 32 users with a field-upgradable feature set.

The outdoor solutions will focus on improving capacity or coverage in specific urban and suburban hotspots. The latest power-limited products should require short permitting cycles to ensure quicker deployments.

Plus, carriers will be choosing between deploying 3G/4G or LTE-only access points (APs) that include voice services through Voice-over-LTE (VoLTE). Carriers will even have the ability to enable WiFi services in all those APs in order to provide easy and seamless access to all users -- that could be on a pole or a user's home router. That means that future small-cell infrastructure will offer the ability to function as a "neutral host," allowing multiple carriers to essentially operate from a universal product. As a result, in 2014 expect to see a dramatic pickup, with several thousand commercial deployments from some of the largest carriers.

Time to let SON technology shine
Self-optimizing networks (SONs) have started to emerge as another ray of light for small cells. Say you had 300,000 macro sites to manage over the last decade. Now imagine the addition of 30,000 to 50,000 small-cell sites each year. The task becomes unfathomable, and that is where SONs come in. (See Cisco's Quantum SON Shines on Small Cells.)

When we have a mix of small cell, distributed antennas (DAS), WiFi, and macro cells, it becomes a complex heterogeneous network (HetNet). With all of the different networks, products, and technologies that carriers use to provide the needed coverage and capacity, there is a vital need for automated self-configuration, self-optimizing, and self-healing platforms to take over day-to-day operational tasks.

SON technology has been implemented selectively in 2013 but is still in the nascent stages of being tested. It's not yet fully automated. Currently, the technology is being monitored while running basic tasks, but with the advent of small cells, SON technology can really take off.

This includes better enabling planning needs, with the ability to determine how the networks will interact without interference by determining azimuth, power levels, and handoffs. SON technology will also help manage customer needs by filling coverage holes when sites are down, plus figuring out a way to actually fix the problem in the background.

Localized focus means improved customer experience
Not so long ago, GPS technology on your smartphone really only benefited you. Now, by reverse engineering through specialized tools, carriers can track each phone's performance from a geo-location perspective. With this information, carriers will be able to understand and analyze how well wireless traffic is moving and measure the quality of calls in real time. These analytics will help to identify areas of interest and to mitigate capacity or coverage issues based on call performance.

And increasingly, that analysis will become more focused on smaller pockets of usage. We're entering an era where network performance will no longer be monitored on a metropolitan basis. Instead, it will look at, and empower, a niche area. For example, carriers will be able analyze the upper deck of the stadium during a live sports game and improve customer experience in real-time.

With more localized small-cell coverage, geo-analytics will become vital. Carriers will be able to design and optimize networks efficiently, as well as quickly pinpoint and fix problems, resulting in higher customer satisfaction and lower churn.

Clearly, many industry analysts were overzealous and promised things that couldn't possibly happen in the timetables forecast -- there were just too many moving parts and unknowns to be worked through first.

But now, thanks to all of these technological enhancements and our clearer understanding of the very complex factors that go into making small cells a reality, we're poised to hit those megabillion-dollar forecasts in 2014. That means that small cells will finally start to enable big changes for networks.

— Naveen Bhatia, Vice President of Network Engineering, Nexius Solutions.

(2)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View        ADD A COMMENT
ramesh kumar
50%
50%
ramesh kumar,
User Rank: Light Beer
4/15/2014 | 6:52:02 AM
Re: Cisco Small Cell Solutions
It's exciting field where the whole ecosystem of RAN be it in Macro/Micro/Pico environment. Hetnet holds the potential to capture the big bang happening in data usage and ensure the quality is not impacted.

Certainly the seamless connectivity and service availability will be key to good quality. Integrating across technology will be the key challenge and Cisco having acquired Small cell portfolio recently needs to prove the macro/oss layer capability.

 
KevinPetschow
50%
50%
KevinPetschow,
User Rank: Light Beer
4/14/2014 | 3:37:40 PM
Cisco Small Cell Solutions
For more information on Cisco Small Cell Solutions, go to: http://www.cisco.com/c/en/us/solutions/service-provider/small-cell-solutions/index.html
Educational Resources
sponsor supplied content
Educational Resources Archive
More Blogs from Column
New and exciting methods of automation – whether virtualization, the cloud, IoT or even best practices like network segmentation – tend to emphasize innovation over visibility. As such, networks develop blind spots that mask network problems and even faulty devices.
Unlicensed spectrum will help the 3GPP's 5G specification proliferate.
Outages are inevitable, but how can we deal with them better?
The arrival of NFV and IoT is driving a greater need for Service Quality Management (SQM) capabilities, argues Sandeep Raina.
An updated architecture, new approach to software and the ability to launch new services will give telcos a successful path to 5G within the next few years.
From The Founder
The time has come for a telecom app store to save the industry.
Flash Poll
Live Streaming Video
Charting the CSP's Future
Six different communications service providers join to debate their visions of the future CSP, following a landmark presentation from AT&T on its massive virtualization efforts and a look back on where the telecom industry has been and where it's going from two industry veterans.
LRTV Custom TV
Ethernity Network Delivers Instant Offloading of Network Functions Wth All-Programmable Intelligent NIC

5|25|17   |     |   (0) comments


David Levi, CEO of Ethernity Networks, explains that programmability of the hardware makes the company's All-Programmable Intelligent NIC uniquely beneficial for communications service providers that need advanced data appliances with agile support of virtualization. Utilizing the company's patented network processing technology, Ethernity offers data path ...
LRTV Documentaries
BCE 2017: Vodafone Gets Obsessed With Cloud-Native

5|25|17   |     |   (0) comments


Vodafone's Matt Beal updates us on Project Ocean and explains why simple virtualization isn't enough of a goal for network transformation. Catch up with other BCE 2017 keynotes and news at http://www.lightreading.com/bce.asp.
LRTV Documentaries
BCE 2017: Intel's Take on Network Transformation

5|24|17   |     |   (0) comments


In this BCE 2017 keynote, Lynn Comp discusses Intel's vision for areas such as analytics, automation and service assurance. For more videos and BCE coverage, see http://www.lightreading.com/bce.asp.
LRTV Documentaries
Order From Chaos: The Steve Saunders BCE Keynote

5|24|17   |   17:27   |   (0) comments


Kicking off BCE 2017, Light Reading founder Steve Saunders lays blame for NFV's slow ramp-up and urges telecom to return to old-fashioned standards building and interoperability testing.
Think of this as the video sequel to the recent columns he's written about NFV and the prospect of a telecom app store. (See

LRTV Documentaries
Service Provider Panel: Partnering in the Digital Era

5|22|17   |     |   (0) comments


Coopetition has always been part of telecom, but the ecosphere now includes data centers, vendors, apps developers, cloud service providers and Internet content providers. This BCE 2017 panel explores the new attitudes among network operators as to the value and variety of ...
LRTV Interviews
Site Demo: AT&T's IoT Flow Platform

5|19|17   |   04:25   |   (0) comments


At AT&T's R&D center in Tel Aviv, Israel, project leader Eyal Segev talks about the operator's Flow platform and how it helps to prototype IoT applications.
LRTV Documentaries
Agent of Change: A Q&A With AT&T's John Donovan

5|18|17   |     |   (0) comments


Carol Wilson talks with the man leading AT&T's transformation efforts about the challenge of change.
LRTV Documentaries
BCE Service Provider Panel: The New Business Realities

5|18|17   |     |   (0) comments


For virtualization to happen, the telecom industry first has to grapple with key functional aspects of SDN and NFV that need to be universal, such as onboarding of virtualized network functions and federation of software-defined networks.
LRTV Interviews
BCE Service Provider Keynote: CenturyLink

5|16|17   |   22:32   |   (0) comments


Aamir Hussain leads the Product Development and Technology organization at CenturyLink, which includes the company's information technology function. He is an experienced senior technology executive with more than 25 years of proven success in the implementation of global technology operations, operationalization of complex technology, infrastructures and business ...
LRTV Interviews
CenturyLink CTO on Transformation

5|16|17   |   7:43   |   (0) comments


The 80-year-old telco has already gone through several transformations, including every time it made an acquisition, but its purchase of Level 3 coupled with changes in technology and customer expectations necessitates its biggest transformation yet.
LRTV Documentaries
Light Reading Hall of Fame 2017

5|15|17   |   5:05   |   (1) comment


Find out who made it into Light Reading's Hall of Fame this year.
LRTV Interviews
Site Visit: AT&T's Tel Aviv R&D Center

5|15|17   |   09:58   |   (1) comment


Nir Shalom, general manager and VP of application development at AT&T Israel, talks about the key service developments undertaken at the AT&T R&D facility in Tel Aviv and how the team there has adopted new ways of working.
Infographics
With the mobile ecosystem becoming increasingly vulnerable to security threats, AdaptiveMobile has laid out some of the key considerations for the wireless community.
Hot Topics
Cities Clamor for More Clout at FCC
Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, 5/23/2017
What's Blocking 4K TV Today
Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading, 5/22/2017
Sonus & Genband Finally Combine to Form $745M Company
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 5/23/2017
Fright Wigs & Cocktails: BCE 2017 in Pics
Mitch Wagner, Editor, Enterprise Cloud, 5/19/2017
When Gig Speeds Alone Aren't Enough
Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, 5/23/2017
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed
BETWEEN THE CEOs - Executive Interviews
One of the nice bits of my job (other than the teeny tiny salary, obviously) is that I get to pick and choose who I interview for this slot on the Light Reading home ...
TEOCO Founder and CEO Atul Jain talks to Light Reading Founder and CEO Steve Saunders about the challenges around cost control and service monetization in the mobile and IoT sectors.
Animals with Phones
What Brogrammers Look Like to the Rest of Us Click Here
Live Digital Audio

Playing it safe can only get you so far. Sometimes the biggest bets have the biggest payouts, and that is true in your career as well. For this radio show, Caroline Chan, general manager of the 5G Infrastructure Division of the Network Platform Group at Intel, will share her own personal story of how she successfully took big bets to build a successful career, as well as offer advice on how you can do the same. We’ll cover everything from how to overcome fear and manage risk, how to be prepared for where technology is going in the future and how to structure your career in a way to ensure you keep progressing. Chan, a seasoned telecom veteran and effective risk taker herself, will also leave plenty of time to answer all your questions live on the air.