& 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
How cable operators and other pay-TV providers can differentiate themselves by helping customers find needles in haystacks. More is not always better.
A new way of thinking as well as new technologies and procedures are needed for those devising network security strategies, argues Fortinet's Matthew Pley.
High-frequency is on the 5G agenda after the FCC mmWave decision.
With the Summer Olympics now halfway over in Brazil, CSPs and other tech providers are competing fiercely for their own gold, silver and bronze medals.
LTE is evolving to support the Internet of Things as we head towards a massively connected 5G world.
Light Reading’s Upskill U is a FREE, interactive, online educational resource that delivers must-have education on themes that relate to the overall business transformation taking place in the communications industry.
NEXT COURSE
Wednesday, September 14, 1:00PM EDT
What Is Agile?
Kent J. McDonald, Product Owner, Agile Alliance
UPCOMING COURSE SCHEDULE
Friday, September 16, 1:00PM EDT
How to Implement Agile
Alan Bateman, Director, Agile Transformation
Wednesday, September 21, 1:00PM EDT
What Is DevOps?
Colin Kincaid, CTO, Service Provider, Cisco
Friday, September 23, 1:00PM EDT
How to Implement DevOps
,
in association with:
From The Founder
Light Reading today starts a new voyage as part of a larger Enterprise.
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.
Between the CEOs
CEO Chat: UXP's Gemini Waghmare

8|26|16   |     |   (0) comments


Light Reading CEO Steve Saunders and UXP Systems CEO Gemini Waghmare discuss how traditional operators must rise to the challenge of creating a digital identity for themselves if they are to survive in an increasingly OTT world.
LRTV Custom TV
F5 Virtual Network Function Integrations With Partner Orchestration Platform

8|24|16   |   6:38   |   (0) comments


F5's Kishore Patnam, product manager for F5's service provider solutions, discusses why service providers are moving towards virtualization and how his clients are utilizing F5's solutions.
Between the CEOs
CEO Chat: Intel's Alexis Black Bjorlin

8|17|16   |   06:23   |   (0) comments


Join us for an in-depth interview between Steve Saunders of Light Reading and Alexis Black Bjorlin of Intel as they discuss the release of the company's Silicon Photonics platform, its performance, long-term prospects, customer expectations and much more.
Telecom Innovators Video Showcase
Accelerating Telecom Digital Transformation With Nominum DNS

8|1|16   |   12:04   |   (0) comments


Light Reading's Steve Saunders gets an update from Nominum CEO Gary Messiana on how his company is helping carriers on the digital transformation journey.
LRTV Custom TV
Reinventing Operations for a Virtual, Software-Defined World

7|28|16   |   5:23   |   (0) comments


Heavy Reading Senior Analyst Jim Hodges speaks with Accenture's Larry Socher and Matt Anderson about what service providers must do to transform their business to get the benefits of SDN and NFV including: leveraging DevOps, introducing real-time OSS and implementing analytics.
Women in Comms Introduction Videos
Fujitsu Sales Leader Shares Lessons Learned

7|27|16   |   5:12   |   (1) comment


As Fujitsu's only female sales leader, Annie Bogue knows the importance of asking for what you want, being flexible (she's been relocated five times), keeping a meticulous calendar, 'leaning in,' working harder than everyone else around you, being aware and more.
Telecom Innovators Video Showcase
VeEX Test & Measurement Solutions

7|25|16   |   08:57   |   (0) comments


Cyrille Morelle, president and CEO of VeEX Inc., talks test and measurement with Light Reading's Steve Saunders at BCE 2016. This includes innovative products such as VeSion Cloud-Based platform for network monitoring; MTTplus Modular Test platform for Access, Business, Carrier Ethernet, Transport and Core services; and OPX-BOX+ for Fiber Optics.
LRTV Custom TV
VeEX: Live From BCE 2016

7|25|16   |   03:20   |   (0) comments


VeEX's Senior Director of Business Development, Perry Romano, explains how VeEX provides tools to help install, maintain, monitor and manage network infrastructure efficiently and effectively. The portfolio of products on display include the RXT-6000, MTTplus and TX300s.
LRTV Custom TV
Real-Time Telemetry & Analytics for Intelligent SDN Orchestration

7|25|16   |   03:09   |   (0) comments


Packet Design CEO Scott Sherwood discusses how real-time network telemetry and analytics are enabling a new breed of SDN orchestration applications.
From the Founder
The Russo Report: Driving Disruption

7|25|16   |   07:44   |   (2) comments


In the first episode of a four-part series, Light Reading Founder and CEO Steve Saunders and Calix President and CEO Carl Russo drive around town discussing the disruptive mega-changes in the communications industry and where hope lies for service providers to meet the escalating demands of the cloud.
LRTV Custom TV
NetScout: Maximizing Enterprise Cloud for Digital Transformation

7|20|16   |   04:53   |   (0) comments


Light Reading Editor Mitch Wagner talks to NetScout CMO Jim McNiel about maximizing the benefits of enterprise cloud and digital transformation while minimizing potential pitfalls with a proper monitoring and instrumentation strategy.
Women in Comms Introduction Videos
Ciena's VP Offers a Career Crash Course

7|20|16   |   4:14   |   (2) comments


How did Ciena's Vice President of Sales, Angela Finn, carve out her career path? Simple, she tells WiC. She stayed true to her company, customers and principles. She shares her advice for women on how to be authentic and credible, as well as for companies that want to make a real change to their culture and practices.
Upcoming Live Events
September 13-14, 2016, The Curtis Hotel, Denver, CO
November 3, 2016, The Montcalm Marble Arch, London
November 30, 2016, The Westin Times Square, New York City
December 1, 2016, The Westin Times Square, New York, NY
December 6-8, 2016, The Westin Excelsior, Rome
May 16-17, 2017, Austin Convention Center, Austin, TX
All Upcoming Live Events
Infographics
Hot Topics
Cisco Developing 'Monica' Digital Assistant
Mitch Wagner, West Coast Bureau Chief, Light Reading, 8/22/2016
'Most Wanted' Kobi Comes Home
Ray Le Maistre, Editor-in-chief, 8/23/2016
Rocket Fiber Lights Up Detroit With Gigabit
Elizabeth Miller Coyne, Managing Editor, 8/22/2016
Arista Banned From Importing Products – Cisco
Mitch Wagner, West Coast Bureau Chief, Light Reading, 8/23/2016
How the Padres Hit an IoT Home Run
Mitch Wagner, West Coast Bureau Chief, Light Reading, 8/25/2016
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed
BETWEEN THE CEOs - Executive Interviews
Light Reading CEO Steve Saunders and UXP Systems CEO Gemini Waghmare discuss how traditional operators must rise to the challenge of creating a digital identity for themselves if they are to survive in an increasingly OTT world.
Join us for an in-depth interview between Steve Saunders of Light Reading and Alexis Black Bjorlin of Intel as they discuss the release of the company's Silicon Photonics platform, its performance, long-term prospects, customer expectations and much more.
Animals with Phones
Live Digital Audio

Bridging the tech skills gap is a major challenge for service providers and suppliers alike today – and the challenge is two-fold when it comes to increasing the number of women in the comms space. Level 3 Communications has made it a priority to overcome both challenges by implementing several unique programs focused on building the right candidates from within – in addition to filling the funnel by supporting STEM and other education programs. During this radio show, you’ll learn about these programs from Mary Beth McGrath, SVP of Global Talent Management at Level 3, and the best ways to bridge your own skills gap so that you are motivated and equipped for change. Plus you’ll have the chance to ask Mary Beth your questions live on the air.