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Sprint Tests Small Cells at the Speedway

Sarah Thomas
3/5/2014
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Sprint and Qualcomm have just wrapped up a two-day trial of what they're calling the densest deployment of small cells anywhere.

The trial, which took place March 1-2 at the Nascar Speedway in Phoenix, Ariz., is the second phase of an "over-the-air trial of an LTE TDD hyper-dense small cell network," Qualcomm Inc. (Nasdaq: QCOM) says. Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) and the chipmaker undertook phase one in November at the speedway.

Qualcomm Atheros SVP of Product Management Dan Rabinovitsj says this was also the first trial of the chipmaker's Ultra-SON [self-organizing network] technology. In the November trial, the pair put 31 LTE base stations within a few meters of each other in the pits area of the arena to see how they improved throughput on the network, dealt with handovers, and managed the signaling load to the core network. Rabinovitsj says the results were outstanding.

"Nascar is a great venue because it's worst-case everything," he says. "Deploying a network where there's hundreds of thousands of spectators with mass trucks pulling in, the RF is terrible and changing. It was stress testing our stuff harder than anyone could imagine."

The trial was pretty realistic of a real-world deployment, Rabinovitsj says, because of the huge fan attendance and these natural elements. At the Phoenix International Raceway over the weekend, the trial included 31 small cell base stations using Airspan Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: AIRN)'s AirSyngergy 2000 LTE-Advanced Pico base stations. Qualcomm says the hyper-dense network has an equivalent density of 1000 cells per km2 operating on Sprint's band 41 LTE-TDD spectrum.

Sprint hasn't outlined its specific timeline for further small cell deployments, but has said it will deploy both indoor and outdoor base stations this year. It's working with vendors Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU), Samsung Corp. , and Nokia Networks on the deployments. (See Sprint Plans Indoor, Outdoor Small Cells in 2014, Sprint Has Samsung 4G LTE Small Cells: Analyst, and Sprint Eyes SDN to Re-Craft Its Core.)

— Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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Sarah Thomas
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Sarah Thomas,
User Rank: Blogger
3/7/2014 | 9:52:29 AM
Re: Deployment density
I had the same thought when he told me it was the densest small cell deployment yet -- at only 31 & 32 small cells, it's not that huge. I wonder how many these big venues will need when they take into account all the different carriers, as you say. Being carrier neutral like DAS does have a big advantage in that sense.
McCray
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McCray,
User Rank: Light Weight
3/7/2014 | 5:13:07 AM
Re: Deployment density
Although this trial if you would indicates great results 31 small cells is hardly an indicator of the challenges that a high capacity venue such as a stadium with 50,000 - 80,000 subscribers all trying to access social networks and utilizing video streaming applications. Then you factor in in multiple wireless operators operating on multiple frequencies and technologies which still equates to a DAS system as being the optimum solution.

Small Cells are raising the bar however, and it is great to hear ths type of progress. Small Cell is pushing DAS to new innovative heights as evident by several usual suspects announcing new DAS innovations at MWC (TE-Connectivity, Axell Wireless, and Commscope)

 

Cheers
danielcawrey
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danielcawrey,
User Rank: Light Sabre
3/6/2014 | 12:15:12 PM
Re: Deployment density
I'm guessing that these deployments have to really pack in the small cells. A lot of these venues are full of people and metal. I don't think that's very conductive to over-the-air traffic.

But people want to be able to use their devices during these events, and providers must deliver. 
Sarah Thomas
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Sarah Thomas,
User Rank: Blogger
3/6/2014 | 9:25:49 AM
Re: Deployment density
True, there are other things going on that are much more likely to kill you...

That said, small cells would be especially useful in more mission critical places/times, such as disaster recovery. They're relatively easy to deploy, rights aside, and can boost signals where they are needed the most.
Sarah Thomas
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Sarah Thomas,
User Rank: Blogger
3/6/2014 | 9:19:27 AM
Re: Deployment density
It was a real race, part of the Nascar national series. Kyle Bush won.

We bought my dad "The Richard Petty" experience for his birthday one year. How much cooler would it have been if he could've reliably Tweeted about it while he was driving the race car?
Mitch Wagner
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Mitch Wagner,
User Rank: Lightning
3/6/2014 | 12:25:25 AM
Re: Deployment density
It's a great test because it matches a steep technical challenge with low stakes for failure. Nobody's going to die if cell service goes out at NASCAR. The rewards are high but the downsides are low.
mendyk
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mendyk,
User Rank: Light Sabre
3/5/2014 | 7:27:37 PM
Re: Deployment density
Did anyone say what the testing load was? Did the trial take place during an actual race? Was Richard Petty there tweeting unnice things about Danica Patrick?
Sarah Thomas
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Sarah Thomas,
User Rank: Blogger
3/5/2014 | 2:40:46 PM
Deployment density
This certainly wasn't the biggest small cell deployment at only 32 base stations, but it is the densest. There are very specific use cases for something like this, I imagine -- stadiums and venues like this being one. That's the good thing about small cells. They can be added as needed and where needed.
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