Carrier Aggregation to Spur Small Cells Deployment for Airtel

Deployment of carrier aggregation technology is likely to emerge as one of the key drivers of small cells deployment for Bharti Airtel, India's largest service provider.

As mobile broadband usage increases in India, service providers are rolling out carrier aggregation technology to enhance capacity and spectral efficiency.

"Trials for three-carrier aggregation in multi-layer, multi-band technology are already underway and it is here that the role of small cells is going to be huge," says Sachin Deshpande, head of small cells and smart city network solutions and acquisitions at Bharti Airtel Ltd. (Mumbai: BHARTIARTL). The company has already deployed a small cells network in Gurgaon, near New Delhi.

Further, Licensed-Assisted Access (LAA) will give the service providers an option to use unlicensed spectrum for improved spectral efficiency, says Deshpande.

"Carrier aggregation is going to be the order of the day, so we can utilize unlicensed bands," elaborated Deshpande.

While Indian telcos have yet to deploy small cells technology, this is likely to change soon. Network upgrades and deployment of 4G networks mean that small cells are going to be an integral part of Indian networks.

Airtel has already deployed LTE-Advanced, which utilizes carrier aggregation across TDD-LTE and FDD-LTE, in the state of Kerala in South India. The telco is planning to deploy the technology in other states as well.

Airtel is not the only service provider to deploy carrier aggregation technology. Reliance Jio has also initiated carrier aggregation in all frequency bands, it said in a recent investor presentation. Small cells are also going to be a part of RJio's 4G network. The company plans to outsource some of its small cells deployment to the local cable operator. (See RJio's Big Small Cells Vision.)

RJio has also launched carrier aggregation trials across all bands so it can offer better 4G services to its subscribers. "Trials started for carrier aggregation in all RJIL frequency bands," says the recent investor presentation report of Reliance Industries Limited, the parent company of Reliance Jio.

— Gagandeep Kaur, contributing editor, special to Light Reading

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