Sprint Tees Up LTE Small Cells

NEW ORLEANS -- International CTIA Wireless -- Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) expects to have three 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) small cells ready for use by the end of 2012.

"We'll begin to launch LTE picos in the last part of this year," Iyad Tarazi, Sprint's VP of network development and engineering, revealed at a Network Vision breakfast on Wednesday morning.

The Sprint network guru later told Light Reading Mobile that the small cells will be designed for specific applications and intended to improve indoor coverage.

He couldn't yet reveal who will supply the tiny base stations, exactly when they will arrive, or any kind of pricing.

The initial LTE picocells will be followed by outdoor units "late next year or early the year after," Tarazi said. The outdoor units will require additional interference-rejection capabilities before being released into the wild.

Small cells are a crucial part of LTE evolution as they enable better coverage and faster data downloads at the edge of the network and places where traditional cell-sites can't be deployed.

Sprint will launch its first six LTE cities by mid-year. The operator's ongoing Network Vision upgrades build in support for small cells at the core. (See Sprint LTE Devices Arrive Before Network and Sprint Sets Due Date for iDEN's LTE Rebirth .)

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Light Reading Mobile

macster 12/5/2012 | 5:33:33 PM
re: Sprint Tees Up LTE Small Cells

Hi, did they give any small cell insights, e.g. coverage area of an outdoor small cell, etc.?

joset01 12/5/2012 | 5:33:33 PM
re: Sprint Tees Up LTE Small Cells

Not specifically but a lot of Sprint backhaul is getting the fiber treatment as part of the Network Vision upgrades. I don't know how they'll deal with large numbers of outdoor small cells yet though.

Would be interested to hear your take.

bogdanovici 12/5/2012 | 5:33:33 PM
re: Sprint Tees Up LTE Small Cells

Did they provide any insight into how they plan to backhaul traffic from outdoor small cells?

bogdanovici 12/5/2012 | 5:33:30 PM
re: Sprint Tees Up LTE Small Cells

It goes without saying that fiber is preferred option where available/affordable and where project timelines can accommodate the fiber build.

However, I do believe that wireless backhaul (whether conventional "line of sight" licensed or millimeter microwave (MW), still not sure about NLOS solution) is viable option for outdoor small cells, especially in the areas where fiber option is expensive, not readily available or project timelines are very aggressive. MW solutions provide sufficient capacity for traffic from the small cell sites; furthermore, they are easy to install and should be inexpensive. Assuming that line of sight is available (which might be a problem in busy areas where small cells are likely to be deployed first), the biggest problem I see is that municipalities are generally not happy when antennas are visible. Aesthetically pleasing design is very important for outdoor small cells, especially for shorter pole lines in the urban areas.

We've seen numerous smaller vendors come out with various wireless backhaul solutions lately. Some bigger MW vendors introduced specialized offerings for small cells as well.


It would be interesting to find out if any of the major service providers plans to use wireless backhaul for outdoor small cells in the near future.

joset01 12/5/2012 | 5:33:29 PM
re: Sprint Tees Up LTE Small Cells

Not yet, the outdoor stuff isn't coming til 2013.

macster 12/5/2012 | 5:33:25 PM
re: Sprint Tees Up LTE Small Cells

I think you need to consider the small cell network design before anything. Let's consider an über-urban scenario. Small cells on well-mentioned poles, say 10m apart? I'm sure you can see that a microwave PTP approach becomes unwieldy.

Which brings me back to the initial question of small cell coverage. There are trials going on for sure and I think a deployment in Korea??? Anyone care to give a high-level overview? Much appreciated.

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