Ericsson Preps New Small Cells

Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC) plans to introduce new small cell products next year that will bolster its strategy and offerings for Heterogeneous Networks (HetNets).

In a recent interview with Light Reading Mobile, Ericsson's VP and head of mobile broadband, Magnus Ewerbring, said the new base station products will be introduced in the second half of next year.

"[We'll be] coming out with products that are lower power, smaller ... picocells and small micros ... a box like a notepad that you put on the wall inside or outside," he said.

The products will be multi-standard, which means they will support not only Long Term Evolution (LTE), but also HSPA and GSM. But that is the extent of the detail the vendor shared about the new products.

The news marks a deeper commitment to small cells from the market leader in mobile infrastructure equipment, and reinforces Ericsson's HetNet strategy. (See Ericsson: Coming Up for AIR in 2012, Ericsson's Small Cells Come Up for AIR, Get Hip to the HetNet and MWC 2011: The End of the RAN as We Know It? )

But it doesn't mean that Ericsson will become small cells' biggest cheerleader. Indeed, Ericsson's vision for small cell deployments is, well, small: the vendor does not believe mobile broadband networks will need tens of thousands of small cells to boost data capacity and coverage. (See picoChip: London LTE Needs 70K Small Cells.)

Rather, Ewerbring's "ball park" estimate is that small cells will be needed on the "same order of magnitude as the number of macro sites" and only in areas where the network is overloaded.

"If you have too many sites, you'll inflict a management issue on the operator, backhaul costs and less efficient spectrum usage," he said. "We support small cells and we want them to be deployed in ways that are cost effective for operators and deliver the best performance."

So here's Ericsson's mobile broadband HetNet vision for operators: The first step is coverage, which involves rolling out big macro base stations; then, to increase capacity, add more macro base stations, as well as sectors, carriers, or even additional spectrum, if possible; for yet more capacity but with lower site acquisition costs, deploy remote radio heads (RRHs) or products such as Ericsson's AIR (antenna integrated radio); for indoor coverage in large buildings, use distributed antenna system (DAS); and after all of that, deploy some smaller cells that in congested areas that are coordinated with the macro network.

For Ericsson, the key criterion for small cells is coordination with the macro network, because it believes that's the best way to use operators' limited spectrum. "We don't want to split spectrum between macro and small cell layer," said Ewerbring.

And that emphasis on coordination is also a way for Ericsson to distance itself from other small cell vendors -- particularly, femtocell makers. Ericsson is still no fan of femtos. (See Ericsson: We Have Nothing Against Femtos, Ericsson Stalls on 3G Femtos and Ericsson's 3G Femto Issue.)

"[Femtos] are uncoordinated. They can spread interference that can affect the macro base station and the smartphone. You get less capacity system-wise," said Ewerbring. "Some people jump into extreme situations and call for extreme solutions. We're there. We're in the middle of the riot every day."

And the view from the mobile broadband "riot," according to Ewerbring, is that operators will need "a few small cells" in very loaded areas over time to strengthen the HetNet. Not, he added, "toss these left and right."

— Michelle Donegan, European Editor, Light Reading Mobile

Michelle Donegan 12/5/2012 | 4:46:29 PM
re: Ericsson Preps New Small Cells

Must admit I'm not exactly clear on what's meant here by coordination with the macro network. Ewerbring did explain that self-organizing network (SON) capabilities will be part of that. But he also said that network monitoring and optimizing will also be important -- and Ericsson's acquisition last year of mobile OSS speciallist Optimi will come in handy there:


Is there more to it than that?


KCDay 12/5/2012 | 4:46:27 PM
re: Ericsson Preps New Small Cells

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Here we go again - the only defining feature of femtocells and small cells is their size, right?

Wrong. &nbsp;The defining feature of femtocells and small cells is that they continuously adapt to their surroundings. &nbsp;Unlike macro basestations which are actively managed by engineers, small cells actively manage themselves as their environment changes.&nbsp;

These small cells autonomously carry out the operator's policies, and in doing so they actively prevent the technical and management problems described.

And uncoordinated? &nbsp;Operators like Network Norway have been providing companies with femtocell self-organising networks (SONs) on a successful commercial basis for well over a year now.

This stance reminds me of when the giant mainframe vendors would make alarming claims about humble commodity servers, despite the evidence growing all around them.

The fact is that both centralised macro and intelligent small cell network layers are here to stay, and the level of coordination will inevitably grow.


Rupert_Baines 12/5/2012 | 4:46:23 PM
re: Ericsson Preps New Small Cells

Interesting that last year Ericsson said that the world needed 10X more small cells then macrocells to cope with growing traffic&nbsp;


Arpit Joshipura, Vice President, Strategy and Communications, Ericsson



I think I saw Harkan Erikson give the same presentation, with the same 10X prediction, at another conference

Frank Rayal 12/5/2012 | 4:46:10 PM
re: Ericsson Preps New Small Cells

It generally refers to frequency planning the macro and small cell network. With OFDMA physical layer, it is possible to define group of carriers and limit their use to areas such as close to the cell center or at the edge. There are many different scenarios and configurations. But this is the concept since interference between the macro layer and small cell layer can be significant when the small cells are on the same frequency and especially when they are close to the macro cell center. You can check out eICIC (enhanced inter-cluster interference coordiantion) for more information.&nbsp;

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