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Small cells

AT&T Gets 'Opportunistic' With 4G Small Cells

AT&T is now deploying public access small cells -- including 4G LTE units -- around its network with a view to getting the most speed and coverage bang for its buck from the tiny standalone basestations. (See Know Your Small Cell: Home, Enterprise, or Public Access?)

"Our network team is now deploying small cells across our network," Chris Rice, vice president of advanced technologies at AT&T Labs , said at the operator's "Innovation Showcase" Friday, where the company also talked of home-grown network virtualization technology. "AT&T Labs is working with them to make sure they deployed in the right spots." (See AT&T Working on Home-Grown SDN Controller for Later in 2014 .)

AT&T has been deploying 3G HSPA+ small cells during the past year. In November 2013, John Donovan, senior executive vice president of AT&T technology and network operations, said the operator had small cells in 18 states. In February 2014, the operator said that it had deployed 3G and 4G units at Disney properties in the US. (See AT&T Deploys Small Cells & More at Disney and AT&T: 3G Small Cells in 18 US States.)

Talking to Light Reading on Friday, Rice said that 4G small cells -- as well as 3G units -- are being deployed on the wider AT&T network in the US. "Yes, LTE also," Rice told us.

Deployment, however, doesn't mean that AT&T is pushing small cells out in swathes across the network. Rather, Rice says the Labs team is using algorithms and analysis to find the best spots to place the small cells to improve network performance. Rice describes the current moves as an "opportunistic" use of small cell technology.

— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading

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