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Small cells

AT&T: Multimode Small Cells by Early 2015

AT&T is now expecting to start rolling out small cells that can support 3G, 4G, and WiFi late this year or early in 2015.

AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T)'s Kris Rinne, senior vice president of network technology at AT&T Labs, gave Light Reading a quick rundown on where the operator is now with small cells at its annual developers' conference in Las Vegas last week. (See AT&T Hears Call of VoLTE in 2014.)

"Today, most of our small cells are UMTS or HSPA+," she told us. (See AT&T Sings Song of Small Cells With HARP.)

Rinne says that AT&T is testing LTE-only small cells for pure outdoor coverage. AT&T is likely to deploy single-mode LTE small cells where there is a business case to do so, she noted.

The operator, however, has been testing multimode small cells that support 3G, LTE, and WiFi in its labs since at least April 2013. Multimode small cells are some of the most tricky devices for vendors to deliver but will -- eventually -- offer carriers the most connectivity options. (See AT&T Has LTE Small Cells 'in the Lab'.)

AT&T hasn't been vocal about a multimode timeline, but Rinne said she now expects to see these units "late this year" or "early next."

Heavy Reading is currently predicting that half a million public access small cells will be in live service, requiring new backhaul, by the end of 2015. (See How Heavy Reading Called Small Cells Right.)

AT&T has so far said that it expects to deploy more than 40,000 small cells by the end of 2015. The operator hasn't broken out how many of those tiny radios might need new backhaul.

— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading

DanJones 1/13/2014 | 6:32:52 PM
Re: No Backhaul Required? You would think so, but who knows in the whacky world of small cells?
MordyK 1/13/2014 | 6:24:26 PM
Re: No Backhaul Required? Interesting. I wonder if that's gonna undergo a rapid change...
DanJones 1/13/2014 | 6:18:00 PM
Re: No Backhaul Required? Mostly 3G so far according to Rinne.
MordyK 1/13/2014 | 5:41:21 PM
Re: No Backhaul Required? Good points but I would hazard to guess that its largely an 4G affair at this point, because as more phones become LTE capable the 3G network actually improves and requires less augmentations, wheras LTE becomes ever more in need of help.
DanJones 1/13/2014 | 5:32:31 PM
Re: No Backhaul Required? Maybe so, also note that AT&T has never split out how many of its planned small cells will be 3G-only, 4G-only or Multimode. That could also have a bearing on backhaul planning because you'll need more horsepower for LTE or multis.
MordyK 1/13/2014 | 5:26:27 PM
Re: No Backhaul Required? It really depends on the deployment focus. The more complex, the greater the backhaul challenge.

Personally I think the big backhaul payoff for all the new vendors is a little farther out as the deployments become more "exotic".
DanJones 1/13/2014 | 2:38:06 PM
No Backhaul Required? FYI, I went back through AT&T's commentary on small cells so far. As far as I can they have never split out how many of these 40,000+ small cells will require new backhaul.
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