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