Freescale is expecting carriers to use its next generation of small cell chips to help fill in coverage holes in LTE networks.
Freescale Semiconductor Inc. announced its next generation of small cell "system-on-a-chip" (SoC) products Tuesday. The QorIQ Qonverge B3421 basestation SoC handles processing from the radio front-end to the backhaul, according to the chipmaker.
Stephen Turnbull, wireless marketing manager for Freescale's digital networking business, tells Light Reading that the silicon can support two different LTE frequencies (dual-carrier) and up to 256 simultaneous users. Turnbull says that a "development vehicle" is available to small vendors now and he expects to see the silicon in commercial use in 2015. (See AT&T: 3G Small Cells in 18 US States.)
Turnbull says that Freescale is focusing on LTE for this generation of products, having worked on multi-mode -- 3G, 4G, and WiFi -- for its previous products. "We've not seen that really strong push we anticipated for multi-mode," Turnbull says. (See Small Cells: Who's Buying?)
Vendors and carriers are pushing for advanced LTE features from the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) release 10 and 11 specifications, however, Turnbull states. "Carrier aggregation is a big one," Turnbull tells us. (See Why You Should Care About LTE-Advanced (Eventually).)
With carriers completing -- or getting close to completing -- their LTE networks, Turnbull expects that one of the next stages for carriers will be filling in the gaps with public access small cells. "We're shipping today with discrete products into the metro[cell] market," Turnbull says. (See Know Your Small Cell: Home, Enterprise, or Public Access?)
Fiber optic provider Fibertech Networks LLC recently said it has launched the first commercial outdoor metro small cell site for an unnamed Tier 1 wireless carrier in the US, but Turnbull says that there is other work going on too. (See Fibertech Claims US Small-Cell First.)
"Yeah, I saw that," says Turnbull of the Fibertech announcement. "But there's other types of backhaul than fiber right?"
He states that carriers can use WiFi, non-line-of-sight microwave and even LTE relays in downtown areas. In fact, he states, that carriers are now "quite bullish" about their ability to deploy small cells.
— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading