Reliance Jio, India's new 4G entrant, has begun work on one of the largest deployments of small cells in the world to resolve the issue of in-building access.
"We would be using a combination of two models for small cell deployment," said Shailesh Abhyankar, an associate vice president of transport planning, in a conversation with Light Reading. "A part of the deployment would be outsourced to the local cable operator, since they have access in residential areas. However, some deployment would be done directly by us."
Reliance Jio has indicated that it plans to deploy around 150,000 small cells in total -- making them an integral feature of the company's network strategy.
It has already started deploying small cells in India's ten biggest cities, which include metros such as Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata, and its rollout is likely to pick up pace once the 4G network has been launched commercially.
"The small cells network should be ready in the next six-to-eight months," said Abhyankar.
RJio owns pan-India spectrum in the 2.3GHz frequency band, but this is far from ideal when it comes to providing in-building coverage. A mixture of small cells and WiFi could be used to make improvements.
"The data consumption is increasing at such a fast pace that it makes sense to design the network for 5G and not 4G," Abhyankar said during a recent presentation.
While Indian telcos like Bharti Airtel Ltd. (Mumbai: BHARTIARTL) and Reliance Communications Ltd. are already members of the Small Cells Forum, an industry association set up to promote small cells, they have traditionally shied away from deploying the technology.
That is partly because telcos are still not sure how small cells should fit into their broader network deployment plans. Bharti Airtel tried to figure this out during a small cell pilot in Bengaluru a few years ago, but never went ahead with a bigger deployment. When it comes to 4G, however, the operator has said it will use small cells in dense urban areas, like Gurgaon.
Reliance Jio recently launched 4G services for the 100,000 employees of parent company Reliance Industries, and it is likely to launch a commercial service soon. (See RJio Sputters Into Lyf With 4G 'Launch'.)
With more than 75,000 base stations and 250,000 kilometers of fiber, the operator hopes it can differentiate its service on the basis of quality. It is also conducting a trial of SDN, although a rollout of that technology is still some way off.
— Gagandeep Kaur, contributing editor, special to Light Reading