The concept of exponentially increasing the capacity of mobile broadband networks is a hot topic these days as smartphones and tablets proliferate with a concomitant explosion in demand for rich multimedia and unified communications experiences. One critical cost-effective method for increasing capacity being used by mobile service providers around the word is metro cells. These small cells are extensions of macro cellular, if the challenges for deployment can be efficiently overcome in urban areas.
To address these challenges, Alcatel-Lucent (News - Alert) (ALU), has introduced thethe lightRadio™ Metro Cell Express solution, a combination of ALU small cell technology and a comprehensive suite of professional services. As captured in the white paper, “Alcatel-Lucent Metro Cells: The Bigger Picture,” the solution is being delivered as a Build-Operate Assist-Transfer (BOT) offer. It is designed specifically to accelerate the deployment of metro cells and simplify the operation and maintenance, while also improving coverage, enabling higher capacity and enhancing the customer experience.
Mobile data continues to grow at unprecedented rates.
As can be seen, predictions by Alcatel-Lucent’s Bell Labs (News - Alert) suggest that by 2016, mobile data will increase 25 times.
The challenge is that a macro-only solution is not capable of providing the necessary capacity to satisfy demand over the long-term, especially at this rate of growth. In addition, spectrum is limited, efficiency improvements are nearly depleted, and regulatory and cost restraints will limit the potential of macro cell deployments.
Metro cells are considered a vital component of any heterogeneous network, or HetNet, and appeal to MNOs as they enable the addition of strategic and cost-effective capacity to improve the quality of Experience (QoE) for end users. They can also extend coverage to indoor locations that have traditionally been challenging for macro-only solutions. Below are the reasons why of the three major ways to increase capacity, metro cells are the one getting most of the attention:
- Obtain more spectrum — estimated to provide a 2X (News - Alert) improvement in capacity
- Increase spectrum efficiency and improve spatial efficiency— adding another 1.5X
- Put capacity where demand is — add metro cells to the macro cellular network for a 10X improvement, and do so with seamlessly with multi-vendor integration optimized for siting based on regulatory constraints, power and backhaul availability
While these all should be done in conjunction with each other to maximize results, clearly metro cell deployment provides not just the greatest increase in capacity but also puts it close to where it is needed most.
So if metro cells are the answer, what are the challenges? It turns out there are many. In fact, service providers need a clear strategy for considering the deployment of metro cells in high-traffic areas, to assure they get the capacity not just in the right place for now and going forward but in a manner that is cost-effective.
For example, when compared with a macro-only solution, Bell Labs determined that a W-CDMA macro and metro cell solution delivers a 38 percent TCO savings when compared with the W-CDMA solution alone. When LTE (News - Alert) macro cells were deployed with the W-CDMA and LTE metro cells, the TCO over five years was reduced by 45 percent compared with macro-only solutions.
Such cost savings dictate that metro cell deployment be one in a holistic manner to take into account the demand the best physical sites including access to power and backhaul capabilities. That is the entire impetus behind lightRadio Metro Cell Express. The solution offers network planning as Alcatel-Lucent relies on a hotpot location tool to identify areas of the highest traffic and then provide the necessary analysis to estimate the cost and effort for deployment in that area. It also employs a comprehensive design and optimized methodology that takes into account the goals of the mobile operator, as well as all of the resources required to deliver the best solution.
As part of the solution the site acquisition services cover all regulatory and permit requirements. In addition, the metro cells themselves are designed to be power misers, eco-friendly and to work in non-traditional locations, and to work seamlessly with other vendor equipment and with existing and planned macro cellular services like 4G LTE. The latter is done using Bell Labs Self-Organizing Network (SON) algorithms that integrates and automatically configures metro cells with the cellular network.
Part of the Alcatel-Lucent portfolio of lightRadio solutions, Metroc Cell Express includes the Alcatel-Lucent 9764 Metro Cell Outdoor (MCO) and 9768 Metro Radio Outdoor (MRO) – with lightRadio™ Wi-Fi® as an option (giving subscribers automatic secure Wi-Fi connections along with marco cellular connections to their service provider.
With the clock ticking on finding ways for mobile operators to meet what everyone knows is the tsunami of data heading their way in the face of spectrum scarcity and user expectations of quality experiences, operators need assistance in making sure they can get the capacity to where it is needed and do so in a way that cost-effective today and can scale to meet the needs of tomorrow. In this regard, the Metro Cell Express is an offer whose timing is right on target.
Edited by Peter Bernstein