Meeting demand for wireless capacity is far and away the most pressing challenge currently faced by mobile service providers (MSPs), and will be for the foreseeable future. The rapidly growing population of smartphone and table users running an explosive number of enriched media applications is driving this demand.
“A smartphone generates as much data traffic as 20 feature phones, and a tablet generates 100 times as much traffic,” points out Alcatel-Lucent (News - Alert) in a report, “Placing Coverage and Capacity Where It’s Needed.” Focus is on methods of using small cells to increase wireless coverage and capacity where it is needed most.
By 2015, the number of mobile broadband connection is expected to triple. Clearly, something has to give. It seems apparent that, to keep pace with demand, a paradigm shift must occur in the way wireless networks are deployed and in the technologies used. “Traditionally, growing capacity demands are met by infilling or splitting existing macro cells, but this option is reaching its saturation point,” Alcatel-Lucent (ALU) says. They add that, “In many dense urban areas, spectrum is becoming exhausted.” Plus, Macro cells are packed so tightly into most urban areas that it’s impossible to add more towers. In fact, even if this was technically an option, municipal rules limiting where cell towers can be placed are increasingly likely to preclude this traditional type of expansion. Plus, it might be economically not feasible to add adequate capacity using macro cells.
Enter solutions like the Alcatel-Lucent 9360 Small Cell. It addresses the challenge described by ALU that, “MSPs will have to deploy and maintain 10 times the number of macro cells in existence today to meet projected demand.” It also overcomes certain limitations of macro cell technology deployment as well.
What are the limitations? “Macro-only networks do not provide ubiquitous coverage,” Alcatel-Lucent explains: “They were built mainly for outside coverage of urban areas and major highways. The majority of cell phone usage today occurs in indoor locations that can be challenging to cover. Macros are also not cost-efficient for rural locations, leaving these areas largely without coverage.”
Turning to other technologies and deployment schemes is the only feasible option for MSPs that must cost-effectively increase ubiquitous coverage, high-bandwidth capacity and provide superior quality of experience (QoE) for their customers in a very dynamic and highly-competitive market. A heterogeneous network (hetnet for short) can be created using the Alcatel-Lucent’s lightRadio™ portfolio that is capable of meeting capacity demand in a cost-effective manner. This type of network combines a variety of technologies (W-CDMA, LTE (News - Alert), WiFi) and access options (macros, small cells, WiFi) in a multi-vendor environment to satisfy capacity and coverage needs in all environments.
Small cells (metro cells) used in public or open access areas—are a key component of any hetnet architecture. ALU explains that, “Being low-powered, small form factor devices, metro cells can be deployed almost anywhere, both indoors and out, that requires a boost in coverage or capacity…Metro cells are also owned and managed by MSPs, which simplifies network planning, maintenance and optimization.”
Small in size and unobtrusive, metro cells can be deployed just about anywhere—including walls, lamp posts, or the sides of buildings. They have much lower transmit power than macros, so do not require site permits. In fact, they are well-suited for providing dedicated capacity to high-use urban hotspots, and for filling in coverage holes within a macro network. They also are cost-effective for extending coverage to remote rural locations where macros are not cost effective.” With metro cells, MSPs can dramatically improve quality of experience (QoE) through faster, more reliable 3G and 4G connections. Metro cells integrate easily into W-CDMA or LTE network and no impact on RAN design, and minimized impact on macro network performance.
With MSPs under enormous pressure to architect their networks to accommodate the coming tsunami of smart devices with their bandwidth hungry apps, it is evident that a new kind of network is required that can cost-effectively provide ubiquitous coverage, along with the high-bandwidth capacity to deliver a superior QoE. A heterogeneous network with a growing population of small cells is clearly going to be the way many if not all MSPs choose to go to as ALU says, Rise Above the Data Storm.”
Edited by Peter Bernstein