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Tuesday, 10 August 2010

'Femtocells' or 'Small cells' ?



Recently, while browsing, I ended up on Wilson Street. I have been noticing it since earlier this year that Alcatel-Lucent have rebranded their Femtocells as Small-cells. I have blogged earlier about Femtocell variations but the term 'small cell' could be used to cover different sizes and capacity of cells.

Here are some interesting things i found from a recent ABI research blog:
  • Indoor residential grade Femtocells have an output power of 10mW-100mW.
  • Enterprise grade or Metro femtocells have an output power of 200-300mW.
  • Rural femtocells (a.k.a. Super Femtocells, Greater Femtocells) 200mW-1W. Some people refer to them as picocells as well.
  • Compact base stations use femtocell silicon efficiencies and multi-core chipset platforms to build a base station on a SoC - but are meant to be higher output power base stations (1W and higher).
    • Compact base stations are scalable platforms, which can fit into picocell, microcell or even macrocell form factors. The emergence of compact base station can be traced to the need for multifrequency, multimode, low power consumption, low-cost, pizza-box type base station platforms that can de deployed within different site classifications especially in metro metrozone overlays.
    • The capacity crunch in networks is likely to drive operators to deploy compact base stations as in-fills initially with compact base stations being a part of future network blueprints. Current microcell or macrocell platforms are too bulky or costly to deploy in clusters and in large numbers. Compact base stations are also meant to take advantage of backhaul relay techniques making it easier to deploy in small clusters.
  • Small cells on the other hand could be the umbrella under which compact base stations (portion of), picocells, microcells, residential, enterprise, rural/metro femtocells exist.
    • We are already seeing vendors like Alcatel Lucent change their marketing message from femtocells to ‘small cells’ covering a wider range of products and deployment types. They have also included features like SON and value-added applications into the small cell base category.
To avoid confusing the end users who are just interested in better coverage and data rates, it would make sense to brand the Femtocell as something approprite (like Vodafone has done for Sure Signal). Small cells do sound good too.

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