Here is AT&T's attempt in comparing the small cells. The above comparison is probably based on the assumption that LTE Small cells are not yet widely available. Once they are, then LTE can be put in for most columns in the Technology part.
Summary of the interesting announcements and things that happened in the Small Cells World Summit 2012
@lesanto: "small cells are seen as a viable option to meet the demands of exponentially growing networks". even Mongolia is getting into the small cells!
@lesanto: First keynote speaker is Simon Saunders chairman of the Small Cell forum (he's written a LOT of books on the subject...)
@lesanto: I will be quoting Simon Saunders in this style: SS "this is the premier Small Cells event in the world"
@lesanto: SS "the agenda over the next few days is effectively a guide to all the Small Cells issues - a well balanced program"
@lesanto: SS "people often ask which Small Cells event they should go to. I say this one, if you can only do one industry this is it"
@lesanto: Simon Saunders "why is it that Small Cells are a good idea in the first place?"
@lesanto: SS "the more we try to serve the unlimited demand for data with macro cells the more interference we have to deal with"
@lesanto: SS "Small Cell networks help us to serve those data demands without increasing interference"
@lesanto: SS "we founded the Femto Forum in 2007 to answer these challenges"
@lesanto: SS "through hard work we achieved an open architecture for the 3G Femtocells. We highlighted a business case for Femtocells"
@stewartbaines: Simon Saunders: Capacity at limits, pushing Shannon's Law. We need more cells, tighter interference control and cost control
@lesanto: SS "deploying more small cells decreases network interference if managed properly"
@lesanto: SS "it is very heartening to see operators today deploying Femtocells successfully, we're seeing a great deal of maturity"
@thinksmallcell: Operators are finding the cost savings, churn reduction of femtocells to be much better than originally forecast - Simon Saunders
@lesanto: SS "Key attributes of small cells include Scalability, Automated configuration and optimisation..."
@lesanto: SS "we see the need and opportunity to do even more with small cells"
@Ubiquisys: "Our work today is about differentiating the technology to fit different environments"
@lesanto: "60% of operators surveyed consider small cells will be more important to LTE deployments than macrocells"
@LisaGCisco: Chair Simon Saunders highlights the Small Cell Forum work areas that include home, enterprise, metro and rural small cells
@stewartbaines: Simon Saunders: i struggle to find an operator that does not have small cells on their roadmap
@lesanto: go to http://smallcellforum.org where you can download the Small Cells Market Status report (free)
@lesanto: Small Cells forum now has 76 technology providers as members
@lesanto: In 2007 commercial deployment of small cells = zero -- now we have 41 operators deploying them commercially, including 9 of top 10
@bmbarnowski: great retrospective on the evolution of the femtocell/smallcell forum by SS … 2007 was a lonely year indeed for femtos ..
@lesanto: small cell deployment was once solely focussed on domestic deployment, now deployment is much broader inc commercial
@lesanto: 3.8 million femtocells deployed commercially worldwide
@Alejandro_Avren: 3.8 million femtocells deployed globally, says simon saunders of the small cell forum
@lesanto: several deployments have reached real scale, such as Sprint : over 600,000 units deployed
@lesanto: there will be more small cells deployed than macrocells by the end of 2012
@lesanto: to summarise : small cells have properly arrived ;0)
@Ubiquisys: By the end of 2012 there will be more Small Cells (6.4m) than Macro Cells
@thinksmallcell: forecast 6.4million small cells by end 2012 = more than all global macrocells all technologies
@lesanto: prediction: 91.9 million small cells will be deployed worldwide by end of 2016
@MarkBLHenry: Simon Saunders: "... The central magic of cellular is spectrum reuse..."
@lesanto: small cells offer a very substantial opportunity to increase capacity in a network
@stewartbaines: Simon Saunders: more small cells (6.4m) than macro (6m) by end of year. 80% all cells will be titchy by 2016 #SCWS2012. I got 2 of them :)
@lesanto: small cells can offer real positive change for the user experience on a 3g network
@lesanto: wi-fi and small cells need integration - they should be deployed in cooperation
@disruptivedean: Survey results at #SCWS2012 about coexistence & integration of Small Cells & WiFi point to wishful & unrealistic thinking about #HetNets
@lesanto: we see the opportunity for a deeper integration of small cells and wifi
@disruptivedean: Just had further evidence about slow/misguided focus of Carrier WiFi. WBA announced a trial of NGH WiFi starting Q4 #TooSlow
@lesanto: 2011 Small Cells Forum published small cell APIs
@Ubiquisys: The two overriding themes of @SmallCell_Forum's work are: a) Open and b) Multi-technology
@disruptivedean: My summary of intro at #SCWS2012: Good move shifting from femto to broader small-cells. Looking bright for LTE. Unconvinced by WiFi pitch
@lesanto: "Vodafone's strategy is to drive Small Cells from a customer needs perspective"
@lesanto: products such a Vodafone's 'sure signal' need to be plug and play, easy to install and use
@SmallCell_Forum: 3.8 million femtocells deployed globally today #SCWS2012. Market status report now at: http://www.smallcellforum.org/resources-white-papers
@lesanto: Vodafone are now running a trial of commercial small cells in Germany with great feedback already
@thinksmallcell: Vodafone to launch enterprise femtocells in Germany 2013. Good feedback from trials so far
@lesanto: data is becoming continually more important to customers, and they also want less wires and network devices in their homes
@thinksmallcell: Vodafone showcasing new FemtoPlug - embedded femtocell into a small mains plug. 8 calls 21Mb/s. Sagemcom and ALU suppliers.
@lesanto: enterprise customers are a very important segment of Vodafone's femtocell proposition - they want easy integration into their IT
@danieldotfox: Wow. The new Sure Signal product from #Vodafone looks amazing. Well thought out consumer proposition. Nice!
@SmallCell_Forum: Vodafone announces femtoplug: tiny femtocell with ethernet over mains. To be launched in existing markets 'within weeks'.
@disruptivedean: Liking the new "femtoplug" products announced by Vodafone. Very neat residential femto integrated into electric plug.
@lesanto: Present speaker, Alan Law, Technical Lead for femtocells, Vodafone Group...
@lesanto: "where do you put small cells? How can we determine where the hot spots are? Fortunately there are tools available to help here"
@lesanto: "geolocation tools can also be exploited for network quality improvements"
@Ubiquisys: "Geolocation can be used to identify traffic hotspots"
@lesanto: "Vodafone have gained essential experience on how to address challenges with public access small cells for many environments"
@lesanto: "the availability of multi-technology small cells eases deployment"
@lesanto: "accelerate availability of multi-technology small cells to reduce the number of site boxes required to ease deployment"
@lesanto: "it not just about network cover and quality - it is also about driving new services and revenue growth"
@lesanto: Next speaker : Sebastien Pham Programme Manager New Products Vodafone New Zealand.
@LisaGCisco: Vodafone's Alan Law underscores importance of Iuh standard to accelerate small cell market adoption
@lesanto: Vodafone NZ faces the challenge of a relatively large area with a relatively low number of users.
@lesanto: 4.8 million mobile subscribers in 2011 in New Zealand - 97% 3g coverage (vodafone) - rural broadband is very challenging
@lesanto: Vodafone deploying small cells in homes in NZ, but their Sure Signal will only work on Vodafone's own DSL network.
@lesanto: watching a video on how small cells can help you make better mobile calls at home : are you hanging out a window to get a single?
@stewartbaines: Femtos bring broadband to rural communities in NZ:http://www.vodafone.co.nz/suresignal
@lesanto: plug in a Sure Signal small cell box into your DSL and suddenly you can make mobile calls from anywhere in the house!#sorted!
@stewartbaines: No more driving testing: use geolocation tools to identify traffic not-spots. Vodafone at #SCWS2012 #smallcells
@lesanto: Next vid: a small business in NZ in a building known as the bunker - thick concrete and steel walls = poor mobile reception!
@disruptivedean: Ironic that Small Cell industry finally getting enterprise proposition right, at same time that #BYOD drives #BYOSP in businesses
@lesanto: yep, you've guessed it : they plug in a Sure Signal small cell and their mobiles all work - even inside the bunker ;0)
@stewartbaines: @katebo Orange is doing a prez on it's enterprise femtocell strategy at#SCWS2012. Will grab a post for Connecting Technology blog
@danieldotfox: Small Cell feedback via Vodafone.nz, from customers: It's life changing! We all need and depend on mobiles... Food for thought!
@lesanto: small cells were deployed during the Feb 2011 Christchurch earthquake to replace broken macro cells in certain essential areas
@Ubiquisys: Femtocells have been used in disaster situations for emergency coverage, such as the Christchurch earthquake
@vodafoneNZ: @Ubiquisys Our network team did incredible work for Chch #eqnz. Used creative tools including the Truck http://bit.ly/NGPzM7
@lesanto: new speaker : Emmanuel Adnot International Strategy Manager at Orange...
@lesanto: Orange Group had $45bn turnover in 2011
@lesanto: talking about : How Femtocells support Orange's B2B strategy...
@lesanto: "coverage needs in enterprise markets are niche" Emmanuel Adnot, Orange (EA)
@lesanto: "10% of B2B customers have indoor mobile reception issues that effect their business"
@lesanto: "10% is a niche but it still represents a significant market"
@lesanto: "45% of those connectivity issues are suffered in basement or storeroom situations" EA
@lesanto: "80% of customers suffering local connectivity issues are ready to move to an operator offering a solution to the problem"
@lesanto: "small cells are part of the B2B indoor coverage strategy" EA
@lesanto: "30% of B2B users are using smartphones - but that share is growing massively"
@lesanto: small b2b customers need both wi-fi and small cell solutions to answer their connectivity issues
@lesanto: "small cell installation reduced churn by almost 50% where connectivity had previously been an issue"
@lesanto: "B2B customers suffering indoor connectivity problems are ready to pay for small cell solutions"
@lesanto: "Orange will launch small cell solutions to the UK market in summer 2012"
@danieldotfox: In Portugal, #Orange cam charge over €1000 for a B2B femto. Wow.
@stewartbaines: Orange study: 80% of business customers ready to churn if their coverage issues are not addressed. #SCWS2012. Similar to Alcatel research...
@SmallCell_Forum: Orange: PT, FR, Romania B2B femtocells launched, 2 more countries to be launched (UK, Be) by end 2012 #scws2012 plus Poland next year
@stewartbaines: Small cells can be basis for location-based services. Stop the dumb pipe!
@lesanto: "what's next? Femtocell as a service for small operations..
@lesanto: "what's next: femtocell and other techs within a small cell - leverage indoor coverage solution for location based services"
@Ubiquisys: What's next for B2B femtocell solutions? Here's @orange's outlook
@lesanto: why are Orange concentrating on B2B for small cells? Could it be the cost? I can't see many consumers paying $1500 a pop!
@lesanto: but Orange haven't ruled out bringing small cells to the consumer...
@dmavrakis: Orange believes that SMBs that have coverage problems are willing to pay €1500 for an access point.
@stewartbaines: Orange France enterprise femtos cost 1500 euros. But you do get a visit from an engineer. I thought they were plug & play?
@lesanto: next speaker : Martin Guthrie - head of business development - NEC
@lesanto: MG "small cells are beautiful"
@lesanto: "the world is getting smaller, so are macro cells"
@lesanto: "smaller and smaller cell sizes are an inevitability along with the technical and cost benefits they bring"
@lesanto: " many small cells advantages : better coverage, greater capacity gain, higher density coverage"
@lesanto: "business case benefits of small cells are not fully understood"
@Ubiquisys: The elephant in the small cells room is dichotomy between vendors: "look at our tech" & operators: "how can we make money?" @NEC
@lesanto: "benefits: reduced customer churn : increased customer acquisition : reduced cost of new macro deployment : "
@lesanto: " more benefits: leverage presence of mobile operator in the home : Increased ARPU "
@Ubiquisys: "Integration with operators' existing network and system is key" @NEC
@lesanto: technical and marketing support is essential when deploying small cells - choose your vendor carefully!
@lesanto: "make sure that your small cell solutions use advanced & adaptive radio management technologies that won't interfere with macro"
@lesanto: Next speaker : Mark Gallagher Principle Engineer, Cisco
@lesanto: "mass adoption of the mobile internet is going on right now - scaling to meet this demand is the challenge"
@Ubiquisys: The next speaker is Mark Gallagher of @CiscoSystems "Defining the New Normal"
@small_cells: "usage patterns in mobile internet are as important as the size of use"
@disruptivedean: Watching Cisco at #SCWS2012 . Think that it's underestimating % of smartphone data that goes via WiFi, only small % of which is offload
@small_cells: "network densification is required : small cell development = highly dense topologies"
@Ubiquisys: "Network densification is required. Small cell deployment = highly dense topologies" @CiscoSystems
@small_cells: "you must use all the spectrum assets available to you"
@small_cells: globally available data sources can be incorporated into RF planning tools to give a clear picture of where to add small cells
@small_cells: "you need a simple, scaleable small cell solution that's properly managed"
@small_cells: "there is significant revenue potential in the small cell business model" -- think beyond simply making savings
@small_cells: "Small cells really are the new norm"
@Ubiquisys: London hotspots map shows usage, including tweets & Flickr photos, identifies small cell deployment locations.
@Ubiquisys: Small cells future built around growing penetration of mobile internet. Take learnings from adjacent markets.
@Lance_Hiley: #ciscosystems shows geolocation tool to identify potential #smallcellsdeployment locations using #flicker and #twitter uploads
@small_cells: "small cells are splitting into two categories : capacity and coverage"
@small_cells: "how can we cope with the data tsunami that's coming at us?"
@small_cells: "the cost difference between a small cell and a macro is large"
@Ubiquisys: Joe Madden of Mobile Experts on Small cell economics and time-to-market
@small_cells: "with data growth doubling every year you really need to plan ahead to cope"
@Ubiquisys: Data growth in US will not be uniform. Most data is consumed in downtown metro areas.
@small_cells: "imagine if it was your job to find sites for 28,000 new macro masts per year to cope with data demand!"
@Ubiquisys: Balanced solution = towers in the rural areas, picocells in urban areas.
@stewartbaines: Joe Madden: It worries me that operators are talking small cells only for LTE. You need a balance (small + macro)
@lesanto: "operators are not keeping up with the data curve, I don't see them spending enough capital to keep up with demand"
@lesanto: "I think we're going to fall behind data demand in a serious way in 2015/2016"
@Ubiquisys: Operators won't be able to keep up with data demand. Be ready to ship millions of picocells in next few years.
@lesanto: "when customers want to use more data than they can get we'll have unhappy customers and that means churn"
@disruptivedean: HIghly questionable supply/demand curve at #SCWS2012 that doesn't cover impact of pricing & policy management constraining "demand"
@lesanto: "those unhappy customers will force operators to make choices they hadn't previously wanted to make for economic reasons"
@stewartbaines: Joe Madden: be ready to ship millions of small cells, whether cheapest or not, by 2015
@lesanto: "we are projecting high numbers of small cells because of time-to-Market issues..."
@lesanto: The #London2012 olympics throws up a real challenge for mobile operators - small cells are already installed for the event.
@danieldotfox: #O2UK has 100 small cells within the London area.
@Ubiquisys: Currently on stage, Robert Joyce of Telefonica. Case study: delivering small cells into the heart of central London
@SmallCell_Forum: O2 says "small cells are the only way" for future capacity, even factoring on extra spectrum and LTE-A.
@lesanto: "2g hotspots aren't in the same place as 3g hotspots so replacing existing 2g small cells for 3g cells won't always bring results"
@danieldotfox: #O2UK really like 'open' femto cells. Interesting!
@lesanto: O2 bid on access to street furniture, street lamps etc, in order to use them to provide wi-fi and small cells
@lesanto: BUT, once O2 had the poles they discovered the councils wanted planning permission for each and every lamppost installation...
@stewartbaines: O2: 400 individual planning applications required to deploy metro wifi in Kensington and Westminster. Ouch!
@lesanto: O2 also had to considerer the form factor of the installations, London lampposts are not suitable for big set upis!
@lesanto: O2's London network is fed both 'over the street' and 'under it' - using a mix of masts, cells and fibre...
@lesanto: O2's mobile network plan for London aims to serve a Gig per Km2
@lesanto: O2 have 12 access points for mobile in Trafalgar Square alone
@lesanto: You lot should see just how complex serving mobile to the streets of London is. Remember this next time you complain about signal
@lesanto: Olympic village buildings are clad in aluminium for heat retention - this also locks out mobile signals!
@lesanto: the result is the Olympic village has become probably the densest installation of small cells anywhere...
@SmallCell_Forum: O2 have deployed 1200 femtos in a in an apartment block for some 'very healthy people' (!) in London for this summer
@lesanto: O2 want to use their Olympic experience to roll out small cells elsewhere - but say the price has to come down!
@joelpagot: @wendyzajack nice pic! #smallcells also come in "green" (low-power mobile devices)
@Ubiquisys: Here's a prototype solar powered small cell. Interesting concept.
@joelpagot: @Ubiquisys Good example for #GreenICT #smallcells big impact: more capacity for less
@SmallCell_Forum: After announcements by O2 and Orange today, is UK first market in world where all operators have publically announced femtocells?
@thinksmallcell: O2 deployed 1Gb/s per square kilometre capacity onstreet 3G/WiFi in London using Small Cells - believe will meet forecast demand
@Lance_Hiley: Telefonica's Rob Joyce forecasts 1Gb/s per km #backhaul requirement for London #smallcells by 2015.
@disruptivedean: @Lance_Hiley Quite astonishing to think that 1sq km use of mobile data in 2015 is only equivalent of a single FTTH broadband cnxn
@markc_reed: “@thinksmallcell: O2 deployed 1Gb/s per square kilometre capacity in London using Small demand #SCWS2012” what about install & bhaul cost?
@lesanto: Manish Singh CTO of Radisys is now on the stand
@Ubiquisys: @radisys: Over the next three years, which sources of disruption will have the greatest impact on mobile operators?
@disruptivedean: Radisys survey at #SCWS2012 shows operators still think "good user experience" = seamless WiFi authentication & handover. Very wrong indeed
@Ubiquisys: You need a portfolio of products to address different segments. Requirements are evolving, so flexibility is a must. @radisys
@thinksmallcell: 46% of operators surveyed said logistics and deployment model were barriers to rapid small cell rollout - Radisys survey
@danieldotfox: #O2UK state that 1Gbit per square kilometer is needed for sufficient outdoor data capacity within 2015 timeframe. Crikey.
@Ubiquisys: NGMN Alliance's Julius Robson is talking about small cell specific backhaul requirements
@lesanto: The relentless growth of data consumption - can we handle it? http://smallcells.posterous.com/the-relentless-growth-of-data-consumption-can via @small_cells
@Ubiquisys: Deployment prerequisites for small cell deployment: unserved demand, suitable site, backhaul connectivity #NGMN
@Ubiquisys: Small cell devices are more visible than macros and need to be small, light, touch safe and tamper proof
@stewartbaines: Wilson Street post from #SCWS2012: Orange or Vodafone taking best approach to femtos? - http://www.wilson-street.com/2012/06/scws2012-femtocells-pile-them-high-and-sell-them-cheap-or-keep-them-for-the-most-valuable-customers/
@lesanto: Somewhat technical this presso... not eminently tweetable see "security of LTE backhauling" white paper by ngmn - http://www.ngmn.org/uploads/media/NGMN_Whitepaper_Backhaul_Security.pdf
@Ubiquisys: Small cell backhaul connections are viewed as untrusted and may need IPsec encryption
@lesanto: "backhaul is a key enabler for small cells, but there is uncertainty around which solutions are suitable"
@Ubiquisys: Backhaul white paper is available at http://www.ngmn.org/fileadmin/user_upload/Downloads/Technical/NGMN_Whitepaper_Small_Cell_Backhaul_Requirements.pdf
@lesanto: The streets of London are paved with small cells #SCWS2012 http://smallcells.posterous.com/the-streets-of-london-are-paved-with-small-ce via @small_cells
@Lance_Hiley: Availability of #smallcells can be relaxed in hotspot deployment scenario says Julius Robson, editor of @ngmn_alliance Whitepaper
@lesanto: since the show started this morning we have seen 5% growth in the industry as two major mobile operators have adopted small cells
@SmallCell_Forum: France & UK first countries globally where all mobile operators have announced femtocells.
@lesanto: majority of South Koreans using LTE networks by 2014
@lesanto: South Korea enjoys one of the highest adoptions of high speed networks in the world
@lesanto: SK telecom launched the world's first LTE + wi-fi femtocell network in 2011
@lesanto: SK telecom is preparing for the PETA byte era - which is next year! 1 PETA = 10 to the power of 15 bytes.
@stewartbaines: @lesanto Key thing about the petabyte era, is SK Telecom will has 1 petabyte PER DAY on their mobile network.
@lesanto: Small cells can provide extended coverage at lower cost
@lesanto: "For interference mitigation in small cell deployment, a central interference management system is being developed"
@Ubiquisys: Nick Karter of @qualcomm will now talk about the convergence of 3G, 4G and wifi
@lesanto: "the growth in data traffic is outstripping the ability to put new spectrum on the market" (say it again)
@lesanto: "there is an increase in operator provided wi-fi"
@lesanto: "wi-fi is already a small cell but without all the features you expect from a mobile network"
@lesanto: "Hotspot 2.0 - converging the wi-fi and cellular networks"
@lesanto: "people use cellular primarily for email and facebook, while they use wi-fi for youtube"
@lesanto: "optimising power consumption is critical when combining so many functions into one box"
@lesanto: "you need a good application processor to manage the network efficiently"
@lesanto: providing mobile data is extremely complex - it's a typical swan swimming scenario, serene above the surface, mad action below it.
@Ubiquisys: Need for RF coordination with coexistence of Wi-Fi and LTE. Optimising power limitation is critical. @qualcomm
@lesanto: "security is obviously very critical to a mobile network"
@lesanto: "Hotspot 2.0 - the mission is to make wi-fi connectivity (of mobile devices) as seamless and easy as cellular"
@danieldotfox: The #Qualcomm approach to multiradio/multi spectrum type access points looks good. Mixed in with Hotspot 2.0. Smart thinking.
@Ubiquisys: Manish Gupta of Symmetricomm: Timing and synchronisation for small cells
@Ubiquisys: Small cells defined: Residential, Enterprise, Metro. What is the distinction?
@Ubiquisys: Panel discussion coming up at #SCWS2012: Backhaul challenges for small cell deployment
@Ubiquisys: Rural environment small cell deployments vary wildly. Any data connection is better than zero in many remote areas
@lesanto: rain can degrade mobile network performance. They call it 'rain fade' - #WhoKnew? see: http://searchmobilecomputing.techtarget.com/definition/rain-fade
@LisaGCisco: Multi-operator white label small cells might be a solution to the complexity and cost of multiple public small cell networks
@Ubiquisys: "GPS is great, but make sure you have a back up" #SCWS2012 panel
Thanks to all those who tweeted and made this article possible. Credit to the following people
@lesanto = Glenn Le Santo @stewartbaines = Stewart Baines @thinksmallcell = David Chambers @Ubiquisys = Keith Day @LisaGCisco = Lisa Garza @bmbarnowski = Barney Barnowski @Alejandro_Avren = Alejandro Piñero @MarkBLHenry = Mark Henry @disruptivedean = Dean Bubley @SmallCell_Forum = Small Cell Forum @danieldotfox = Daniel Fox @vodafoneNZ = Vodafone New Zealand @dmavrakis = Dimitris Mavrakis @small_cells = Small Cells @Lance_Hiley = Lance Hiley @joelpagot = Joel Pagot @markc_reed = Mark Reed @MarcianoGilbert = Gilbert Marciano @theshipster = Steve Shipley
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Interesting survey results. As seen in Fig. 2 above if Video and P2P is the main drivers for LTE for some operators, soon they may end up in trouble as the users will consume as much as allowed and given opportunity. An interesting thing though is that the operators are thinking of a fallback strategy that includes Wifi, Femtocells and Picocells (Fig. 3). Finally (Fig. 4), interesting to see that operators believe in launching Smartphones for LTE, I guess CS Fallback is the only possible option for the time being (and maybe for some time to come).
HetNets are hot. I hear about them in various contexts. Its difficult to find exactly what they are and how they will work though. There is a HetNets special issue in IEEE Communications Magazine coming out next year but that's far away.
I found an interesting summary on HetNets in Motorola Ezine that is reproduced below:
“The bigger the cell site, the less capacity per person you have,” said Peter Jarich, research director with market intelligence firm Current Analysis. “If you shrink coverage to a couple of blocks, you are having that capacity shared with a fewer number of people, resulting in higher capacity and faster data speeds.”
This is a topic the international standards body, the Third Generation Partnership Project (3GPP), has been focusing on to make small cells part of the overall cellular network architecture.
“What we’re seeing is a natural progression of how the industry is going to be addressing some of these capacity concerns,” said Joe Pedziwiatr, network systems architect with Motorola. “There is a need to address the next step of capacity and coverage by introducing and embracing the concepts of small cells and even looking at further advances such as better use of the spectrum itself.”
As such, discussion regarding this small-cell concept has emerged into what is called heterogeneous networks, or Het-Net, for short. The idea is to have a macro wireless network cooperating with intelligent pico cells deployed by operators to work together within the macro network and significantly improve coverage and augment overall network capacity. Small cells can also be leveraged to improve coverage and deliver capacity inside buildings. Indoor coverage has long been the bane of mobile operators. Some mobile operators are already leveraging this concept, augmenting their cellular service offering with WiFi access to their subscriber base in order to address the in-building coverage and capacity challenges facing today’s cellular solutions.
Pedziwiatr said this Het-Net structure goes far beyond what is envisioned for femtocells or standard pico cells for that matter. Introducing a pico cell into the macro network will address but just one aspect of network congestion, namely air interface congestion. The backhaul transport network may become the next bottleneck. Finally, if all this traffic hits the core network, the congestion will just have shifted from the edge to the core.
“This requires a system focus across all aspects of planning and engineering,” Pedziwiatr said. “We’re trying to say it goes beyond that of a femto. If someone shows up at an operator and presents a pico cell, that is just one percent of what would be needed to provide true capacity relief for the macro network.”
Femtocells, otherwise known as miniature take-home base stations, are obtained by end users and plugged into a home or office broadband connection to boost network signals inside buildings. A handful of 3G operators worldwide are selling femtocells as a network coverage play. For the LTE market, the Femtocell Forum is working to convince operators of the value of a femtocell when it comes to better signal penetration inside buildings and delivering high-bandwidth services without loading the mobile network. This is possible, because the backhaul traffic runs over the fixed line connection. However, this femtocell proposition largely relies on end user uptake of them—not necessarily where operators need them, unless they install femtocells themselves or give end users incentives to acquire them.
As with any new concept, there are challenges to overcome before Het-Nets can become reality. Het-Nets must come to market with a total cost of ownership that is competitive for an operator to realize the benefit of providing better capacity, higher data speeds, and most of all, a better end-user experience said Chevli.
“The level of total cost of ownership has to be reduced. That is where the challenge is for vendors to ensure that any new solution revalidates every existing tenet of cellular topology and evolve it to the new paradigm being proposed,” Chevli said. “You can’t increase the number of end nodes by 25X and expect to operate or manage this new network with legacy O&M paradigms and a legacy backhaul approach.”
One of the issues is dealing with interference and Het-Net network traffic policies. “How do you manage all of these small cell networks within the macrocell network?” asked Jarich. “Right now if you have a bunch of femtocells inside a house, there is this concept that the walls stop the macrocell signals from getting in and out. You get a separation between the two. Go outdoors with small cells underlying bigger cells and you get a lot more interference and hand-off issues because devices will switch back and forth based on where the stronger signal is.”
Pedziwiatr said for a Het-Net to work, it would require a change in node management, whereby an operator isn’t burdened with managing big clusters of small cells on an individual basis. “We see elements of SON (self organizing networks), self discovery and auto optimization that will have to be key ingredients in these networks. Otherwise operators can’t manage them and the business case will be a lot less attractive,” he said.
Fortunately, the industry has already been working with and implementing concepts of SON in LTE network solutions. In the femtocell arena also, vendors have been incorporating some elements and concepts of SON so that installing them is a plug-and-play action that automatically configures the device and avoids interference. But even then, Het-Nets will require further SON enhancement to deal with new use cases, such as overlay (macro deployment) to underlay (pico deployments) mobility optimization.
When it comes to LTE, SON features are built into the standard, and are designed to offer the dual benefit of reducing operating costs while optimizing performance. SONs will do this by automating many of the manual processes used when deploying a network to reduce costs and help operators commercialize their new services faster. SON will also automate many routine, repetitive tasks involved in day-to-day network operations and management such as neighbor list discovery and management.
Other key sticking points are deployment and backhaul costs. If operators are to deploy many small cells in a given area, deploying them and backhauling their traffic should not become monumental tasks.
Chevli and Pedziwiatr envision Het-Nets being deployed initially in hot zone areas – where data traffic is the highest – using street-level plug-and-play nodes that can be easily installed by people with little technical know-how.
“Today, macro site selection, engineering, propagation analysis, rollout and optimization are long and expensive processes, which must change so that installers keep inventories of these units in their trucks, making rollout simple installations and power-ups,” said Pedziwiatr. “These will be maintained at a minimum with quick optimization.”
The notion of backhauling traffic coming from a large cluster of Het-Net nodes could also stymie Het-Nets altogether. Chevli said that in order to keep costs down, Het-Net backhaul needs to be a mix of cost-effective wireless or wired backhaul technology to aggregate traffic from what likely will be nodes sitting on lamp posts, walls, in-building and other similar structures. The goal then is to find a backhaul point of presence to aggregate the traffic and then put that traffic on an open transport network in the area.
Backhaul cost reductions may also be a matter of finding ways to reduce the amount of backhaul forwarded to the core network, Pedziwiatr said. These types of solutions are already being developed in the 3G world to cope with the massive data traffic that is beginning to crush networks. For traffic such as Internet traffic, which doesn’t need to travel through an operator’s core network, offloading that traffic as close to the source as possible would further drive down the cost of operation through the reduction of backhaul and capacity needs of the core network.
In the end, with operators incorporating smaller cells as an underlay to their macro network layer rather than relying on data offloading techniques such as femtocells and WiFi that largely depend on the actions of subscribers and impacted by the surrounding cell operating in the same unlicensed frequency, Het-Nets in licensed spectrum will soon become the keystone in attacking the ever-present congestion issue that widely plagues big cities and this is only likely to get worse over time.
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.
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.
Femtocells are not really becoming Picocells but when you read about the new features coming up in Femtocells, you can imagine why operators are embracing Femtocells.
A typical Picocell, offers limited coverage but the same capacity as a macro-cell and can cost between £5000 to £10000. A Femtocell overs very limited coverage and very few users but its dirt cheap.
What if a compromise Femtocell is made that can solve both the coverage/capacity and price then its a win win situation for everyone.
This is where "Metro Femtocells" come into picture. They can be called by different names but lets stick to Metro Femtos.
Ubiquisys's press release about the Colo-Node HSPA Femtocell shows us the direction in which the device manufacturers are moving. It allows 16 users (as opposed to 4) and the range of 2km (as opposed to couple 100 metres). Picochip has already released a chip that can serve 32 users at 2km range. These femto's are Release-7 compliant with 42Mbps peak dl and and 11Mbps peak ul.
The good thing is that they may be soon used to fill the coverage black holes but that can also mean that the operators may stop putting lot of effort in Network optimisations.
The ubiquisys Colo-Node HSPA will be available end of July this year.
One of the last refuges from annoying ringtones and anodyne phone conversations is likely to disappear after communications watchdog Ofcom cleared the use of mobile phones on aircraft yesterday, with some airlines ready to launch services in time for the summer holidays. The prospect of passengers shouting "I'm on the plane" at 11,000 metres (37,000 ft) may fill many with dread, but for the airlines it could be a real moneyspinner to charge passengers a hefty premium to make and receive calls in the air.
Passengers will still be banned from using their mobile or Blackberry email device at take-off and landing. Once at 3,000 metres the cabin crew will switch on equipment to pick up the signal from a mobile and relays it to the ground via satellite.
Ofcom confirmed plans to enable airlines to offer mobile communication services on UK-registered aircraft, if they wish to do so. This will be subject to approval by the relevant UK and European aviation authorities - the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) in the UK.
The decision has been developed jointly with other EU countries and will enable use in European airspace. It follows an Ofcom consultation on the proposals published in October 2007.
The safety of passengers is paramount and mobile systems on aircraft will only be installed when they have secured approval by EASA and the CAA in the UK. If such approval has been secured it will be a matter for individual airlines to judge whether there is consumer demand for these services.
The proposed system utilises an on-board base station in the plane which communicates with passengers' own handsets. The base station - called a pico cell - is low power and creates a network area big enough to encompass the cabin of the plane.
The base station routes phone traffic to a satellite, which is in turn connected to mobile networks on the ground.
A network control unit on the plane is used to ensure that mobiles in the plane do not connect to any base stations on the ground. It blocks the signal from the ground so that phones cannot connect and remain in an idle state.
Calls will be billed through passengers' mobile networks. "