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Friday, May 25, 2012

Smallcelling LTE networks

Smallcelling the LTE networks?

As the LTE World Summit ended today many questions and takeaways are buzzing our heads from the discussions and experts’ opinions.
There were various statements on small cells but all agreed that small cells need to happen and assist on the capacity and forums like 3GPP, Small Cell Forum are setup to succeed and make small cells a reality
Although there is lots of discussion held on small cells around the 60GHz unlicensed band outdoor solution where small cells are expected to be deployed, in reality the truth might be different. When today about 80% of the mobile data traffic is generated between the residence and the enterprise, there is perhaps a small remaining percentage to consider and manage at the street level. How long the user will be travelling and what services will be using that will need capacity, most likely video is important but not crucial. That thought might lead us into an indoor solution pointing to a femtocell, which will cost almost nothing to the operator since power, transmission and hosting will be covered by the consumer. The cost might might be today around $80, but if companies like Cisco, Samsung even NEC seriously work on the electronics, might be even lower. It is really interesting, how Samsung was trying to position itself in the LTE and small cells due to thousands of deployments indoor and outdoor with KDDI in Japan. Today that LTE network is one of the fastest growing in the world and Samsung is expanding in Europe with an office, they just opened in the UK.
Enterprise networks is a different case, as the quality of service produced by macrocells is not acceptable, making HetNets a more attractive solution to support them. This kind of networks is asking for a high QoS and careful traffic handling.

When it comes to LTE and small cells, there are some recommendations to be further discussed or food for thought.

1. For the backhaul, incumbent is in a position to access fiber backhaul, then the regulator’s position is to set the rules of the game
2.More examination of the backhaul considerations, a crucial factor also in the LTE
3.Harmonized regulation, who can actually run a femto?
4. Identify the exact location of the traffic as close as you can, using the right tools to locate the traffic, available in the industry, as Newfield Wireless was presenting during the Summit
5. Today seems to be difficult to roll out hundreds of small cells; the level of the self-configuration devices need to be considered, optimizing the networks to help on this
6. The impact of devices, including support of advanced features, legacy devices, and time need to install small cells
7. Multivendor support, is an idea that big backhaul vendors such as Ericsson didn’t like, to use different macro and small cells vendor, expecting efficient coordination and interoperability between two layers. Standards are needed to clarify the landscape and make interoperability happen!

Other factors that are expected to contribute in the small cells could be the M2M growth especially due to the upcoming mHealth and its ecosystem’s evolution, trying to understand the management of all these devices. However it is well accepted that licensed spectrum could be inefficient when using M2M in a macro level.

Final note, small cells is still considered a learning process with some hype for operators and needs careful and clear messaging from vendors since it’s a case is different and ‘one technology does not fit all’.

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