Small cells were big news at CTIA Wireless in New Orleans this week. Here’s our round-up of the news and insights from the show.
John Donovan, executive vice president for technology and network operations at AT&T, told Reuters that if tests go well the operator could use the equipment to improve in-building or outdoor coverage by attaching the small cells to places like the side of lamp posts.
The idea is that placing such devices between the company’s much bigger broadcast towers would make better use of its wireless airwaves and improve capacity. “Later this year and into next year we’ll be piloting it.” Donovan told Reuters on the sidelines of a technology panel at the CTIA annual wireless conference.
“It’s another tool in the tool kit,” he added, saying that the company is in need of more network capacity to support increasing demand for data services by consumers using devices such as smartphones and tablet computers.
Full article from Reuters: AT&T plans small cell tests around year end.
Kristin Rinne, senior vice president of Network Technologies at AT&T Labs told Fierce Wireless that they intend to employ heterogenous networks (HetNets), featuring small cells, which can add density to the macro layer with low-power nodes. These small cells benefit can also often be deployed without local zoning approval.
Rinne said AT&T will begin deploying small cells in earnest later this year based on the needs of high-density areas. “AT&T has been an advocate of small cells for several years, and we’ve spent a lot of time with our vendors working on a strategy for deployment,” she said. Rinne told the audience that AT&T would eventually like to deploy multimode small cells that encompass LTE, HSPA+, WCDMA and Wi-Fi, though she confirmed later the operator will initially need to deploy most of the components individually.
AT&T is also employing SON, which alternately stands for self-optimizing or self-organizing networks and helps improve network management by shifting traffic in real time to neighbouring towers and different-size cells as needed. Rinne said, “AT&T is very bullish on its capability in our network.”
Sprint VP of network development and engineering Iyad Tarazi, speaking at a briefing at CTIA Wireless in New Orleans, said the end goal of Sprint’s small-cell efforts is a heterogeneous network, or HetNet. Sprint plans to make aggressive use of small cells in its future LTE network, launching tens of thousands of tiny high-capacity base stations in high-traffic indoor and outdoor areas in 2013 and 2014.
Full article from GigaOM: Sprint has big plans for small cells.
Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski outlined several agency initiatives to open up more spectrum and drive improvements in spectrum efficiency for mobile services, in a keynote address at CTIA Wireless on Tuesday.
The moves, some new and some already announced, are part of a scheme launched in 2009 under the National Broadband Plan to make 500MHz more spectrum available for mobile over 10 years.
“We have to recover new spectrum, and we have to pursue all the other tools and policies at our disposal,” Genachowski said. Other techniques for better using spectrum could include small cells, smart antennas and “refarming” of frequencies used for older services into mobile broadband, he added.
Simon Saunders, Chairman of the Small Cell Forum, commented on a new report into the impact of small cells on deployed networks. “The next major stage in small cell deployments is going to be in public spaces. The entire operator community now appreciates that small cells are the key to long term mobile network capacity increases, as well as providing a means of economically delivering coverage in rural blackspots. Their impact will be especially dramatic in dense urban hotspots where small cells could quickly be carrying more users and data capacity than the local macro network.”
This was also the week when Light Reading released a “who’s who” survey of 29 small cells (something that we talked about on the blog earlier this week). Heavy Reading Senior Analyst Gabriel Brown described the current state of small cell product market as being in a period of “invention and innovation.”
“There’s no settled view at the moment of what a small cell is or will look like,” he said. “There are lots of varieties in types of products and approaches that people are proposing. That might settle down over time.”
More details can be found here.
There was a full programme of small cell presentations at the Small Cell Forum booth, including Monty Johnson, Ubiquisys General Manager Americas, who explained why smart cells have a bright future.
Smart cells are a new category of hybrid device developed through a strategic collaboration between Intel Corporation and Ubiquisys. They combine a cellular/Wi-Fi small cell with an integrated, comms-tuned computing platform with local storage. In a fast-track development programme, the companies have already met a number of key milestones, including prototype demonstrations with live applications from third party developers.
You can view Monty’s presentation here:
Finally, there were many small cell vendor announcements, including:
Nokia Siemens Enhances Small-Cell Portfolio
Mindspeed’s new TD-SCDMA Small Cells Reference Design
PureWave’s new Family of Advanced Small Cell LTE Base Stations
Freescale’s QorIQ Qonverge Base Station Processors Selected by Public Wireless
Cellcom, Airvana and Taqua Partner on Femtocell-as-a-Service
Alpha Technologies’ New Power Solutions for DAS and Small Cells
Taqua’s Small Cell Core Capacity Increases With VoWiFi and VoLTE
Actelis’ New Mobile Backhaul Technology