After a packed first day, we were back and raring to go for day two of the Small Cells World Summit 2012. Some of us were on the Ubiquisys stand, continuing the demonstration of our new smart cell, operating live on the Orange network.
But our CTO Will Franks was elsewhere, preparing to give the second talk of day. We’ve put a summary of it below, along with other key talks from the day.
Small cell hotspots – Smart tech that needs to step up to the realities of capacity driven deployments
Will Franks, CTO Ubiquisys
You may be surprised to find out that of all data usage, 70% takes place indoors. This simple fact is the basis for our small cell strategy, which was also the basis of Will’s talk.
The fact that data is being used indoors is good news for operators, as it provides radio frequency isolation, making it easier to reuse spectrum. Because of this, and the concentration of data usage inside buildings, we already have more than 50,000 public access indoor cells deployed around the world, mainly in Asia. These cells are targeted exactly where people are using large amounts of data. In outdoor areas, on the other hand, people are often only making calls, which collectively use a relatively small chunk of overall capacity.
The second part of the talk was concerned with smart cells. Smart cells, which we developed in collaboration with Intel, extend the cloud to the edge of network, improving user experience by using caching to reduce reliance on congested DSL backhaul capacity. This is an extension of the internet, combining the internet with 3GPP, ensuring improved capacity without causing problems due to standards issues. It is these capabilities that have been on display at our stand during this year’s summit.
Providing a managed femto service across Europe
Len Schuch, Colt
Femto as a service (FaaS) is an idea that has been discussed a lot in the last couple of years. Len discussed how this trend, in which a femtocell is owned by one company, but is usable by the subscribers of any operator, will help the industry as a whole. He argues that it will help to speed up the growth of indoor deployments, as well as enabling and encouraging more operators to deploy small cells themselves.
Business solutions and synergy design for small cells and WiFi
Adrian Hantalasevic, BH Telecom
Networks need to grow to handle more data, as we know. In his talk, Adrian pointed out that smartphones overtook PC sales last year, but the number of people using ‘dumbphones’ is still greater than smartphone users. This is because of the limited market for smartphones, which is currently still weighted towards young adults with disposable income – but this will soon expand to include everyone. The sales of other devices with high data usage are growing too, with tablets predicted to overtake PCs in around two to three years.
This poses a big question: How do we continue to increase capacity and quality of service without the backhaul just becoming a dumb pipe? Operators are going to need more advanced functionality if they are going to drive revenue, after all.
The economics of smart cells in heterogenous networks
Steve Price, Intel
What happens in a single minute on the internet? Well, according to Steve, quite a lot.
- 30 hours of YouTube videos are uploaded;
- 6 million Facebook views;
- 20 million Flickr photo views;
- 47,000 app downloads;
- 18,000 HD movies are stored;
- 15 billion devices are connected.
This explosion of data means that mobile data networks need to become more secure and intelligent when handling traffic, as well as increasing capacity. To cope with this, using the right technology to offload onto the backhaul is becoming much more important.
The problem is going to become much more acute as smartphone ownership increases, and the challenge is to fill in the gaps in coverage. But it’s not only a challenge; it’s an opportunity. Control over the backhaul gives operators the chance to intercept packets, providing them with valuable usage information. This information allows operators to optimise the backhaul, providing the fastest and most secure possible experience for end users. On the edge of the network, smart cells can analyse information using an internal computer, allowing it to intelligently cache data locally.
Intelligence throughout the entire network is critical, allowing operators to drive revenue through value-added services. A recent Intel study showed that there was a clear economic benefit to using smart cells over conventional small cells. Of course, smart cells are more expensive per unit, but fewer of them are actually needed to achieve the same results. Three cases studies, in London, Tokyo and Mexico, showed the operators reduced overall expenses by using smart cells, helping with the bottom line, and allowing better utilisation of assets.
But smart cells, by giving operators far greater control over network traffic, can provide other benefits too for organisations and communities. For example, you can prevent texting in particular locations, such as schools. It can be used for serving announcements to a particular location too, which could be useful for announcing an event to an entire neighbourhood, for example.
Backhaul challenges for small cells
Viraj Abhayawardhana, BT
BT has identified two main challenges for any operator aiming to deploy urban small cells outdoors: finding sites and having sufficient backhaul.
Based on this, they ran a simulation to determine the best sites. Using the Google map API, they showed the areas covered by existing macro networks and the spread of current data demand. The results identified top potential locations for small cell deployments, with lampposts coming up most often as the best candidates. The big conclusion from their data is that urban outdoor small cell demand is going to be low at first, mainly clustered in a few key, dense areas.
BT is chairing the backhaul Special Interest Group in the Small Cell Forum, which aims to produce an industry white paper giving insight into the various viable backhaul options for small cells.
New technologies reshaping the business case for small cells
The day two panel discussion took a look back at some of the big themes that arose during this year’s summit:
- The discussion in small cells is shifting from simply improving coverage to increasing capacity for handling data;
- Backhaul is a limiting factor, when it comes to cost;
- Businesses are happy to use their own backhaul and power for small cells. Public deployments are a different matter;
- Backhaul is increasingly a part of small cell strategy for mobile operators, especially in areas where it is hard to place underground fibre optics cables;
- Fragmented backhaul space is slowing down deployments;
- In an SCF consumer survey, lots of consumers were excited about the idea of a home phone network, which would redirect incoming calls to the mobile of whoever happened to be in the house at the time.