This blog is by Stephane Daeuble at Nokia Solutions and Networks.
Don’t you just hate it when you buy a one-size-fits-all that doesn’t fit… or an all-in-one solution that is anything but? Well, it’s time to set the record straight on the hot topic of small cells in light of some like-for-like performance comparison data revealed in recent APAC customer field trials.
Small cell appeal has been rising as an optimal solution to effectively “densify” networks and meet the need for increased wireless network speeds, so it’s important to ask: do they really live up to their all-in-one claims?
Small Cells – the devil is in the details…
Last fall, NSN made Flexi Zone LTE microcell, picocell base stations ready for full commercial use. They are the industry’s smallest one-box base stations and offer full macro capacity and functionality – a critical feature for integration into high-capacity HetNets. And speaking of integration – the all-in-one promise also meant these small cells are indeed small, lightweight and can easily be mounted close to the center of traffic hot spots, both indoors and outdoors.
But not all small cells on the market are alike, despite their claims to be fully-integrated one-box solutions. On the contrary, you may discover when you start testing, trialing or deploying certain small cells that you actually need to add another box for a transport optical/electrical conversion module, a dock, an external GPS module and separate antennas… All of these increase the total weight/volume significantly compared with the initial quoted specifications. And not only is the solution bigger, but when you take into account the extra amount of cabling required on each site, the additional points of failure, and the extra work required, you may have a not-so-small cell solution on your hands after all.
Here are some considerations to put on your small cell check list to give you a simpler, less intrusive, faster and cheaper small cell deployment – making a HetNet a very attractive proposition. Capacity can vary dramatically, so check out the number of users it can actually support. Check if it comes with Bluetooth for configuration and maintenance. Compare both the TDD and FDD variants – you may find surprising differences. And find out if planning services are available in order to work out where and when to install them: indoors, outdoors, with or without WiFi, TDD or FDD, pico or micro and so on – in three dimensions or just on a flat two-dimensional map that doesn’t take high-rise buildings or the local terrain into account.
Ultimately, the simple aim of industry is fewer boxes, fewer cables, more users supported at higher speeds – and well, a far less obtrusive solution. Less clutter is always the environmentally preferred option. Just be sure to read beyond the headlines and marketing hype and look at the actual like-for-like performance comparisons. And remember: when NSN says “all-in-one” small cells, you can believe it.
We have more to share on small cells here and check out our latest article: New one-box LTE micro/pico base stations simplify hetnet integration.
To share your thoughts on the topic, join the discussion with @NSNtweets using #smallcells #HetNet #mobilebroadband #NSNperformance.