This blog is by Perry Suojoki at Nokia Networks.
Fact: High density macro networks are becoming an integral part of most major cities. The megatrend of accelerating urbanization means that these cities are constantly changing: traffic grows, borders expand and mobile broadband networks become increasingly dense with multiple uncoordinated layers.
Fiction: These heterogeneous networks will just naturally evolve into seamless, multi-layer, multi-technology networks capable of supporting the huge capacity and coverage demanded by ultra dense networks when we reach 5G.
The whole is greater than the sum of its parts: When new capacity is added either by densifying the existing macro cell or by adding small cells, the critical factor is to ensure coordination between the cells. Uniting the macro and small cell paths with macro parity is thus an essential step for the creation of one well-performing network so that it can benefit from pooling radio resources and manage its traffic and interference as one. The result is a substantial gain when compared to network layers that are uncoordinated and lack macro parity. It’s similar to the case of 1 + 1 = 3. But since a picture is worth a thousand words, I’ll let this illustration do the talking:
So, how does it work? Macro parity requires that small cell base stations run the same software and have the same processing capabilities (excluding RF power) as macro base stations. Macro parity between all the layers in a network enables smooth coordination for seamless handling of traffic and efficient interference management, which in turn ensures maximum capacity gain as network density increases. In fact, macro parity will also allow small cells to evolve beyond high density networks to ultra dense networks as overall complexity is reduced, saving time and money where planning, deployment and optimization are concerned. In other words, macro parity effectively bridges the gap between small and macro cells in the evolution to ultra dense networks.
The plot thickens: On the one hand, macro parity demands software cooperation, evolution, time to market and interoperability of software releases and new features. On the other hand, it demands that the hardware is macro-capable – meaning that regardless of size and power output, it must be capable of providing the same macro base station features such as LTE-A carrier aggregation, dynamic load balancing eICIC (enhanced inter-cell interference coordination) and many others. Our philosophy is that small cells must have macro parity in order to benefit from the most optimized codes, the latest macro innovations, and advanced macro schedulers, and they must pass on the resulting performance boost to users. This ensures that a high density network will thrive rather than choke as capacity becomes “liquid” and can flow with the masses into hot spots and various hot zones.
Happy ending? Building the network is only part of the story. How it’s operated will ultimately determine whether the ending is happy. This is why Nokia has been actively promoting the operator benefits of macro parity – and our efforts have not gone unnoticed. Daryl Schoolar, principal analyst, network infrastructure, at Ovum agrees: “Nokia Networks’ focus on software parity between small and macro cells, for example, will make it easier for operators to tightly couple the two network layers and address such concerns as spectrum interference, radio interoperability, and simplification of operations and maintenance.”
Next up: High density network architecture – what works best?
Have you seen our latest macro parity news?:
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