In 2015, global mobile data traffic amounted to 3.7 exabytes per month with an expectation to reach 30.6 exabytes per month in 2020, at a compound annual growth rate of 53 percent*. Due to the explosive growth of mobile data traffic and increasing expectations of customers to be always connected, operators are increasingly facing the pressure of providing high data capacity to consumers while maintaining an efficient and low-cost network. Now imagine a high-density area like the City of London, where capacity requirements are even greater the need to be connected, even more pressing. Pressure from end customers and businesses to the operators is likely to mount. This can lead to areas of high data traffic congestion requiring a significant capacity upgrade of its cellular networks, which will require some of the network capacity to be freed up. The key challenge to building a new Macrocell network is simple – it is cost prohibitive, even more so in high capacity places (like major cities), as they inherently require more cells, power and which will present site acquisition challenges.
For these reasons, Small Cells would appear to be a solution to this problem. Small Cells comprise low-power, high-capacity wireless nodes that operate in licensed bands. These are installed in high traffic, urban and dense urban areas to alleviate network capacity bottlenecks within a macro cell network overlay.
For Small Cells to be deployed in large volumes (i.e. at least tens of thousands per year), achieving a cost that is more attractive than traditional macro sites, the cost per site network deployment will have to be significantly smaller than their macro counterparts.
This by itself will require a simplification of the deployment model. Deployment service providers will inevitably have to undergo a series of changes. This is in order to profitably deliver site acquisition, construction, integration, as well as optimisation services for Small Cell deployments under such a low-cost model. In doing so, they face a number of challenges:
- Working with network operators, vendors and site owners to find the right Small Cells design/solution that avoids lengthy approval processes
- Procurement of ‘asset rights’ from public entities and power from utility companies
- Managing operator expectations around leasing / zoning costs
- Broad knowledge of potential mounting locations (existing and future); with the availability and costs of power & backhaul at these locations
- Simplifying the installation services (e.g. leveraging existing data cabling)
- Running fibre or copper for backhaul access.
- Trialling and fine-tuning repeatable configuration and integration processes
As Small Cells are being trialled / rolled out on a grand scale, information on the areas of interest, asset availability, capacity demand, and existing system analysis will become imperative to make a Small Cells project viable, mutually beneficial (for both operators and clients) as well as effective.
So, what is the solution to all these problems? The key emphasis is the move towards shorter range (closer to public), high capacity solutions, with the removal of the high dependency on the longer range Macrocell networks. At iWireless we believe this would be a multi-step approach:
- Technology upgrades to macro network (full LTE rollout, 5G, backhaul)
- Offload capacity from macro network to HotSpots – utilise macros in ‘hard to reach’ areas
- Backhaul proposals / solutions (combination of both fixed and wireless)
- Rollout of outdoor Metrocells (short range)
- Upgrade Microcells
In the absence of additional spectrum, the improvement of capacity in high-density areas will focus on short range solutions – In-building and Outdoor. As operators and vendors continue to roll out more Small Cell systems/solutions, the learning from all involved in the Small Cell solution ecosystems will result in a better understanding of how to address challenges around installation, cell capacity optimisation and landlord and assets negotiation – and thus reduce costs. As technologies are moving ever closer, vendors and system integrators that can combine multi-operator Small Cells with Wi-Fi efficiently and effectively will be the preferred option for operators.
To find out more or to speak to one of our technical specialists, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone us on 01342 305038.
iWireless Solutions are attending Small Cells World Summit 2016, (10th-12th May, Intercontinental O2 Hotel), do join us there (stand 27).