There are a number of ways to provide mobile network but it is generally broken down into two main terms, macrocell and microcell. Both provide radio coverage but in very different ways making each more effective in different situations.
A macrocell provides radio coverage for cellular networks. The antennas for macrocells can be mounted on masts or towers to create cellular base stations. These can be positioned in the ground, rooftops or other existing structures as long as they are higher than other buildings or terrains with a clear view of the surroundings so that the signal is not obstructed. Macrocells can provide cellular network coverage for a large area which can span a large town.
Microcells are a type of Small Cell, which are low-powered radio access nodes and includes those that operate in operator licensed spectrum. They get their name from the fact they are small compared to macrocells with a range of 10m to 1-2km instead of tens of kilometres. There are different types of Small Cells, such as femtocells, picocells and microcells and the main difference between them is the range of coverage they provide. On average femtocells reach 10 metres, picocells 200 metres, and microcells have the largest range of nearly 2 kilometres. As it has the widest coverage microcells are used more outdoors, whereas femtocells and picocells are utilised in buildings.
Despite their similarities, what differentiates the outdoor Small Cells is that microcells are for capacity and macrocells are for coverage. This is why in urban areas that are densely populated, such as London’s Oxford Street, you will commonly find microcells used to create a cellular network that can cope with the high demand that macrocells cannot cope with. There are still challenges as macrocells can overpower microcells because they are more dominant which causes interference. To stop this from happening power needs to be carefully set so not to overpower neighbouring microcells. This needs to be reviewed every time more microcells are deployed as this changes the power balance.
iWireless Solutions has carried out numerous microcell projects so if you wish to find out more have a read through our case studies and news to find posts such as Rapid Microcell Deployment. Alternatively get in touch to speak to one of our technical specialists by email on email@example.com or phone us on 01342 305038.