Small cell technology is a win-win for wireless carriers. It enhances their capacity by enabling data to be offloaded onto IP networks and improves the experience of their customers by filling in dead spots and improving connectivity within structures. And the market appears to be gaining traction.
Philip Song, Huawei’s small cell marketing director, expects the company’s participation in the sector to expand rapidly. He points to an additional issue that is propelling small cell technologies: The spectrum now being allocated by governments is usually in the high-frequency range, which lends itself more to small cells than to macro base stations.
For the potential of a technology to be reached, of course, there has to be a healthy ecosystem pushing it. Last week, Telcoms posted about six development programs from the Small Cell Forum designed to help carriers meet their subscribers’ rising demands. The forum teamed a carrier and vendor in each case for creative brain storming:
Each different telco/vendor team focused on one of six distinct areas. These were, respectively, a License-exempt spectrum (proposed by Qualcomm/Vodafone), a Virtualisation scheme (Cisco and China Mobile), a plea for neutral host multi-operator cells (Truphone/ip.access), an enterprise focused scheme (Huawei/Orange), a plea for HetNet (Ericsson and Airhop) and a plan to make small cells the cornerstone of 5G networks (from Jio and Huawei).
There is ongoing entrepreneurial innovation as well. For example, Kumu, a three-year-old company that was spun out of Stanford University, is working on what the MIT Technology Review positions as a significant breakthrough. The first use of the technique will be in the small cell sector.
According to the Technology Review, traditionally, radios have to separate outgoing and incoming signals because what is being transmitted is orders of magnitude more powerful than what is being received. This is why radios in phones either use separate channels or, if one channel is being used, switch on and off during sending and receiving. But Kumu has found a way to enable transmission in both directions at once. This full-duplex approach effectively doubles the capacity of a channel.
Real-world tests by T-Mobile majority owner Deutsche Telecom in Prague and an unnamed major wireless carrier in the U.S. “have now shown that doubling is feasible in real cellular networks,” according to the story.
And on the business side, in early September, CommScope got deeper into the category with the purchase of Airvana, a Chelmsford, Mass.-based vendor of 3G and 4G small cell products. Airvana, according to CommScope, has shipped 1.5 million small cells.
Carl Weinschenk covers telecom for IT Business Edge. He writes about wireless technology, disaster recovery/business continuity, cellular services, the Internet of Things, machine-to-machine communications and other emerging technologies and platforms. He also covers net neutrality and related regulatory issues. Weinschenk has written about the phone companies, cable operators and related companies for decades and is senior editor of Broadband Technology Report. He can be reached at email@example.com and via twitter at @DailyMusicBrk.