LTE Small Cells Help Public Transport Users Stay Informed in Real-time

Next Generation Communications Blog

LTE Small Cells Help Public Transport Users Stay Informed in Real-time

By: Thierry Sens, Marketing Director Transportation Segment Marketing, Alcatel-Lucent

It’s raining. It’s Monday morning. And the bus hasn’t turned up.

It’s a story experienced all the time in cities across the world, and is a major challenge for transit operators in the battle for passengers. When you are wet through and the bus still hasn’t come around the corner, taking the car always feels like the better option.

However, telecommunications technology is helping to readdress this balance. Research has shown that use of mobile apps which show up-to-date and accurate journey information is improving journey experience. Passengers can plan their journey better meaning the wait for the bus is no longer such a drag.

Using a smartphone is also increasingly the way to kill time while you wait. This has had a significant impact on perceived and actual waiting times when public transport is delayed, a real Achilles heel for transport operators. Smartphones allow users to work and interact on the go and constant access to mobile broadband is now expected by urban dwellers.

But with more and more people using data-sucking devices, the pressure on urban communications networks is immense. Indeed 77% of people say they currently experience slow download speeds. You might have a full 4G LTE signal, but the performance of the network is poor, only adding to the frustration of that wet Monday.

Existing 4G networks use macro cells, which are not optimized to provide connectivity suitable for a large number of passengers to access mobile data services at the same time. But there is a way to improve radio coverage. LTE small cells solve the mobile broadband capacity crunch by boosting coverage density and capacity in saturated areas.

While LTE small cells are not common yet, their deployment may about to be as widespread in cities as the humble advertising billboard. At the end of September JCDecaux joined forces with Alcatel-Lucent to speed up the roll-out of connected street furniture. With references including 276 railway transit systems, and 10 of the top 20 airports in the world, it’s an agreement that could have huge implications for the future of connectivity.

Alcatel-Lucent’s small cell technology is suitable for 3G and 4G networks and is simple and quick to install. Crucially it offers a capacity gain two times greater than current macro networks and can reduce demand on macros by up to 70%. Smart cells also offer a 38% total cost of ownership saving over using only macros.

Teams from both companies are now working together to optimize the aesthetic integration of small cells in JCDecaux’s street furniture that are in tune with the urban environment and meet demand for broadband.

So in the smart city of the future, you may not be able to stop the rain, or the bus from being late. But at least your smartphone won’t let you down.

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