Small Cells Fill the Gap in Mobile Network Infrastructure

Next Generation Communications Blog

Small Cells Fill the Gap in Mobile Network Infrastructure

By: Mae Kowalke, TMCnet Contributor

There will be 70 billion connected devices globally by 2020, according to a recent Alcatel-Lucent posting. That’s a lot of demand on operator networks.

“We know that there’s a new market and new problem here to solve,” said Mike Schabel, senior vice-president of small cells for the wireless division at Alcatel-Lucent. “To handle the expected volume, we would need to significantly increase the number of cell towers used in the network. So we made [base stations] smaller.”

Small cells represent the future of the network for operators. They are cheap, easy to deploy, and can be adapted to deliver the right amount of coverage for an area of heavy use.

Each outdoor version of Alcatel-Lucent’s small cells can cover up to 600 meters and be integrated into bus shelters, sign holdings and other existing street furniture with minimal visual impact. Each small cell delivers up to 150 Mbps downlink per user, and supports roughly 200 simultaneous users.

Small cells interoperate with existing macro tower infrastructure, too, enabling mobile operators to mix the technology with their existing tower setup.

One challenge when it comes to small cells, however, is securing sites to install the necessary small cells.

Alcatel-Lucent has partnered with the world’s largest outdoor advertising firm, JCDecaux, to help make this part of the equation easier. JCDecaux has more than a million assets at more than 3,700 cities and 63 countries, including billboards bus shelters and other outdoor spaces where small cells can be placed.

We’ve been working with companies like JCDecaux to ensure a smooth, simple delivery in new spaces for the wireless industry, by retrofitting into existing street scapes,” noted Schabel.

Amsterdam is one example of the partnership put into practice. Vodaphone used the Alcatel-Lucent solution to dramatically improve coverage in the city of 2.5 million people.

“With Alcatel-Lucent and JDCecaux, we have successfully deployed the small cell technology in Amsterdam, enhancing the network quality of our infrastructure,” said Kevin Salvadori, Vodafone group technology strategy and operations director.

Mobile broadband use will keep growing for years to come. Operators need to ensure that they have the infrastructure to support the growth in demand, and small cells are one way to meet that need.


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