The discussion within the wireless industry about small cells and HetNets is reminiscent of the mid 1990s when there was talk about underlay/overlay techniques and macro/micro base stations. Some of the challenges faced at that time and now facing those making small cell deployments today are:


  1. The availability and cost of backhaul and power.

  2. Site acquisition and access costs. If operators do not achieve significant economies of scale on small cell equipment, site costs could quickly destroy any chance at a return on investment.

  3. Interference management and control. To increase capacity, many more discrete sectors need to be added. Without self-optimizing network (SON) capabilities, interference and coordination will be unwieldy and impractical.

  4. Overall network management and overhead. Mobile experts forecast 70 million small cells shipped by 2017. Compare this to the few million macrocells built and managed over the last three decades. And you thought macrocell deployments were challenging?

  5. Equipment reliability. The entire maintenance scheme must adapt to the new architecture in order to remain efficient and effective. Will equipment reliability scale with an increased numbers of sites?

  6. Multiple equipment vendors within a region. The OEMs are pulling out of the standards committees. How are operators going to manage multiple vendors for this much equipment? Can the OEMs really address all the required development needed to make small cells realizable on their own?


From a DAS (distributed antenna system) perspective, CommScope is investing heavily in the development of intelligent and more efficient multi-technology/multi-operator platforms. For small cell and HetNet applications, DAS is a cost effective, minimally impacting solution.

 

I believe that simplicity is the key for effectively deploying DAS solutions. Operators need DAS solutions that are:


  1. Simple to design, order and deliver. (Less parts and more flexibility.)

  2. Simple to configure, setup, and commission. (More plug and play functionality similar to plugging a new device into your home network.)

  3. Simple to manage power between multiple operators to ensure that each operator is treated fairly.

  4. Simple to understand what is going on in the network. (Visibility of the network including active hardware, passive infrastructure, the BTS input, and the external environment.)

  5. Simple to change. (The ability to reconfigure the network on-the-fly to redistribute capacity where it is needed.)


CommScope as a whole is moving in the direction of simplicity, increased system awareness, and flexibility with a vigilant eye on maintaining performance and enhancing capacity. Massive increases in sector/cell counts require equipment to diagnose itself and when possible correct the issue autonomously. Site acquisition and current site use requires equipment that is smaller, lighter and less complex for installation. CommScope is moving quickly to address the problems with unique solutions.

 

What small cell challenges are you seeing?

About the Author

Matt Melester

Matt Melester is senior vice president and general manager, Distributed Coverage and Capacity Solutions, at CommScope. He and his team have been responsible for successfully enhancing wireless coverage and capacity at numerous high profile locations and events including the FIFA World Cups in Germany and South Africa; Olympic venues in Sydney, Beijing, London and others; high-speed rail systems in Italy, Germany, China and more; the world’s longest tunnel in Switzerland, the world’s tallest building in Dubai, and the world’s largest indoor stadium. Matt has over 30 years of experience in the telecommunications industry at CommScope, Andrew Corporation, Chrysler Technologies Airborne Systems and Texas Instruments. He has a master's degree in electrical engineering from the University of Kentucky.

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