Sector-splitting and adding new sites are overwhelmingly the most commonly used methods for addingcapacity to wireless networks. As you know, operators are turning to a small cells approach more and more. Distributed antenna systemsare the most effective small cell solutions deployed today. Micro and metro cells will be essential next steps in the small cell evolution. I think macro capacity solutions that serve high data traffic areas will remain the best investments through 2013. But the industry will need more small cell solutions—including higher power femto and pico solutions—as part of a total small cell portfolio after that. Of course backhaul will need to be addressed for any small cell deployment. 

There are some practical considerations to take into account in any small cell deployment. One of them is how to achieve maximum data throughput in areas with high data usage by customers. Considerations here involve improving the signal level and reducing noise and interference so that all data packets can be successfully received. Performance degrades with distance from the cell, so RF pattern shaping and signal-to-interference control needs to be optimum. 

Another often very frustrating consideration involves acquiring approval to install small cell sites. Regulatory processes can be time and resource consuming. The cost to access a site can often far exceed the cost to install the equipment. Concealment and aesthetics also require attention. Licensing bodies can require certain aesthetic designs while poorly looking sites can face additional costs. 

I will be speaking about issues to consider in small cell implementation at the upcoming LTE North America 2012 conference in Dallas,Texas. I present for Track 4 on Wednesday, November 14 from 12:35–12:55 p.m. I look forward to discussing small cell deployment considerations with other folks from the industry. Before then, leave a comment if there are any major questions you have about small cell deployments. Maybe I can help provide some guidance.



About the Author

Ray Butler

Ray Butler is vice president of Mobility Network Engineering at CommScope, responsible for wireless technical sales leadership in outdoor RF products. Before, Ray led the R&D team responsible for base station antennas, filters, combiners, remote radio heads and RF power amplifiers. He previously worked for Andrew Corporation as vice president of Base Station Antennas Engineering as well as Systems Engineering and Solutions Marketing. He has served as director of National RF Engineering with AT&T Wireless and vice president of Engineering, Research and Development, and International Operations at Metawave Communications, a smart antenna company. Ray was technical manager of Systems Engineering for Lucent Technologies Bell Laboratories, having also held other management positions responsible for the design of RF circuits, filters and amplifiers. Ray holds a Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering from Brigham Young University and a Master of Science in electrical engineering from Polytechnic University, and is a member of national engineering honor societies Eta Kappa Nu and Tau Beta Pi.

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2 comments for "The Many Considerations For Small Cells"

Hi Ray, I believe small cells will certainly be widely used when the capacity demand is growing year by year. Whit is CommScope solutions for antennas used in small cells? Perhaps smaller antennas comapring to macro cells should be one of the trends, right? Regards, Seth

Ray Butler

Antenna directivity – which is roughly the ability of the antenna to focus it’s energy in a desired direction – is determined by the size of the antenna. Longer antennas have better directivity, meaning that the radiated RF energy is better contained and controlled. This is very important for LTE, since longer antennas higher directivity means less energy leaking into the neighboring cell. That interference in the neighboring cell degrades data throughput and reduces the customer experience. We see significant improvements in data throughput resulting from using antennas larger than simple patches or whip’s. It’s like buying a high end receiver and then connecting it to cheap poor quality speakers. Its worth spending a little more to take full advantage of the high performance electronics. Indoor small cells today use smaller antennas than their outdoor counterparts, but the environment is more isolated than an outdoor small cell –so the effects of neighboring cells are reduced or eliminated.

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