Cast A HETnet Over Coverage And Capacity Networks

Bob Suffern December 15, 2010

Acronyms—we seem to love to deploy them as much as we do new networks. Well, we’ve got another one. The latest and greatest is HETnet, standing for Heterogeneous Networks. HETnet represents the new way of thinking about wireless network deployments.

Let me explain.

The agreed-upon method for deploying wireless networks has stayed relatively the same over the last 20 years. Voice coverage was the primary application that operators considered when rolling out a new wide area network. Operators established large cell sites with high powered macro base stations to support voice applications. Some of these cell sites, depending on the height of the tower and the terrain, could provide voice coverage to over 75 square miles of terrain. The largest U.S. operators by now have deployed upwards of 40,000 of these traditional macro cell sites. We like to call these networks, which are comprised of many large macro cell sites, the “coverage network.”

Newer networks, such as those based on 3G and 4G technologies, have a different driver than voice applications--namely data capacity. While a single user can consume a large amount of data bandwidth, the problem is much greater in areas where the number of users is quite dense. Town centers, airports, and sports venues are examples of such places. Operators have a limited ability to address the needs of these users if relying on traditional macro cell sites due to zoning and other restrictions, as well as the fact that macro cell sites are not the best tool for increasing capacity in small areas.

For wireless operators to provide this data capacity, they will utilize an increasingly complex and diverse set of wireless solutions—micro and pico base stations, distributed antenna systems (DAS), and indoor solutions such as femto base stations. These types of products, deployed with the goal of injecting a large amount of data capacity into a relatively small area, comprise the “capacity network.” That’s the second part of the HETnet. The combination of capacity and coverage networks is what is referred to when people use the comprehensive term HETnet.

Unlike network deployments to date that relied almost predominately on macro base stations, the new HETnet will be a diverse combination of both macro and smaller cell sites that together provide both wide area coverage and targeted areas of high capacity data. At CommScope, we are actively working issues related to deployment of HETnets so that operators—and their customers—have the benefits of both wide area voice coverage and a satisfying data experience no matter where they are.

In later posts, I’ll discuss the complex challenges operators face as they roll out the HETnet.

The topic of HETnet is being addressed by the IEEEICC 2011 Workshop on Heterogeneous Networks, held June 5, 2011 in Kyoto, Japan.

About the Author

Bob Suffern

Bob Suffern is the senior vice president and chief technology officer at CommScope. Bob joined Andrew Corporation in September 2005 as vice president and general manager of Radio Frequency Power Amplifiers and continued to serve in this position after CommScope’s acquisition of Andrew in December 2007. Prior to joining Andrew, he was senior vice president of engineering and operations at Flarion Technologies, Inc. where he was responsible for product development, product and program management, and manufacturing of Flarion's mobile broadband wireless products. Bob previously held research and development and business development management roles at 3Com Corporation and was engineering director at U.S. Robotics. He holds a number of patents, including several for digital signal processing systems and routing and switching techniques.