What is a Small Cell?

low-powered radio access nodes that operate in licensed and unlicensed spectrum that have a range of 10 meters to 1 or 2 kilometers. They are “small” compared to a mobile macrocell, which may have a range of a few tens of kilometers. With mobile operators struggling to support the growth in mobile data traffic,

many are using Mobile data offloading as a more efficient use of radio spectrum. Small cells are a vital element to 3G data offloading, and many mobile network operators see small cells as vital to managing LTE Advanced spectrum more efficiently compared to using just macrocells

What is an outdoor Small Cell?

  • Small Cell describes a single DAS node, micro or pico cell, or remote radio head/unit (RRH/RRU)
  • Small wireless “base stations”
  • Typically placed in the public right of way
  • DAS nodes and RRHs are connected to fiber going to a “head end” and BTS
  • Attached to Utility poles and streetlights, or placed in new “stealth” poles 
  • Antenna can be placed in the ”comm space” or on the “pole top”
  • Equipment is oIen placed in a shroud, with an external disconnect switch and meter (if not a flat power rate) 

What’s driving the need for Small Cells?

Forecasts such as Cisco’s VNI (i) warn that wireless data consumption will grow by a factor of 13x between 2012 and 2017, having doubled annually in recent years. Few expect significant extra revenues to be generated from the data traffic itself.

To some extent, network operators have circumvented more recent capacity growth, encouraging offload to Wi-Fi in the home and office, expanding existing cell sites to their maximum capacity, re-farming 2G spectrum for 3G and introducing LTE in its own additional spectrum. Around 50% of smartphone data is offloaded to private Wi-Fi (ii) – perhaps far more than most end users realize.

But there are limits to how far each of these approaches can go. A group of 3GPP experts examined the problem in June 2012, reporting (iii) that there were limited further gains to be had purely from additional spectrum or greater spectral efficiency. In order to meet projected demand for anything up to 1000x today’s traffic density, spatial frequency reuse would be essen>al – effectively by deploying very large numbers of small cells. Analyst surveys(iv) confirm that the majority of operators are planning to expand their traffic capacity by at least 20x before the end of 2017, with a significant group aiming for more than 50x current levels.

Estimates vary widely on the number and scale of small cell deployment. Ra1os of small cells to macrocells of anything from 4:1 to 10:1 or higher are quoted for dense urban traffic areas. The majority of small cells will be installed indoors, closest to the highest traffic usage. Millions of femtocells have already been installed for residential use, primarily to solve coverage problems.

In the future, capacity will be the main driver and the total cost of each public access small cell (including site rental, power, installation and management) will be higher than for residential femtocells. Analysts forecast that over 20% of the capital expenditure on radio access networks will switch to small cells within the next 3 years. Given the much lower unit cost per small cell, this quickly translates to large numbers of installations. The effectiveness and efficiency of their deployment will become a major differentiator between wireless network operators.

One South Korean operator is estimated to deploy over 100 LTE small cells every day, ramping up from an installed base of 6,000 to 18,000 in just 6 months. By contrast, many mature macrocell networks today employ fewer than 100 new macrocell sites per month.

Design Engineering

  • Determine most cost effective routes and preliminary drawings prior to field site audits
  • Precise route design data
  • Completion of utility pole make-ready and permit submittals
  • Field engineering team must have experience in aerial and underground construction.
  • Provide accurate pre-construction documents and CAD drawings
  • Understand power company and AAV rules of engagement

Installation Services

  • Perform the construction of Small Cell Services when required by the Site Action Plan.
  • All Small Cell Services will be performed, and all Equipment and Minor Materials will be installed, in accordance with the Small Cell Services Construction Drawings and Carrier Standards and Requirements for the Equipment.

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