Small cells help bring networks closer to the users, and are an increasingly common way to boost mobile network capabilities. As a result, they’ve been hyped year after year as the next big thing in telecommunications, without ever really becoming mainstream. This could be the year that small cells truly break through, however, with the increased demand for high speed LTE networks. LTE small cells are being used by a wide range of providers, including Nokia Networks, Verizon Wireless, and Ericsson among others. How are service providers incorporating small cell technology into their plans this year and what will this mean for us users?
LTE small cells
One of the biggest telecom trends in 2015 is the growth of LTE networks, which are in higher demand in many ways than 3G/4G types of devices. Voice over LTE calling is starting to grow in popularity, due to the improvement in call quality and data transfer speeds that this technology allows. As a result, LTE small cells can be expected to lead the pack in small cell development over the next couple of years to keep up with the growing demand. Will 3G technology disappear? Not by any means, but those looking to upgrade are most likely going to turn to LTE smartphones in the near future, which LTE small cells can handle more efficiently.
Multimode small cells
At the same time, multimode small cells are still being very actively pursued by a number of developers, including Qualcomm, AT&T, and Cisco Systems. These support 3G/4G/Wifi networks all in one small package, which is useful for rapid expansion in a number of areas and particularly in developing nations. Multimode cells provide added versatility, which is important in a rapidly growing industry where the exact path of growth is at times uncertain. So in this year’s growth of small cell technology, we can probably expect to see new models of multimode and LTE small cells alike to accommodate the full spectrum of smartphones and wireless devices out there. Multimode small cells could be used on their own, or to compliment single-mode LTE small cells in a network’s offerings.
C-RAN small cells
A third use of small cell technology is with the use of Cloud RAN technology, which offers a cloud-based radio access infrastructure. Will C-RAN small cells take off in 2015? These use a centralized baseband, when is then spread out over a wide range of distributed small access points. This allows them to differ slightly than the clusters of small cells that are often used. C-RAN small cells are useful for LTE deployment, because they eliminate border interference while increasing data throughput. Overall, fewer small cells are required using this technology to increase data speeds, which can be vital to LTE quality. This also makes them more economical for network operators, without worrying about the interference that can occur between small cell access points.
In 2015 network demands will be dealt with using technology including VoLTE services, smart wifi with Nokia Networks, and the use of small cells to handle high-speed data performance needs. Whether these are single-use, multimode use, or C-RAN in nature, this could finally be the year that small cell technology takes over.