Wednesday 5 February 2014

Small Cells and WiFi Forecast 2012 - 2018

I have been following and having some interesting discussions on a Linkedin group where the main argument is that Small Cells may never really take off as its not a good solution and doesn't make a good business case. I think that kind of discussion is best left to do on Linkedin.

ThinkSmallCell held a webinar recently inviting couple of leading experts to discuss their forecasts for Small cells. The webinar slides and videos are embedded below. Here is a quick comparison of what these independent leading experts had to show:

The main point to note above is that we will hopefully hit 1 million public access small cells probably around/after 2015. My view on why operators have been slow in deploying small cells have been mainly to do with interference management. As we know, Small cells are deployed for Coverage and Capacity and is mainly deployed in Co-channel (same carrier as Macro). If there is no or little coverage, Small cells deployment is not an issue. With higher frequencies, the reception in the houses goes down so deploying Femtocells make sense. With public access small cells, interference (especially on 3G) has to be managed. Surprisingly the practical results for co-channel public access outdoor small cells deployed for capacity purpose is not too bad but there is a no coverage area created as a result of interference at the edge of the small cell. This can cause handover issues.

In LTE-A, Interference techniques like (f)eICIC will help handle these situations so I wont be surprised if there are lots of deployments next year with this interference management capability.

The main thing to note is that WiFi will play a huge part for the connected devices of the future. Most of the small cells deployed with also have a WiFi capability so operators can use that to offload traffic from the cellular on Wi-Fi.

My understanding is that in future we will see Macro cells mainly serve high-mobility connections (including connected cars) and Small cells and WiFi will be used for low mobility and fixed access. I guess the real advantage of cellular over Wi-Fi in this low mobility scenario is that since Wi-Fi is unlicensed, there could be interference from many unpredictable sources. Licensed cellular bands dont generally have this issue.

Anyway, the presentation and video from webinar is embedded below:

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