Monday 14 August 2017

T-Mobile USA Small Cells - backhauled via dark fiber

Picture Source: Reddit

Picked this one up from Wireless Week (emphasis mine):
Speaking at the Wells Fargo 5G Forum this week, T-Mobile VP of Radio Network Technology and Strategy Karri Kuoppamaki said the Un-carrier carefully considered its options before settling on a small cell strategy that utilizes dark fiber for densification. Kuoppamaki explained T-Mobile works with a number of partners who provide the fiber, real estate, and manpower for the build outs while the Un-carrier supplies the equipment and facilitates municipal dialogs. The result is an overall cost structure that has been whittled down to a “manageable level,” he said. 
“We work together in deploying those small cells. This strategy has worked for us really, really well,” Kuoppamaki commented. “Ultimately small cell deployments, or successful small cell deployments, depend on the cost structure, especially the backhaul piece. If you can do that by partnering up with the right people, and bring that cost down a fraction of the cost of a macro then it makes sense.” 
According to Kuoppamaki, T-Mobile currently has about 15,000 small cells today, including 13,000 DAS nodes. The Un-carrier is on track to add “several thousand” more by the end of 2017, and has another 25,000 in the pipeline for the next few years, he added.
While fiber is a great strategy in the long run, especially for densification and 5G, it drives the initial cost up. Its not a great strategy for operators who may be more interested in deploying small cells for coverage mainly.

In earlier posts, I have argued for in-band backhauling (IBBH). A similar concept by the name of self-backhauling is used in 5G. In another post we also looked at Sprint MagicBox which uses similar approach to improve coverage and capacity. The main advantage of this approach is quicker deployment at a far lower cost. Backhaul can always be improved after initial deployments once coverage obligations are met.

Anyway, finally coming back to the T-Mobile small cells, here is a much more detailed picture from Omar Masry's slide-deck.

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