Deutsche Telekom plans to deploy more small cells to solidify its 5G network, the company said in a podcast. The carrier explained that small cells improve the quality of the network in areas of high density, such as train or bus stations, markets or shopping arcades.
In late December, Deutsche Telekom said it would repurpose approximately 3,000 old public payphones as 5G small cells by 2025. They will have a range of a few hundred meters and will serve city centres and pedestrian zones using the 3.6 GHz frequency band. Telekom said its 5G small cells serve a 200-metre radius.
Telekom already uses phone box small cells for LTE networks on the 2.6GHz frequency, but will start a 5G rollout using the 3.6GHz band in 2023, having completed a pilot phase.
Telekom stressed its enthusiasm for designs that “fit in with the urban landscape, either by standing out with a decorative design or by harmoniously blending into their surroundings”. The latest roll out of phone box small cells will see 5G connectivity with little to no visual impact on German streets.
Telekom has partnered with Swiss network equipment vendor Huber+Suhner on small cells since 2019, using them to densify its 4G network across a number of German cities. The Huber+Suhner kit is installed in existing street furniture — including phone boxes — operating over a range of frequencies from 1.7GHz to 4.2GHz. When the deal was signed, then-Chief Technology Officer Walter Goldenits said that small cells would form an “important component of our expansion strategy”. He added that the Swiss vendor’s equipment can be converted to support 5G networks “in a few easy steps” (Deutsche Telekomwatch, #87). With this latest phone box small-cell rollout, it appears that this option has not been taken.
© Deutsche Telekom AG
Deutsche Telekom Technik, the operator’s German network deployment and management unit, has been trialling street-level 5G small-cell designs since at least 2019. Then, it highlighted “creative designs” to densify the network, including the use of antenna housings shaped like clocks and birds perching on lampposts.
Dell’Oro Group says the demand for small cells remains strong. Preliminary findings suggest small cell radio access network (RAN) revenues advanced 15% year-over-year in the first quarter, growing at a faster pace than the broader small cell plus macro RAN market.
“The fact that small cell investments are still advancing at a rapid pace even as the operators are intensifying their 5G macro roll out efforts show that small cells are now an essential part of the broader RAN toolkit,” said Stefan Pongratz, Vice President at Dell’Oro Group. “Helping to explain this output acceleration is the shift towards 5G and the shrinking gap between macro and small cell deployments, especially with upper mid-band 5G,” continued Pongratz.
Additional small cell highlights from the 1Q 2022 RAN report:
- Top 5 suppliers in the quarter include Huawei, Ericsson, Nokia, ZTE, and Samsung.
- Nearly all the small cell growth is driven by public 5G – small cell LTE revenues declined in the quarter and private 5G small cell investments are still negligible.
- Global small cell RAN revenues remain on track to surpass $5 B in 2022.
Dell’Oro Group’s RAN Quarterly Report offers a complete overview of the RAN industry, with tables covering manufacturers’ and market revenue for multiple RAN segments including 5G NR Sub-6 GHz, 5G NR mmWave, LTE, macro base stations and radios, small cells, Massive MIMO, Open RAN, and vRAN. The report also tracks the RAN market by region and includes a four-quarter outlook. To purchase this report, please contact us by email at [email protected].
Dell’Oro Group is a market research firm that specializes in strategic competitive analysis in the telecommunications, enterprise networks, data center infrastructure, and network security markets. Our firm provides in-depth quantitative data and qualitative analysis to facilitate critical, fact-based business decisions. For more information, contact Dell’Oro Group at +1.650.622.9400 or visit https://www.delloro.com.
Telefónica Germany and NEC Corporation announced their successful collaboration in launching the first Open and virtual RAN architecture-based small cells in Germany. The service has initially launched in the city center of Munich to enhance the customer experience by providing increased capacity to the existing mobile network in this dense, urban area. NEC serves as the prime system integrator in the four countries of Telefónica S.A. and NEC’s program to explore ways to apply Open RAN in various geographies (urban, sub-urban, rural) and use cases. Telefónica Germany had previously said it planned to deploy pure 5G Open RAN mini-radio cells in Munich later this year.
In this German deployment, the flexibility of Open RAN is leveraged through the use of small cells to improve capacity in dense, urban areas. One of the key advantages of Open RAN over a traditional architecture is that it allows wider choice of vendor options. NEC integrated a multi-vendor architecture that includes Airspan Networks* unique Airspeed plug-and-play solution and Rakuten Symphony’s Open vRAN software for O2 / Telefónica Germany’s small cells to complement the existing multi-vendor based macro cells in its network.
The adoption of Open RAN small cells combined with macro cells will pave the way for 5G network densification. This will be especially beneficial in Germany, where multiple industries and enterprises are seeking ways to utilize cellular service functionalities in a particular area or in shared physical spaces.
Source: Telecom Infra Project
O2 / Telefónica Germany and NEC will continue their collaboration leveraging innovative Open RAN technologies, as well as automation, to validate and deploy advanced networks that efficiently deliver superior customer experiences in the 5G era, with collaboration from key partners.
“We are proud to have launched Germany’s first small cells built on innovative Open RAN technologies that help to complete the delivery of granular, high-quality connectivity in dense urban areas,” said Matthias Sauder, Director Mobile Access & Transport at O2 / Telefónica Germany. “NEC became our partner in this innovative project, with its underlying technological background and experiences of Open RAN technologies.”
“The potential of Open RAN technologies in the 5G era is infinite,” said Shigeru Okuya, Senior Vice President, NEC Corporation. “NEC is honored to be the strategic partner to O2 / Telefónica Germany, jointly leading the industry with practical and effective use cases that prove the value of Open RAN.”
Germany seems to be a focal point for OpenRAN deployments. For example, greenfield operator 1 & 1 is deploying a fully-virtualized, Open RAN mobile network built by Rakuten Symphony. That partnership began in the fourth quarter of 2021.
At Mobile World Congress this week, Vodafone announced that it plans to use OpenRAN in 30 percent of its masts in Europe – which includes Germany, of course – by 2030. Last November it emerged that it is working with Nokia and network software provider Mavenir to transform Plauen in Germany into a so-called ‘OpenRAN city’ that will be a live testbed for new OpenRAN-based products.
Deutsche Telekom is also a big fan of OpenRAN. Last June it claimed Europe’s first live OpenRAN deployment in Neubrandenburg, which has been dubbed ‘O-RAN Town’. It has partnered with a broad range of suppliers, including NEC, Fujitsu, Dell, Intel, Mavenir and SuperMicro.
Last December, semiconductor/SoC start-up Picocom made headlines in the Open RAN community by releasing the “industrt’s first” 5G NR small cell SoC for Open RAN. This new product, dubbed the PC802, is described as PHY SoC for 5G NR and LTE small cell decentralized and integrated RAN architectures, including support for leading Open RAN specifications. The PC802 allows for interfacing to radio units using either the O-RAN Open Fronthaul eCPRI interface or a JESD204B high-speed serial interface. Optimized explicitly for decentralized small cells, the PC082 employs a FAPI protocol to allow communication and physical layer services to the MAC.
OpenRAN has been a recurring topic at this week’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, with Mavenir, Qualcomm, and Rakuten Symphony, etc. all making product pitches. However, it remains to be seen if Open RAN will actually be able to deliver on its promise of mix and match network modules and lower the cost of network deployment with the performance, security and reliability that network operators must provide to their customers.
Worldwide 5G network infrastructure revenue is on pace to grow 39% to total $19.1 billion in 2021, up from $13.7 billion in 2020, according to the latest forecast by Gartner, Inc.
Communications service providers (CSPs) in mature markets accelerated 5G development in 2020 and 2021 with 5G representing 39% of total wireless infrastructure revenue this year.
“The COVID-19 pandemic spiked demand for optimized and ultrafast broadband connectivity to support work-from-home and bandwidth-hungry applications, such as streaming video, online gaming and social media applications,” said Michael Porowski, senior principal research analyst at Gartner.
5G is the fastest growing segment in the wireless network infrastructure market (see Table 1). Of the segments that comprise wireless infrastructure in this forecast, the only significant opportunity for investment growth is in 5G. Investment in legacy wireless generations is rapidly deteriorating across all regions and spending on non-5G small cells is poised to decline as CSPs move to 5G small cells.
Table 1: Wireless Network Infrastructure Revenue Forecast, Worldwide (Millions of U.S. Dollars)
|LTE and 4G
|3G and 2G
|Small Cells Non-5G
Source: Gartner (August 2021)
Regionally, CSPs in North America are set to grow 5G revenue from $2.9 billion in 2020 to $4.3 billion in 2021, due, in part, to increased adoption of dynamic spectrum sharing and millimeter wave base stations. In Western Europe, CSPs will prioritize on licensing spectrum, modernizing mobile core infrastructure and navigating regulatory processes with 5G revenue expected to increase from $794 million in 2020 to $1.6 billion in 2021.
Greater China is expected to maintain the No.1 global position in global 5G revenue reaching $9.1 billion in 2021, up from $7.4 billion in 2020. With China’s government funding 5G development for the three state owned carriers, that’s no surprise.
The big beneficiaries of China’s 5G infrastructure spending will be its domestic equipment makers, Huawei, ZTE, and (state owned) Datang Telecom. Despite clamoring for Sweden to permit Huawei 5G equipment to be deployed, Ericsson only received 3% of a joint 5G radio contracts from China Telecom, China Unicom and 2% from China Mobile, according to Reuters. Nokia, which was expected to take away Ericsson’s market share in China, did not receive any share, according to a tender document published by the Chinese companies.
In a way that’s a win for the Swedish vendor – and a brief share price hike backs up that statement – which won just 2% of an earlier deal from China Mobile. But if they want to secure their share of the multiple billions of dollars of global 5G infrastructure revenues forecast by Gartner, the likes of Ericsson and Nokia will need to keep winning contracts in their home markets.
5G Coverage in Tier-1 Cities Will Reach 60% in 2024:
While 10% of CSPs in 2020 provided commercialized 5G services, which could achieve multiregional availability, Gartner predicts that this number will increase to 60% by 2024, which is a similar rate of adoption for 4G- LTE in the past.
“Business and customer demand is an influencing factor in this growth. As consumers return to the office, they will continue to upgrade or switch to gigabit fiber to the home (FTTH) service as connectivity has become an essential remote work service,” said Porowski. “Users will also increasingly scrutinize CSPs for both office and remote work needs.”
This rapid shift in customer behavior is driving growth in the global passive optical network (PON) market as a preferred technology. The 10-Gigabit-capable symmetric-PON (XGS-PON) is not a new technology and with the price difference with other technologies narrowing, CSPs are willing to invest in XGS-PON to differentiate themselves in customer experience and network quality. Gartner estimates that by 2025, 60% of Tier-1 CSPs will adopt XGS-PON technology at large-scale to deliver ultrafast broadband services to residential and business users, up from less than 30% in 2020.
Gartner clients can learn more in the reports “Forecast Analysis: Communications Service Provider Operational Technology, Worldwide” and “Forecast: Communications Service Provider Operational Technology, Worldwide, 2019-2025, 2Q21 Update.”
While Gartner did not split out small cells’ contribution to the overall 5G infrastructure segment, evidence thus far suggests the market is progressing more slowly than many had once believed.
Last month, Crown Castle increased its guidance for the second time this year due to a strong cell towers market, but halved the number of small cells it expects to deploy in 2021 to 5,000. The company noted that wireless network operators have focused on tower-based 5G rollouts at the expense of small cells.
IDTechEx has recently released “5G Small Cells 2021-2031: Technologies, Markets, Forecast,” a market research and business intelligence report exploring the key technical and industry factors that are shaping the fast-growing small cell market. The report forecasts that the overall number of 5G small cells will reach 45 million by 2031.
One of the challenges of mmWave (24–48 GHz) based 5G is signal attenuation (Another is the requirement for line of sight communications). That results in the signal propagation distance being much shorter compared to use of other frequencies in cellular networks such as 3G and 4G. Small cells are proposed to address this big challenge.
Deploying many small cells will also improve aggregate 5G bandwidth in dense urban area through frequency re-use. Creating an ultra-dense cellular network by deploying more small cells plays a key role in 5G as it allows it to complement the macro cell network and therefore boosts data capacity.
Small cells can be categorized into three types: femtocells, picocells, and microcells, depending on their output power. Because of their smaller size compared to macro base stations, the material choices and the overall technology trend will be different from their macro infrastructure counterparts.
As of mid-2021, the majority of the 5G commercial rollouts are still focused on enhanced mobile broadband. 5G network operators have mostly installed 5G macro base stations to provide networks with high capacity for consumers using mobile devices. However, the new use cases such as industrial IoT 4.0, cellular vehicle to everything (C-V2X), new entertainment experiences, and smart cities, are where the real innovations are occurring and the huge market potential lies. 5G small cells will play an essential role in supporting those industries to become fully digitalized and the potential realized.
IDTechEx’s analysis considers how the following variables evolve during the forecast period: the development and adoption rate of sub-6 GHz and mmWave in the world’s five regions, the growth of the Internet of Things (IoT) for broadband and critical applications, 5G rollout potentials for enterprises, urban, and rural & remote purposes, and the utilization rate of different types of small cells for each scenario.
- 5G small cells vendor landscape analysis
- Supply chain and technology analysis on Radiofrequency (RF) components such as power amplifier and filters for 5G small cells
- Choices of semiconductors for 5G small cells
- Antenna-integrated package (AiP) solutions
- EMI shielding
- Thermal management for 5G small cells
The report offers insights into the global 5G small cells market for:
- Companies that supply materials and components for 5G small cells
- Companies that develop 5G small cells
- Companies that invest in the 5G infrastructures
- Companies that plan to step into 5G small cell business
- Companies that develop digital solutions for industries
Separately, the Small Cell Forum’s market forecast is claimed to be the industry’s most comprehensive analysis of small cell deployments globally from now until 2026. The most important input to the forecast is a survey of the deployers of small cells, including 84 MNOs (Mobile Network Operators) and 33 other service providers such as private network operators and neutral hosts.
Key findings from the 2021 report include:
- There is a rising number of industrial applications that require full 5G capabilities such as high availability, and these will accelerate adoption of 5G small cells, with a CAGR of 77% in 2019-2026.
- Access to a wider variety of spectrum, with more flexible licensing, will be the most important enabler of enterprise small cell roll-out in the early 2020s. Deployments in shared spectrum will overtake those in licensed bands in 2025.
- As small cells need to address increasingly diverse requirements from different industries and use cases, flexible, cloud-based architectures will become essential. Two-thirds of deployers expect to adopt small cell vRAN by 2025.
- One driver of vRAN expansion will be open small cell architectures. These will account for 77% of new deployments in 2026. There will be strong support for SCF’s Split 6 in the enterprise and industrial environments, where it will adopted by 58% of deployers by 2024.
- The trend for rising diversity of small cell deployers and business models will intensify as enterprise demand grows, and by 2026, over three-quarters of enterprise small cells will be deployed and operated by private network operators or neutral hosts.
Small cells are increasingly used to boost network densification and expand coverage for both private and public networks. They will be increasingly important in the deployment of 5G mmWave networks because of the very short propagation distances which require many small cells for adequate coverage in a given geographical area.
5G small cell market is gaining momentum due to the higher bands like mmWave limitation, in-depth in-building coverage requirement and strategic area densification. However, despite the hype surrounding 5G, 3G/4G deployments are expected to remain the dominant technology in terms of volume shipments until 2022 when 5G small cell deployment will overtake 3G/4G. Therefore, because small cell densification is moving forward, integrated small cell platforms supporting both 5G and 4G radio are essential for the next five years.
Small cells deployed in strategic areas have also accelerated the new virtualized and disaggregated architecture adoption, aiming for greater cost-efficiency and flexibility. Together with edge computing, they are enablers for enterprise digital services such as manufacturing applications, smart harbor/terminal, local contextual applications and IoT services.
Definition of Small Cells:
Gartner’s Key Findings:
The small cell solution is shifting from delivering in-build coverage to enable large-scale network densification. Increasing 5G and private network deployments further accelerate the trend.
In the small cell market, variety and diversity are replacing uniformity. Introduction of new spectrums, types of cells and architectures, vertical industries use cases, and business models like neutral host act as accelerators in this respect.
In addition, diversity increases the cost and complexity of small cell deployment and management, not just access points but also potentially edge computing, localized core and distributed radio units.
Traditional proprietary small cell systems are challenged by disaggregated, virtualized architecture. Communications service providers (CSPs) are looking for a more flexible, multivendor, cost-effective solution through breaking apart basebands and radio heads, and virtualizing some or all of the baseband functions in software.
Gartner’s Recommendations for Small Cell Deployment:
Build your small cell deployment strategy beyond coverage through prioritized investment in network densification and related digital services. Include 5G small cell and private networking requirements in your product plans.
Address diversity challenges through a multivendor approach. There is no one size fits all in the future small cell market, and a scenario-oriented product evaluations process needs to be implemented.
Reduce complexity and improve cost-efficiency through prioritizing the deployment feasibility as well as operation intelligence and automation.
Work closely with emerging suppliers and establish an objective and structured process to thoroughly evaluate and develop quick prototypes using disaggregated and virtualized architectures.
Small Cells Will Be at the Forefront of Virtualization and Open RAN:
The economic success of 5G is reliant on interoperable multi-vendor networks, which require open interfaces at both the silicon and network levels. Therefore, many CSPs are continually exploring the possibility of moving away from the proprietary hardware to more modern open and interoperable systems.
To support these, CSPs will need to adopt new network topologies such as cloud-RAN, virtualized RAN (vRAN) or open RAN (ORAN), together with integrated edge compute.The key to the open network lies in disaggregation — separating the key elements such as centralized units (CUs) and distributed units (DUs) — and the open reconfiguration — combining components from any suppliers because they are all interconnected in the same way.
For 5G, those central processes will usually be virtualized (run as software on off-the-shelf servers).The move to open network has been more advanced in small cell layer than macro network, and several suppliers already offer architectures in which a number of small cells are clustered around a centralized, virtualized controller. But there are two potential barriers to achieving a real multivendor environment: the need to be in agreement on where the network should be split between the central and the local elements and the need to be a single common interface between the elements in each preferred split.
Split RAN/SC architectures have multiple options, as identified by 3GPP. Of these, 3GPP has focused on Option-2 (RLC-PDCP), ORAN on Option-7.2 (PHY-PHY) and Small Cell Forum (SCF) on Option-6 (PHY-MAC). SCF will develop a 5G version of its networked FAPI spec, which will enable a split MAC and PHY in a disaggregated small cell network, supporting the 3GPP Option-6 split over Ethernet fronthaul and targeting, in particular, cost-effective indoor scenarios. SCF’s work on open interfaces such as nFAPI will play an important role in the market, alongside the work of partners such as O-RAN Alliance and Telecom Infra Project.
Many CSPs expect to take their first steps in their small cell layer, providing valuable experience of how to manage and orchestrate a network in which multiple radio units share common baseband functions, some of them deployed on cloud infrastructure. While there are still challenges in this domain, the disaggregation and virtualized architecture reduce the technology barrier to market and introduce new players into the market including software players as well as OEMs and ODMs.
Small Cell Hardware and Software Vendors:
The table below may be used as a quick reference guide to representative vendors and their 5G small cell solutions. It includes the major vendors who have a long history providing small cell, DAS solutions and also some new emerging vendors who are providing software-based small cell solutions.
Table of Small Cell Vendors:
Small Cell Software
Virtualized RAN Software
M-RAN Virtual Small Cell
5G Open Platform Small Cell
Enterprise Radio Access Network (E-RAN)
Radio Dot System, Micro Radio, Lightpole Site
LampSite Family, BookRRU, Easy Macro
Massive MIMO AAS Radio Unit
Flexi Zone, AirScale Indoor Radio system (ASiR), AirScale Micro Remote Radio Head (mRRH), AirScale mmWave Radio (ASMR), Smart Node Femtocells
Samsung 5G Small Cell
Qcell, 5G iMicro, 5G Pad RRU
The Small Cell Forum (SCF) today published its analysis of the burgeoning market for small cell-based private networks, outlining market drivers, use cases and recommendations for LTE-based networks, and examining their evolution to 5G. The research shares insights gained by leading deployers of how different public and private sector organisations are benefitting from robust cellular connectivity, customised to their specific applications.
SCF235 Private Cellular Networks with Small Cells is available for download from the SCF website.
The comprehensive paper includes:
- SCF’s market analysis which reveals that, by 2025, the largest adopter of private networks will be local government, including networks to support public safety and smart cities
- A study of new business models created by integrators and third-party providers operating in this space that can work in partnership with MNOs – for instance, by leasing their spectrum or by enabling MNOs to provide services based on a shared network
- Data showing that when deploying private LTE today, small cells have significant cost advantages
- A discussion of the critical need for different spectrum and deployment methods being adopted around the world, such as CBRS in the United States
- Examination of vEPCs supporting RAN-agnostic networks, and the role of edge computing in small cell-based private networks
Private networks are custom designed for the specific needs of an organisation such as an enterprise or local government. They can provide higher quality mobile connectivity than Wi-Fi, and have a more extensive ecosystem of technology suppliers, system integrators and service providers than proprietary solutions. Cellular devices also have the capability to roam seamlessly between private and public global mobile networks.
With LTE technology, new types of spectrum and the emergence of a new breed of service providers, commercial conditions are ripe for enterprises and government to leverage small cell-based private networks for their business-critical and mission-critical connectivity needs. The paper focuses on understanding these early adopters and how they are using private networks to better achieve their organisation goals.
The research was made possible by an extended collaboration of leading private network providers, brought together by Small Cell Forum, including; AT&T, CommScope, Corning, Crown Castle, Ericsson, ExteNet Systems and Reliance Jio.
Keyur Brahmbhatt, lead author and Senior Product Manager at ExteNet Systems, said: “Private LTE networking technology is a significant opportunity for the telco sector that can be deployed today with existing technology, rather than needing to wait for 5G. It has already enabled new business models, tailored service offerings and access to new or difficult to reach verticals, and allows organisations to integrate diverse sensors, machines, people, vehicles and more across a wide range of applications and usage scenarios.”
Dr. Prabhakar Chitrapu, Chair of Small Cell Forum, said: “This paper represents a comprehensive body of work highlighting the clear benefits Small Cells provide in deploying private cellular networks of all types, as well as providing real-world case studies of successful systems. Our future work in this area will focus on how to manage private networks, and the impact 5G will have on private network architectures and technologies. At the heart of this will be collaborations with enterprises to capture detailed requirements specific to key sectors that will benefit most.”
SCF aims to help enterprise, industry and government understand the potential benefits of private networks to support their digital connectivity needs, while helping private network service providers better understand the benefits which are most valued by the different types of customer. The paper identifies barriers to the growth of private networks and recommends industry actions to address them.
About Small Cell Forum:
Small Cell Forum develops the technical and commercial enablers to accelerate small cell adoption and drive wide-scale densification.
Broad roll-out of small cells will make high-grade mobile connectivity accessible and affordable for industries, enterprises and for rural and urban communities. That, in turn, will drive new business opportunities for a widening ecosystem of service providers.
Those service providers are central to our work program. Our operator members establish the requirements that drive the activities and outputs of our technical groups.
We have driven the standardization of key elements of small cell technology including Iuh, FAPI, nFAPI, SON, services APIs, TR-069 evolution and the enhancement of the X2 interface. These specifications enable an open, multi-vendor platform and lower barriers to densification for all stakeholders.
Today SCF members are driving solutions that include:
- 5G Components, Products, Networks
- Dis-aggregated 5G Small Cells
- Planning, Management and Automation
- 5G regulation & safety
- Neutral Hosts & Multi-operator
- Private and Public Network coexistence
- Edge compute with Small Cell Blueprint
- End-to-end orchestration
The Small Cell Forum Release Program has now established business cases and market drivers for all the main use cases, clarifying market needs and addressing barriers to deployment for residential, enterprise, rural & remote, and urban small cells. It has also established initiatives relating to both public and private (MNO) coordination. The Small Cell Forum Release Program website can be found here: www.scf.io
Verizon and the city of San Diego, CA have announced a partnership under which the U.S.’ #1 wireless telco will invest upward of $100 million to deploy as many as 200 energy-efficient light poles that host small cells for 5G wireless, as well as providing the police with 500 smartphones and the fire and rescue department with 50 tablets. The city, in exchange, will ensure a streamlined process for approval of small cells and fiber optic links.
San Diego has pledged to streamline the permitting process for rolling out mobile network “small cells” in a deal with Verizon that could help lay the foundation for bringing 5G technology to the city. Mayor Kevin Faulconer announced the deal in a news conference Monday on Harbor Island. Verizon will spend more than $100 million to install up to 200 power efficient light poles with small cell wireless network gear to improve cellular coverage.
“Verizon is a partner in our effort to enhance wireless capability and lay the groundwork for the future of 5G wireless,” said Faulconer. “This agreement is going to increase services and expand our smart cities capabilities, at no additional costs to taxpayers.”
Small cells — about the size of a pizza box — contain lower power radios and antennas. They add density to the cellular network to boost range and increase the number of smartphone/ endpoint users who can then gain high speed connections to the Internet. This is done via frequency reuse– small cells in one area of town may use the same frequency bands as other small cells in a different part of the city. Small cells are expected to be a key component of high speed 5G mobile networks, which have just begun rolling out in a few cities in the U.S. and South Korea. They have to be mounted on city owned polls or like infrastructure. “Most of these small cells essentially they are on poles, and they blend into the areas to provide that coverage, as well as capacity,” said Ed Chan, Verizon’s senior vice president of engineering.
Verizon plans to install 4G LTE small cells in San Diego under the new program, said Chan. These small cells can be upgraded to 5G technology — either through software updates or the addition of 5G radio equipment. 5G networks aim to deliver speeds 10 times faster than current 4G technologies, with imperceptible transmission delays. They are expected to help power ubiquitous mobile video, self-driving cars, smart cities infrastructure and connected health care devices.
Verizon deployed its first pre-standard mobile 5G networks last week in neighborhoods in Chicago and Minneapolis. It expects to expand to 30 additional cities U.S. by year end. The telco hasn’t named the next 30 cities to get 5G. Chan said to stay tuned. “This will definitely create the foundation to get to 5G” in San Diego, he said.
The city and Verizon have been talking for several months about ways to speed up the permitting process for small cells and fiber optic links. Plans include updating some building codes and allowing “master permits” where the installation of several, similarly designed small cell street-light poles in a neighborhood would fall under one permit, said Ron Villa, assistant chief operating officer with the city.
“We are doing a pilot in Mission Valley where they can permit a whole area all at once, and they don’t have to go through individual permits,” said Villa. “It will be to the advantage of other carriers as well. If we can get this to work, there will be other carriers that will be welcome” to use the streamlined permitting process.
Verizon is providing poles with street lights and will cover installation costs, said Villa. The company will own the poles. In the future, it will provide analysis of traffic patterns and other data to bolster San Diego’s smart cities capabilities.
“From smart streetlights on Mira Mesa Boulevard to weather-based irrigation controllers in Clairemont, innovation is shaping how we are living and working in District 6,” said Council member Chris Cate. “San Diego’s partnership with Verizon will not only benefit San Diegans today, it will help all future generations.”
Samsung Networks is deploying small cells in large volume for indoor coverage for Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Jio, which is set to have 99% population coverage soon in the country, according a Samsung executive.
“We have seen drive happening on indoor small cells. But that doesn’t mean that outdoor isn’t happening. Outdoor is happening at a good speed basis the site availability and so on… We will continue to expand on this piece of the network [indoor] because there are places where it’s more value to go that way,” Srini Sundararajan, Senior Vice President and Head of Networks Business at Samsung India, told ET.
“Jio tells us what their network requirements are, and we support…indoor always volume looks larger because devices are smaller and are easy to deploy and are self-configured,” he added.
Samsung Networks had earlier this year obtained a new 4G LTE network expansion contract from its sole customer in India, Reliance Jio, to increase the telco’s 4G network penetration from around 75% to 99% by Diwali this year.
The South Korean company is the sole 4G equipment provider to Jio with contracts to supply wireless base station equipment for over 140,000 sites for pan-India coverage last year, ET had earlier reported.
Image courtesy of Economic Times Telecom (India)
Sundararajan said that Jio is expanding its networks for both coverage and capacity needs in the country. “It has to be both. There are still parts of the country we need to increase the coverage. Some of the hilly areas or remote areas. For every project, there is a certain percentage of sites for coverage and a large percentage is for capacity,” he added.
For capacity, Jio has started commercial deployment of massive mimo technology in areas where it is not able to add new sites easily.
In addition to 4G wireless equipment, Samsung is also providing packet core technology to Jio. The executive said that the virtualised packet core will play a crucial role in the 5G scenario. Samsung is currently preparing to conduct 5G field trials in New Delhi in the first quarter of the next year, and is working closely with the Department of Telecommunications (DoT).
“We have a lot to offer similar to what we did on 4G, and which is why we said that we will partner with the DoT. We are directly partnering with the DoT to ensure that we listen to the needs of the government,” the executive said.
He added that the government’s involvement in these 5G field trials is very crucial for the successful commercial roll out since there will be 5G use cases that will have “societal value” along with the business value.
“The government is very proactively enabling and promoting to grow the 5G network. They are very aware that it is the ecosystem, and not just a vendor or operator. So they tend to bring different players into it to ensure that we are able to provide a high-value system for the country,” he added.
Samsung will be conducting the trial using the millimeter wave (mmwave) spectrum even as other vendors like Huawei plan to conduct trials in the mid-band. Sundararajan said that the millimeter wave band will offer a large chunk of spectrum that can result in uses cases like fixed wireless access (FWA) with huge capacity for data services. “We need to have the technology in the mmwave to enable the true vision of the government,” he said.
Samsung is currently doing 3.5Ghz trials in the mid-band in South Korea, and in the US, we are doing mmwave trials. “We are technology agnostic, but use cases will drive the adoption of one of these bands,” he said.
Global mobile operators will be using small cells to expand the indoor coverage and improve network capacity, improving the quality of telecommunication. Small cells can divert 80 percent of data traffic in crowded areas. Increase in hotspot capacity will make up for areas not covered by macro cells (both indoor and outdoor) to improve network performance and service quality.
Kelly Hsieh, research director of TrendForce, said small cells will achieve higher level of integration, allowing for multi-mode, multi-band deployment, and integrate unlicensed spectrum.
The deployments of small cells – fuelled by 5G — will reach 2.838 million units in 2018 and 4.329 million units in 2019, an annual growth of 52.5 percent. Hsieh said that demand for 5G applications will gradually emerge as consensus on 5G standards and 5G application scenarios are being formed. Particularly, small cells are key to 5G as they can support increasing demand of data performance. It is estimated that the global deployments and installed base of small cells will reach 2.838 million units in 2018 and 4.329 million units in 2019, an annual growth of 52.5%.
The TrendForce report predicts that small cells will upgrade network performance and improve efficiency through indoor digital deployments. Small cells can carry large sum of data transmission brought by Internet of Things (IoT) and integrated wireless backhaul, reducing investment costs significantly.
China Mobile, Verizon, AT&T and SK Telecom are currently making investment for deploying small cell technology to boost customer experience. Therefore, with the development of 5G technology, small cells will become key equipment adopted by global mobile operators. Currently, mobile operators in China, the United States and South Korea are the most active, including China Mobile, Verizon, AT&T, and SK Telecom.
Backgrounder on Small Cells (see IEEE reference below):
Small cells are portable miniature base stations that require minimal power to operate and can be placed every 250 meters or so throughout cities. To prevent signals from being dropped, carriers could blanket a city with thousands of these stations. Together, they would form a dense network that acts like a relay team, handing off signals like a baton and routing data to users at any location.
While traditional cell networks have also come to rely on an increasing number of base stations, achieving 5G performance will require an even greater infrastructure. Luckily, antennas on small cells can be much smaller than traditional antennas if they are transmitting tiny millimeter waves. This size difference makes it even easier to stick cells unobtrusively on light poles and atop buildings.
What’s more, this radically different network structure should provide more targeted and efficient use of spectrum. Having more stations means the frequencies that one station uses to connect with devices in its small broadcast area can be reused by another station in a different area to serve another customer. There is a problem, though: The sheer number of small cells required to build a 5G network may make it impractical to set up in rural areas.