Carrier efforts to expand cellular coverage indoors will soon be getting a boost, literally, via a new intelligent signal booster from Nextivity, which claims the device can be deployed right alongside smart cells.
The next generation of Nextivity's smart signal booster, called Cel-Fi Pro, will support the Small Cell Forum's Release Two: Enterprise guidelines, which were unveiled in December 2013. Nextivity worked closely with the forum to get it to consider intelligent signal boosters as a formal component of a small cell solution. Nextivity said its smart signal booster messaging has even been recognized by the Small Cell Forum.
Signal boosters have traditionally been used to boost signals emanating from macrocells. However, Werner Sievers, Nextivity's CEO, told FierceWirelessTech that if Cel-Fi is deployed specifically to partner with a small cell, then it will actually boost the small cell signal to achieve greater coverage.
The Small Cell Forum's enterprise guidelines discuss situations where smart signal boosters might be desirable. Those include locations missing usable backhaul or locations in an enterprise where a deployed small cell is providing insufficient in-building coverage.
San Diego-based Nextivity said Cel-Fi Pro, slated for release in the second quarter, will have 3G/LTE capability. The signal booster will be powered by the company's recently unveiled Ares baseband processor, which incorporates self-optimized networking (SON) algorithms identified by the Small Cell Forum as being essential to the co-existence of "intelligent repeaters" with small cells in enterprise environments. Part of the forum's December release addressed SON use cases.
The use of cell phone boosters, which amplify signals between wireless devices and wireless networks, has generated years of heated debate. In years past, trade group CTIA and wireless carriers tried to ban the sale or use of boosters, arguing the devices could cause substantial interference in their networks and prompt dropped and blocked calls.
However, mobile customers increasingly use, or try to use, their devices inside buildings. Therefore, poor indoor cellular reception can drive up churn and decrease ARPU, which is why signal boosters are getting a second look from many carriers. Nextivity cited research that estimates 17-25 percent of mobile users globally experience poor indoor wireless coverage.
The search for indoor service solutions led U.S. mobile operators, along with CTIA, the Rural Telecommunications Group and the Competitive Carriers Association, to support new rules for signal boosters that the FCC adopted in February 2013. Those rules go into full effect on March 1, 2014.
Nextivity is among signal booster firms that stand to benefit from the rules changes. The company began shipping product in 2009, and its Cel-Fi booster line is approved by some 139 carriers in 66 nations. In order to gain carrier support, Nextivity had to build "an incredibly intelligent system capable of raising us above the riff-raff and out of the pirate, illegal world and into the legitimate world," Sievers said.
Telecom regulators outside the United States often follow the FCC's lead on policy frameworks. So the commission's new rules will elevate signal boosting technology "to a point of real relevance as one goes about trying to resolve this indoor coverage and capacity crisis," Sievers added.
Based on research from Mobile Experts, the Small Cell Forum has said it expects 11.5 million non-residential indoor small cells to be deployed by 2018.
- see this Nextivity release
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