Small cell momentum is finally growing

Sue Marek

Now that operators are putting the final touches on their macro LTE networks, it is likely that we will start to see much more focus on small cell deployments. In fact, most analysts are predicting that we will start to see a surge in small cell deployments in 2015 as carriers look to densify their networks and move traffic off the macro network and onto small cells.

Although small cells have been a hot topic of discussion for the past few years, they failed to live up to their early hype, primarily because many people underestimated the costs associated with deploying small cells. Power, backhaul and siting issues are all significant and costly obstacles for small cells to overcome.

But progress is occurring. For example, in October the FCC approved new rules designed to accelerate the deployment of wireless infrastructure, including small cells and Distributed Antenna Systems. In the order, the FCC approved changes to the federal environmental review process to make it easier to deploy small cells as well as collocated equipment. For example, not only can gear be deployed on buildings and cell towers but also on utility poles.  

In addition, groups like the PCIA are working to educate communities about DAS and small cells in an effort to make it easier for operators to obtain approvals.

The growth of Wi-Fi hotspots is also aiding small cells because Wi-Fi will allow operators to manage different types of traffic and juggle that traffic over licensed and unlicensed spectrum. In addition, Wi-Fi can be used as part of the small cell network for backhaul and for services such as voice-over-Wi-Fi.

Small cell backhaul options are also increasing as many wireline operators build out their fiber footprints. However, many experts note that while fiber might be more readily available today than it was a few years ago, fiber is rarely convenient to the small cell deployment. That's why many operators are looking at wireless backhaul options to fill in the gaps.

In this latest ebook from FierceWireless, we take an in-depth look at small cells--both the obstacles and the demand. Find out the latest small cell developments by downloading this free ebook today. --Sue