What are Smalls Cells and its key benefits?
Small Cells is gradually becoming a promising option to enable global connectivity in densely populated urban areas. Small Cells are low – powered radio access node which can function in a network range from 10 mts – 2 km and can operate on both licensed and unlicensed spectrums. The key benefits of small cells are: – managing large volumes of data traffic, improved network coverage and offer increased capacity. Small Cells are also capable of managing both indoor and outdoor connectivity
The global small cells market is expected to grow from $12.5 billion in 2017 to $58.7 billion in 2024
Let us Look at the four key factors driving Small Cell Demand
- Growing demand for smartphones and wireless devices: Increasing adoption of smartphone and interconnected devices is leading to data traffic congestion across networks. To resolve these challenges, small cells might become a feasible and cost effective option, it can easily manage the densification of networks
- Need for seamless indoor connectivity: Small Cells have the capability to provide network coverage in zero-coverage areas or places that have weak networks including shopping malls, hotels, and university campuses. Small cells can ensure seamless connectivity and manage the growing data traffic
- Demand for small cells surging in outdoor areas: Outdoor small cells usage has grown significantly both in rural and high dense urban areas owing to its capability to densify and reuse spectrum rather than buy new blocks of spectrum for macrocell coverage
- Role in 5G Enablement: The 5G network can support hundreds of gigabits of traffic from the core network and has the capability to support real time and machine centric applications. 5G would also be playing a critical role in midst of coronavirus epidemic, enabling real time contagion monitoring and can accurately spot a moving object’s temperatures in real time
But to bring 5G network in reality a simple upgrade of network will not be enough where we just add new spectrum and better radio technology. The network will be upgraded by creating ultra-dense and heavy traffic small cell sites connected to a backhaul network.
What are the issues and challenges?
While small cells ensure improved network coverage at a low cost, but the deployment bring new set of challenges such as the backhaul development of small cell network. A typical small site requires a cost effective and easy to install backhaul network which supports enhanced user experience across the RAN. However, there is no one best solution to establish a small site backhaul network, there needs to be a trade –off between capacity, cost and coverage. There are many technology options available: – Copper Line, Fiber Optics, Wireless backhaul (Microwave) and Satellite Backhaul. Each of which has its own advantages and disadvantages. Both Government and Industry players have to play a significant role in creating an improved backhaul network.
Possible Way Forward
As small cells are key component of 5G strategy, it is anticipated that telecom operators will step up the small cell deployments at large scale. In order to meet the growing requirements of small cell deployment, it is crucial to have suitable solutions for backhaul. Fiber might be the preferred wired backhaul solution as it has significant inherent bandwidth carrying capability and several other techniques (WDM technology and Dense WDM), it can be leveraged to offset any bandwidth related constraints).
But laying fiber to connect all cells will not always be feasible due to cost and logistics of deploying fiber, although the cost of fiber has decreased over a year, but it can take several months to provision several small sites with fiber optic backhaul.
Therefore, Telecom operators, government bodies, backhaul equipment providers all have to work together to overcome the hurdles in small cell deployment and create a sustainable ecosystem.