By Bernard Breton, SVP Americas & APAC Sales and Chief Marketing Officer, InfoVista
As mobile network traffic continues to rise, small cells are providing much-needed capacity and traffic relief for macro-cellular networks. In recent months, we have seen the public profile and popularity of small cells climb to new heights. With AT&T, Verizon and several other major carriers around the globe laying out their plans for small cell deployments in 2013 and beyond, and vendors like Cisco venturing into the small cell arena with its acquisition of Ubiquisys, there's little doubt that the technology will play a prominent role in current and future network build-outs.
The focus is shifting from whether or not small cells can be effective (we know they can) to how network operators can optimize their use in order to build better networks and maximize ROI. In an interview with IT Business Edge, ABI Research Principal Analyst Nick Marshall noted two specific challenges network operators are facing today when it comes to small cells.
“You have to get local authority's permission to bolt them to the lamp post or side of the buildings and deal with the technical aspects of the backhaul, interconnecting in a network and coordinating the handover of the small cell to the macro cells and back again, so a call is not lost,” Marshall said. “You just don't buy these things and throw them out there and they work.”
Marshall makes a good point here. A resource is only as valuable as one's ability to use it effectively. Small cells have the power to help operators optimize their networks, handle network traffic more efficiently and deliver an improved quality of experience to their subscribers.
The trick, however, is to identify where and when to deploy them and how they will interact with the various technologies found in today's increasingly complex heterogeneous networks (HetNets). When planning small cell deployments, mobile network engineers must look at two dimensions simultaneously: the ease of roll-out and the targeted network performance. Striking a balance between these two – often conflicting – objectives is exactly the sort of task that Mentum Planet is designed to handle.
From automatic cell planning (ACP) to optimize HetNets' spectral efficiency to full 3D propagation modeling and 3D visualization of RF coverage with the Metro Network Design package, Mentum Planet's focus is on making sure that small cells of any technology (i.e., Wi-Fi, HSPA, LTE and LTE-Advanced) are able to work in concert with the rest of the cellular network. In order to ensure an easy roll-out, constraints such as backhaul connectivity, accessible candidate locations and more, should be considered in the design process. This increases the efficiency of the initial roll-out while making ongoing management easier, even as new technologies are being deployed, and also helps to reduce stranded capacity (capacity that goes unused as a result of inefficiencies in network planning and optimization).
For more on effective network planning and optimization with small cells using Mentum Planet, I invite you to view our pre-recorded webinar, Using Mentum Planet for Optimal Small Cell Placement.