To successfully deploy a Small Cell network, the mobile network operator (MNO) needs to identify and focus on a few key aspects that will make the network technologically sound and serve a higher volume of subscribers at lower or reasonably balanced TCO for the MNO, right from the beginning.
The 3GPP Long-Term Evolution (LTE) infrastructure standard allows Carriers to use new and wider spectrum and complements existing 3G networks to handle even more mobile traffic.
However, radio link improvement is fast approaching the theoretical limitations. On top of that, the spectrum available to Carriers is often limited and expensive.
For MNO’s the next performance and capacity leap will come from network topology evolution by using a mix of macro cells and small cells with licensed and unlicensed spectrum – This heterogeneity has given rise to the umbrella term ‘HetNets’ which refers to a Carrier network where a mixture of macrocells, small cells and in some cases WiFi access points, are employed together to provide coverage with handoff capabilities between them.
One of the realities of current mobile networks is that they are built of a large number of Macro Cells which are carefully distributed and located to provide right coverage and minimize RF interference between the Cells. However, modern HetNet type deployments consist of an even much larger number of unplanned Small Cells, causing MNOs to focus on a dedicated approach to optimization for an efficient Small Cell network without incurring undue OPEX costs. To achieve the intended objectives and goals of improved capacity, the MNO needs to implement novel and innovative techniques for optimizing the Small Cell networks. Relying on the manual network optimization approaches used in Macro Cell networks would be impossible to use in the Small Cell networks due to the very nature of these networks. Self-organizing Network (SON) solutions are one of most noteworthy approaches to achieve this automation in configuration and optimization of these networks.
There is little information about how MNO’s can prepare their Small Cell deployments such that they can be easily upgraded to 5G standards and technologies when they become available in future. Until now ! The Mind Commerce report, Strategies for Small Cell Network Deployments for 4G and Beyond, evaluates the current state of the industry Small Cell deployment in 3G and LTE and presents a vision for anticipated future of Small Cells beyond 4G.
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