Small Cells to the Rescue

I just got back from Small Cells Asia conference in Taiwan and I’ve gotta tell you that while the message from mobile operators is the same, the urgency was dramatic.  You’ve heard it before, I’ve heard it before: Voice traffic is going down, data traffic is going way up, and signaling traffic is exploding.  In fact signaling traffic is growing 20 times faster than data traffic!  Those darn smart phone applications like Angry Birds, Google Maps, and the list goes on, just eat up the network resources with signaling traffic.

The operators know exactly how much load each macrocell is experiencing hour by hour, and when during the day (actually evening in many cases) it experiences peak load.  Operators are looking to supplement the macrocells with small cells strategically placed to absorb the excess load during peak periods and improve the user experience.  In fact, there is no other viable solution because adding more macrocells is just not practical.  But adding small cells is a challenge for the operators.  Questions that need to be answered include: where to place the small cell to yield the capacity gain needed; how big of a radius of coverage is needed to avoid increasing signaling traffic due to mobiles moving in and out of coverage rapidly; whether to deploy closed user group smaller small cells for families and individuals rather than larger small cells that are open to all users.

While the small cells network design and rollout issues are being sorted out by the operators, one thing is clear.  They have about two years to get the plan in place and the small cells rolled into the network.  Otherwise the traffic is going to overrun the networks and users will be experiencing a level of service not seen since mobile phones first came on the market.  Its small cells to the rescue – there is no alternative.

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