Next Stop Multi-mode Devices!

In my last blog earlier this week, I talked about the evolution of the small cell and looked at what to expect next from this exciting technology. I discussed the growth of indoor and outdoor small cells as well as the growth of data traffic both residential and commercially. In particular, I posed the question:

“How will the users and operators have it all, desired data throughput along with uninterrupted voice, coverage and access indoor and also on the go while addressing the capacity add -on that operators desire?”

The answer? Dual mode or multi-mode small cell devices!

At its simplest form, this type of device combines multiple radio access technologies while maintaining standard interfaces into the operator network. However as we explore this further, what we see is a plethora of options to combine the logical functions within a small cell device.

A common device management, provisioning interface, backhaul options and security handling are the obvious functions to support the multi- mode function but beyond this the device will have enhanced scheduling for effective use of radio resources, SON techniques to support intelligent mobility management, neighbor relations and so on and all this taking into account the multiple available radio accesses.

It is all about efficient utilization of all the available radio resources to handle user traffic in a way favorable to the network operators and also for the end users.

This solution solves coverage issues, offers an intelligent load balance amongst radio accesses and can leverage SDR for effective data traffic management. Value added services like LIPA, presence service, etc. shall sit pretty on this device, offering a similar user experience for different radio choices. Small cell chip vendors have this addressed on their roadmap, and multi-mode chipsets will become available. In addition, mobile devices are well positioned to take this up, supporting Wi-Fi and 3G now and 4G coming as an add on.

It will certainly be interesting to see if operators wait out for a mature LTE small cell or opt for a dual mode (multi -mode) version that evolves.

So, let’s revisit the big picture question. What does the future for the multi-mode small cells looking like?

In short, a gradual evolution of mobile network topology with multi-mode small cell devices under the umbrella of already laid out macro. In store will be new techniques for spectrum efficiency, frequency reuse and re-farming, research on cognitive radio and integration of SDR techniques, all of this and more as applicable to small cells.

But most importantly, this will all be based on the leap towards multi-mode base stations.

From a Radisys perspective, on the eNodeB and multi-mode roadmap we have:

Trillium TOTALeNodeB software based on Strong Si ecosystem with support for dual mode chipsets providing turnkey, deployment-proven small cell software with:

  • Zero touch deployment with complete OA&M solution based on TR-069 and TR-169 standards from the Broadband Forum
  • Advanced SON techniques and algorithms, ANR used to manage the neighbor list that updates the list according to radio environment and OAM commands
  • Automatic power and interference control
  • Comprehensive radio resource management (RRM)

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