As Small Cell has become already a mature topic compared to the 2014 Mobile World Congress, it would still be extensively discussed this year, where vendors will exhibit their existing products and solutions across a range of platforms and frequency bands. This year’s fruitful discussions, as most challenges were solved last year, are expected to lead to a sustainable volume of deployments covering operators’ multiple needs (capacity, coverage) from indoor to the outdoor environment.
Small Cell adoption is anticipated to become more prevalent in 2015, driven by the completion of LTE rollouts and “all-you-can-eat” data plans offered by Mobile Network Operators (MNOs). While 2014 has been a year for trials, 2015 will see small cell deployments begin to move from indoors to outdoors, and grow from coverage fill to capacity expansion. Greg Friesen, Vice President of Product Management at DragonWave, comments regarding Small Cell evolution, “we believe there will be a big push for small cell equipment integration. On the macro-cellular backhaul side, we expect there to be a greater global adoption of E-Band for macro backhaul as the equipment’s’ range increases. What’s more, we anticipate a large operator push for microwave scalability as service providers try and stay ahead of the rapidly increasing data demand curve”.
E-Band gains traction today, as Intracom Telecom the latest of the E-Band entrants, has completed a very interesting toolkit ready to meet the current and future challenges for the Macro and Small-Cell Backhaul applications.
In traditional LOS solutions, high system gain is used to support the desired hop length and mitigate fading caused by rain. For short-distance solutions, such as those needed for small cell backhaul, this gain may be used instead to compensate for non-line-of sight (NLOS) propagation losses instead. Ericsson believes that in the near future, sub-6 GHz frequency bands may be used for small cell NLOS backhaul but microwave backhaul in bands above 20 GHz will outperform sub-6 GHz systems under most NLOS conditions. Due to lack of spectrum 3G, 4G and Wi-Fi will over time use these sub-6 GHz bands. Hence there is a chance that NLOS deployments will over time be dominated by microwave bands above 20 GHz.
Closing this note, new and existing NLOS vendors such as Fastback Networks and RADWIN respectively are coming also to play with high capacity, low latency NLOS products even with sophisticated antenna designs aiming to deliver the NLOS performance operators require for LTE network densification. NLOS has gained traction and more acceptance during 2014, as even Alcatel-Lucent, among the leading small cell vendors, added recently, 9500 MPR Portfolio, including a sub-6Ghz wireless backhaul solution for NLOS small cell deployments in built-up, urban locations.