As radio access networks increase in capacity, transport networks must deliver a complement in density of coverage and bandwidth per square area supporting strict SLAs and providing a satisfactory user experience. Transport technology with fiber-equivalent services over wireless is emerging as “fiber fill-in” enabling mobile network operators to deliver on the universal consumer assumption of “Anytime Anywhere” access to services. Requirements for connectivity, services and network functionality are shifting to meet the demands for expanded reach and higher capacity, support for Carrier Ethernet 2.0 services over wireless, intelligent provisioning and end-to-end QoS.
There will still be a continuous interest on indoor (mainly enterprise) and outdoor solutions (public access). Outdoor small cells of a sensible size will continue to appear this year on all the major RAN vendor stands, including Ericsson, Huawei, NSN. Also the new players like Cisco focusing deeply on SON will gain traction. Cisco is trialing Quantum SON and Small Cell SON coming together for a best-of-breed Hybrid SON, worth to stop by and ask for more details. Decisions and announcements on new medium-scale deployments are expected right after MWC as there was an extreme RFI and RFC fever during 2013.
We don’t really expect any new players to arise or tremendous product announcements in the Small Cell field this year but rather small improvements via intelligent modules rather to attract attention and create buzz. Discussions and panels will run deep into case studies and business models or even technology comparisons based on spectrum availability that the operator holds. Small Cell Forum will lead discussions in Hall 7 Stand No. 7F61, as interesting panels and discussions are expected to take place from Forum’s members. Speakers include operators, Forum representatives, analysts and our members.
Although 150-200Mbps is the dominant small cell backhaul capacity, based on our research on Small Cell, will still think that the Quality of Experience plays also a significant role and can be tested only in active links and real field trials. E-Band is considered as the most trialed technology for small cell backhaul, but NLOS licensed and unlicensed solutions will be again in the forefront of the Barcelona’s show. Tarana Wireless will top interest presenting it new AbsoluteAir 2 (AA 2) product line, demonstrating innovative Concentrated Multipoint (CMP) topology with support for up to six dedicated 250 Mbps NLoS links and an aggregate capacity of 1.5 Gbps.
E-Band solutions will still draw a separate line when high capacity is the strictest requirement. E-Band systems are now delivering 2.5Gbps and above, as well as very low delay, it becomes possible to natively transport FrontHaul traffic. New E-Band systems are primarily all-outdoor systems that can now support antennas as small as 8 inches in some regions. With abundant spectrum available, and delivering high capacities, E-Band is ideally suited for small cell backhaul connections that typically require only short link distances.
Dragonwave’s Harmony Eband operating in 70/80 GHz, is an interesting multipurpose platform designed to address both fronthaul and backhaul applications, would be interesting to explore during the show. There is no clear distinction if millimeter-wave is the mainstream solution or better than E-Band as there are no market share figures yet to prove which of the two is the most preferred technology.
Concluding, the capacity expansion for outdoor small cells is one way, however if the small cell theme is essentially LTE small cells or Carrier WiFi for outdoor capacity expansion is another question for the industry. As there is no clear Carrier WiFi definition, very few backhaul vendors are supporting 802.11ac feature yet, mentioning Proxim Wireless as the early peer in that field. We believe that moving forward a clear distinction of where and when needs to be clearly described as the LTE-ready commercial networks could question Cisco’s empire but also the 802.11ac use.
Stay tuned as we plan to cover all happenings and insight of discussions on stage!