Small Cells Featured Article
Why Do We Need Small Cells?
February 13, 2013
By Susan J. Campbell, TMCnet Contributing Editor
Consumers are on the move, and we never fail to have our mobile device at the ready. While we’re accessing our text messages, we also want Wi-Fi access for e-mails and instant access to a plethora of content – not to mention our social media. And now, mobile calling via VoIP is also quickly expanding. All of this instantaneous mobile access makes us think of this funny bit provided in a list of “48 Things That Will Make You Feel Old,” where BuzzFeed shares the following photo and comments that all of the below is now available via one handheld device.
Image via BuzzFeed
The challenge here is providing enough access and capacity to support the influx of users on the wireless network, and the answer appears to be in small cells. In light of this, it seems that AT&T (News - Alert) is on the forefront of small cell innovation. eCommerce Times recently reported that the company has completed development of a solution that will address the spectrum shortage for wireless carriers. While this development is not the first, it is considered to be very important. By focusing on weak areas in its own network, AT&T can deploy small cells to make up for performance gaps to ensure a consistent experience for all users.
In a nutshell, small cells alleviate much of the pressure put on the wireless network, while also strengthening areas of the network that lack capacity and performance. Each network, regardless of the number of users, has weak spots. When installed in key locations, small cells can support the influx of smartphones, tablets and other mobile device access across the network, which as we well know, is very heavy.
A solution to address this issue for the industry needs to be developed to ensure consistent performance. AT&T’s solution has been deployed and tested in two cities, and with great success. The application allowed for a reduction in dropped calls and a 15 percent increase in mobile traffic accessing the network, producing almost 100 percent usable coverage for the test site.
Now, the carrier plans to roll out small cells to more than 40,000 locations before the end of 2015, which could help position AT&T as offering the most powerful network available. Throughout the market, small cell deployments are expected to top 500,000 units in 2013 alone, with additional growth expected. But with the rapid pace in which smartphones and tablets are being adopted, this already rapid growth may not be fast enough.
While small cells aren’t the end-all solution to wireless data shortage in play today, they do offer a viable solution that will help carriers efficiently address their data needs. Even in areas where weak coverage existed in the past, carriers can improve coverage and eliminate those “no tower” areas that negated the connectivity the mobile device provided.
For those who appreciate the opportunity to get off the grid, this development presents a challenge. For the other 99.99 percent of users, small cells serve as a viable option for wireless carriers to build strong, faster and ultimately better networks to support an increasingly demanding user base.
To learn more about the evolution of small cells, click here.
Edited by Allison Boccamazzo
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