Small Cells Featured Article
Small Cells Demonstrate Integration of Wi-Fi, LTE
February 23, 2013
By Ed Silverstein, TMCnet Contributor
U.K. pioneers are now working to remit the use of small cells for network efficiency. This development comes as enthusiasm for small cell growth and use is increasing. Still, the small cell sector is in its infancy.
To better understand small cells, remember they operate in licensed and unlicensed spectrum. They’re also low-powered. Small cells are important for 3G data off-loading, and can manage LTE (News - Alert) spectrum as well.
Great potential is there. By 2017, some five million small cells will ship annually, according to a report from ARCchart.
To show how strong a future exists for the small cell sector, ip.access, a small cell company based in the United Kingdom, has displayed how it can now provide integration of Wi-Fi and LTE.
Nick Johnson, ip.access CTO, said his company and InterDigital (News - Alert) were recently able to "demonstrate Wi-Fi and LTE within a single small cell, with operator controlled dynamic switching between the two signals – even potentially mid-data or video stream,” Rethink Wireless reported.
“They will move well beyond simple offload, and aim to harness unlicensed and licensed spectrum as a single pool of network capacity, to be used as required by different users and traffic types,” according to RethinkWireless.com. That means in the future, operators will be able to improve user experience for their subscribers.
"Put simply, if a customer with an LTE-capable handset was using a Wi-Fi network that became congested, the network could be configured to dynamically switch that customer to LTE to maintain the required quality of the service to that user, and the performance of the network for all users," Johnson said.
Ip.access wants more comment from carriers before offering the solution commercially.
There is a clear reason for the great interest in their offering. Small cells are seen as more important with BYOD (bring your own device) to work becoming more popular. Employees increasingly use their mobile phones for most of their communications. That means more high-quality coverage is needed in commercial buildings.
In addition, small cell vendor, Ubiquisys (News - Alert), wants to replace the desk phone with the cell phone through a partnership with Quortus. Quortus, by its EdgeCentrix software, provides a mobile packet core on a small cell. Therefore, a mobile PBX (News - Alert) lets cell phones offer the advanced functions found on IP desk phones, such as conference calling, call transfer, dual ringing and find-me services.
“The mobile phone has become the preferred connection for the majority of communication, servers to base stations to devices,” Pete Keevil, vice president of engineering at Ubiquisys, said in a statement quoted by Rethink Wireless. “However, poor in-building mobile coverage and the lack of the functions offered by the traditional PBX have prevented mobile being their preferred method for the enterprise. As enterprise small cell deployments continue to accelerate, I believe we will see mobile form the basis of many forward thinking companies' communications in the not so distant-future.”
“Many, however, expect to wait as many as three years before adopting a small cell strategy. Why? While backhaul questions have largely been addressed, standards development remains an open issue. In order for small cells to provide the interference-free, optimized network connectivity that is expected, the industry must come to agreement on standards to support small cell development,” Ford explained.
“A key ingredient to small cell deployment is the ability to deliver the traffic almost immediately. … Small cells may require a backhaul network,” Ford added. “Small Cells need big money investors. So orders have to be macro for small cells to takeover.”
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