Small cell solutions have been a hot topic in recent years as a way for cellular service providers to increase capacity in densely populated markets and provide in-building coverage. But, as discussed in the June issue of this magazine, the hype cycle for small cells went into overdrive while actual deployments of small cells remained in the slow lane. However, expectations for small cell deployment remain largely positive.
The leader in small cell equipment market share, according to ABI Research in July of last year, was Alcatel-Lucent. Airvana, Cisco, and ip.acess followed. Semiconductor baseband SoC suppliers leading the small cell equipment sector, according to ABI, include (in this order), Broadcom, Intel, Text Instruments, and Freescale. Others in this space are Contela, Ericsson, Huawei, NEC, Nokia, Samsung, SpiderCloud, and some of the companies noted below. Additional small cell semiconductor players include Ablaze, Cavium, Coherent Logix, Octasic (News - Alert), and Qualcomm.
Meanwhile, DAS – a market valued at $2 billion worldwide as of last summer – has cemented its place as a good technology for in-building coverage in large venues such as malls and sports arenas.
DAS leaders include Corning Mobile Access, CommScope, and TE Connectivity. Other notable players in this arena are Axell Wireless, Ericsson, Kathrein-Werke, NSN, Optiway, PowerWave Technologies, Solid, and Zinwave (News - Alert).
Here’s a sampling of what some of the companies offering DAS and small cell solutions deliver.
Airvana delivers residential/SMB small cells, the OneCell Enterprise Small Cell System, a Device Management System, and the Small Cell Analytics (SCAN) Service. The company says its 3G and 4G LTE residential/SMB small cells dramatically improve indoor voice coverage and data performance for subscribers, while helping operators cope with the exploding usage of mobile data by offloading traffic from the macro RAN. Airvana has shipped more than 1.5 million residential/SMB small cells. Its OneCell Enterprise Small Cell System is a multi-operator, 4G LTE small cell system that delivers consistent LTE performance throughout enterprises and public spaces, with the economics and simplicity of managed Wi-Fi. The OneCell System consists of a baseband controller and multiple radio points. Using a cloud RAN architecture, OneCell forms a single super cell that eliminates small cell handovers and interference issues across large areas, creating a high quality LTE experience for end users. Airvana’s Device Management System is a comprehensive small cell management system that enables wireless operators to better manage the deployment and support of their small cell ecosystems. It provides operators with a centralized view of their small cell network to empower them to deliver an optimal subscriber experience through an intuitive graphical user interface. SCAN provides operators with regular and customizable reporting on a broad range of KPIs for voice and data services delivered on the small cell network.
Size, number of users, and the ability to support multiple mobile operators (i.e., host neutrality) are a few reasons why no one-size-fits-all solution exists for in-building deployment. Alcatel-Lucent offers three in-building architectures, distributed antenna system, distributed radio system, and small cells. In applications where a neutral host solution is required such as large hotels where patrons utilize multiple operators, Alcatel-Lucent lowers the cost of neutral host DAS deployment compared to traditional methods through the use of metro radios, which eliminate the need for overpowered RRHs and attenuators or through a direct CPRI connection from the baseband unit to the DAS head end (a result of partnership with TE Connectivity). For stadium applications where massive capacity is required, Alcatel-Lucent offers the DRS, an architecture that couples pooled baseband capacity with remote radio heads/antennas (i.e., 9768 Metro Radio Outdoors). Finally, Alcatel-Lucent offers both single technology (3G) and multi-standard (3G/4G) small cells. Suitable as single units for SOHO applications or as grouped units capable of supporting hundreds of users across multiple floors and buildings, small cells remain one of the most cost effective means for operators to differentiate their services while ensuring better coverage and capacity indoors.
Cambium Networks says it disrupts the performance-reliability continuum with the Cambium Point-to-Point 650S Small Cell backhaul solution. With up to 450mbps aggregate throughput, small form factor, and support for 3G and 4G/LTE network timing, PTP 650S links enable users to reliably and securely handle today's needs with scalability to meet future requirements. The solution offers non-line-of-sight capabilities, easy installation, and high performance for small cell backhaul.
Cavium Inc. is a leading provider of semiconductor products that enable intelligent processing for enterprise, data center, wired, and wireless networking. Cavium's OCTEON Fusion small cell base station-on-a-chip family is specifically designed for LTE and 3G multimode small cell base stations, including picocell and micro base stations. OCTEON Fusion processors combine OCTEON’s widely successful multicore architecture along with purpose-built baseband DSP cores, extensive LTE/3G hardware accelerators, and digital front end features into a single chip, slashing the bill of materials cost and power envelope of small cell base stations. This product family consists of multiple SoCs that enable small cells ranging from 32 users to more than 300 users and up to dual 20mHz carriers, delivering what the company says is industry-leading scalability. OCTEON Fusion is accompanied by FusionStack software, a comprehensive, interoperability tested (IOT), carrier-class L1 to L3 software suite for rapid time to market. OCTEON Fusion CPU cores are fully compatible with OCTEON multicore processors, enabling telecom equipment manufacturers to seamlessly leverage their Cavium OCTEON-based macrocell L2-L7 software into OCTEON Fusion based small cell designs.
DragonWave’s small cell products are Avenue Link and Avenue Link Lite. The Avenue product line is designed to meet wireless backhaul challenges for viable outdoor small cell deployments. The compact design allows them to be mounted unobtrusively within an urban environment to deliver 3G and 4G services. Engineered with interference mitigation features, Avenue Link and Link Lite can be situated to deliver interference-free service while meeting the size, weight, and aesthetic requirements set by city zoning officials.Together, Avenue Link and Link Lite provide a complete solution offering in
licensed and unlicensed bands from 2 to 60gHz and providing line-of-site and non-line-of-site connectivity. Avenue Link combines a high-capacity packet microwave system, flat-mini antenna, and system cover in a small, zoning-optimized form factor. Avenue Link supports 24, 26, 28, 31, 38 and 60gHz frequency bands and can deliver 400mbps per hop and up to 1gbps with DragonWave’s Bandwidth (News - Alert) Accelerator. Avenue Link Lite is a complete sub-6gHz microwave system housed within a single all-outdoor unit with standard Ethernet interfaces and integrated antenna. This packet microwave radio is extremely compact, weighing less than 4 pounds, and provides NLOS support across both licensed and unlicensed TDD spectrum.
Fujitsu in November announced the Network BroadOne LS100 Series LTE Femtocell, a small and lightweight indoor base station that helps operators deliver high-quality wireless coverage and capacity to indoor users. The LS100 Series supports 4G and features unique interference control and self-optimizing capabilities. Fujitsu’s unique interference avoidance capability offers an optimum user experience as it provides the highest signal strength from either the macrocell or the small cell, and provides a smooth handoff between them. Interference is mitigated through four distinct control functions – frequency, power, timing, and access – in turn helping to improve user data rates. The self-optimizing feature autonomously monitors the local RF environment and intelligently adjusts to maximize user throughput. In addition, the robust QOS and Scheduler features best support premium 4G services like VoLTE.
GENBAND’s (News - Alert) Wireless Access Gateway is a single, multi-application platform that builds on GENBAND’s small cell security gateway solution. It adds standards-based Enhanced Packet Data Gateway functionality for next-generation untrusted public Wi-Fi access and SaMOG (S2a Mobility over GTP Gateway) functionality for trusted carrier Wi-Fi access, enabling MNOs, MVNOs, MSOs, and IPX providers to generate new revenue streams. GENBAND’s Wireless Access Gateway, which provides the lowest total cost of ownership, has been extensively deployed globally with the Small Cell Security Gateway application, connecting to millions of residential, enterprise, and outdoor small cells. The WAG provides subscribers with easy access as they transparently roam between third-generation, fourth-generation, Wi-Fi, and small cell networks. Additionally, the WAG provides scalability and performance (1M IPSec tunnels and 1,000 tunnels per second) to manage the largest small cell (for 3G and 4G networks) and Wi-Fi deployments.
LampSite is Huawei’s solution for big indoor scenarios whose area greater than 5,000 square meters, like traffic hubs, shopping malls, stadiums, offices, etc. Able to integrate 3G, 4G, and Wi-Fi together in one head, this solution offers easy installation in 5 minutes, and makes it easy to refarm from 3G to 4G or higher by software upgrading. It supports cell split-up to enlarge capacity and supports LTE eMBMS. Pico is Huawei’s smart coverage solution for medium and small indoor scenarios of less than 5,000 square meters, like street shops, small offices, coffee bars, and more. It can integrate 3G, 4G, and Wi-Fi together in one head. It delivers plug and play with POE Ethernet, self discovery, auto optimization, and cloud operation. Single DAS is Huawei’s indoor coverage solution for multiple operator sharing scenarios. It supports the ability to reconfigure cells for loading balancing. There’s no need to add new mast units to expand capacity. Atom Cell is Huawei’s outdoor coverage solution for cover hotspot and blind zones.
Microsemi brings leading-edge technologies enabling deployment of small cells and addressing the major challenges faced by both carriers and OEMs. Key features include end-to-end synchronization, lowest power consumption, best-in-class security technology, and compact form factors. For carriers, Microsemi offers end-to-end synchronization of networks, as well as powering small cells using Power over Ethernet midspans. For OEMs, the company offers a variety of components including PLLs, PoE ICs, low power FPGAs, WiFi FEM and DC-DC converters. The company’s portfolio of network synchronization products include Grandmasterand Edge Master systems, which already are proven and in deployment in many carrier networks around the world. Microsemi also offers a large portfolio of standard-compliant PoE midspans that can power small cells and small cell backhaul equipment in a variety of deployment scenarios – for indoor as well as outdoor applications. Additionally, Microsemi offers a range of components for IEEE1588, Synchronous Ethernet, and GPS-based synchronization; all are tailor made for small cells and for use within boundary clock network equipment. Microsemi offers software as well as silicon-based (PLLs) solutions, which have been used extensively in the wireless infrastructure around the globe.
Cel-Fi, from San Diego-based Nextivity, is the first and only operator-specific, smart signal booster available on the market. It is designed to instantly solve indoor cellular coverage issues. Cel-Fi has become an increasingly essential tool in the mobile network operator's coverage toolbox; it is certified for use by more than 160 MNOs in 83 countries. The new Cel-Fi Pro and Cel-Fi Duo support both LTE and UMTS, including VoLTE, in a wide variety of frequency band combinations. Cel-Fi provides up to 100dB of system gain and approximately 13,000 square feet of coverage. It is a true plug-and play solution, requiring no backhaul, external antennas, professional installation, cabling, or subscriber configuration. Cel-Fi features an integrated connectivity platform called WAVE that meets the industry's move toward improving indoor coverage utilizing small cells and self-organizing network-capable infrastructure. WAVE enables Cel-Fi systems to be remotely configured and managed via a smartphone application, and is accessible through a convenient dashboard or programmatically via APIs.
TE Connectivity’s FlexWave Prism and FlexWave Spectrum (News - Alert) all-digital DAS deliver high-performance coverage and capacity in indoor and outdoor locations with end-to-end management. Through a common host unit, the systems deliver RF to any size and shape coverage area. Based on patented technology and TE's 15-year leadership in outdoor wireless distributed antenna system technology, TE’s digital DAS offers mobile operators a multi-technology, scalable radio distribution system for extending network coverage and capacity for 2G, 3G, and 4G services. FlexWave Prism remotes are high power, ideal for outdoor locations and large venues. FlexWave Spectrum low-power remotes extend wireless services throughout a building, multiple buildings, or campus. FlexWave digital DAS is a flexible, scalable, and complete solution for addressing coverage and capacity needs for current and emerging wireless networks. It provides edge-to-edge bandwidth and multi-band flexibility. The DAS allows for easy system growth in size and scope of solution, whether the system needs to scale to reach new service areas or add bandwidth and capacity.
Edited by Maurice Nagle