Don joined Award Solutions in 2005, bringing his knowledge and experience in mobile wireless technologies to bear in the planning, development and delivery of technical training seminars. Don specializes in wireless telecommunications networks, focusing on air interface and core network standards, wireless and Internet applications, and advanced wireless network solutions, such as ad hoc and mesh networking.Don has over 30 years of hands-on experience in the telecommunications and wireless industries. He began his career in Ottawa, Canada, with Nortel Networks (then Bell-Northern Research) as a call processing software designer. He moved to Richardson, Texas, in 1983, as one of the initial team responsible for designing and developing Nortel’s wireless product line. He rose quickly through the ranks, first as a development manager, then as a senior project manager, and then as a director of advanced wireless technology, involved in all aspects of the design of Nortel’s AMPS, TDMA and CDMA products. In his final role at Nortel, Don was responsible for a small technology group investigating advanced networking technologies, including self-organizing wireless mesh networks.Don is currently involved in developing and delivering courses for Award’s 4G (LTE) technology curriculum at many leading telecommunications companies. In addition to technology classes, Don conducts network planning and evolution sessions for large wireless service providers to help RF and core network engineers understand and plan for upcoming technology changes and enhancements such as VoLTE and LTE Advanced.Don received his Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science (First Class Honors) from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. He holds 9 patents in various areas of wireless technology.
What, exactly, is a small cell? Does “small” mean that the hardware fits in a suitcase? Does it mean that the radio channel has a limited range? Can a small cell only handle a handful of users? As operators look for solutions to their coverage and capacity challenges, these questions come up a lot.
Fortunately, the Small Cell Forum (www.smallcellforum.org) has the answers. The SCF is an international industry group comprised of small cell technology providers and mobile operators involved in developing and deploying small cell solutions. Although the SCF is not a standards body, it works with standards organizations and regulatory agencies around the world to define common approaches for small cell solutions.
Small Cell Definitions
So what is a small cell to the SCF? Their website defines small cells as follows:
“Small cells are low-power wireless access points that operate in licensed spectrum, are operator-managed and feature edge-based intelligence.”
The key points here are:
This definition leaves out things like WiFi access points, which use unlicensed spectrum and are usually managed by the individuals or businesses that bought then.
By most measures, small cells are indeed small. The units themselves are typically less than 6 cubic feet in volume (and many are no bigger than a WiFi router) and consume very little power. Their lower output power restricts their coverage area, while their less powerful processors limit the number of users they can handle at one time.
Even so, there is a spectrum of solutions that fall under this rather broad “small cell” definition. The SCF further subdivides small cells into three types:
Small Cell Benefits
So what can a small cell do that a macro cell can’t do? The short answer is: nothing. Small cells can do everything that big cells can do, except cover a lot of territory and serve a lot of users. The value of a small cell is not its horsepower, but its economy. If the operator needs to add additional capacity in a particular location, or fill in a coverage hole, a small cell can often do the job for a fraction of the cost.
This cost advantage comes from a number of factors:
The end result is a suite of economical solutions that the operator can deploy to handle a wide variety of opportunities, including (but not limited to):
Small and Cheap for the Win
Market studies indicate that small cells (especially those intended for LTE markets) are poised for significant growth in the coming years, with some sources estimating a 50% growth in deployed units in the next year. With more and more people using wireless as their primary means of communications and Internet access, operators are searching for solutions that will allow them to grow their networks and expand their capacity, without growing their costs commensurately. Small cells offer the right combination of power and price to address those needs.
If you’re interested in learning more about small cells, check out the “Emerging Trends” section at http://www.awardsolutions.com for information about our small cells curriculum, or the “Training Events” section for upcoming public course offerings.