The LTE market is progressing quickly, bringing new technology – and terminology – to our industry every day. Rapid adoption of data-hungry devices has driven LTE growth, and we are now seeing the quickest uptake ever of a new mobile system technology. Already, 424 operators in 126 countries are investing in LTE, according to GSA’s Evolution to LTE Report from May 2013. LTE will, in most cases, be part of heterogeneous networks (HetNets) that also utilize 2G and 3G as well as small cells and Wi-Fi offloading. Operators will need to evaluate their specific constraints regarding all of these technologies to define a deployment strategy around LTE and small cells.
Network design and optimisation solutions, such as InfoVista’s Mentum Planet, will play a strategic role in defining and executing these deployments and improving operators’ ROI on LTE and small cells. In particular, operators need to consider these aspects when defining a deployment strategy:
- Optimising the current wireless network will take away a lot of guess work. The optimal locations and configurations of LTE and small cells depend on the current network’s coverage and capacity.
- Which areas have the most intense traffic loads? Be sure to evaluate wireless traffic demand per city or area and predict its growth. The densest areas are where LTE and small cells will be viable options.
- Evaluate spectral efficiency maps for different technologies and frequencies to find the optimal use of available frequencies. Perhaps a portion of the GSM frequency can be re-farmed for LTE? Availability of user devices is an important aspect of the frequency deployment strategy.
- Define the optimal mix of cellular and backhaul technologies and equipment for a given network.
Once the overall network strategy has been determined and the frequency resources have been secured, the actual network design and optimisation work can begin. This process consists of six key steps:
1) Optimise the macro-network layer with a multi-technology automatic cell planning (ACP) tool with optimisation targets based on spectral efficiency goals.
2) Create a 3D traffic map based on current traffic per cell, geo-localised measurements, high resolution geo-data for accurate traffic spreading in 3D, traffic load scaling and social media information.
3) Evaluate where LTE and small cells will be most beneficial in both capturing traffic themselves and offloading traffic from the macro-layer to free up resources.
4) Select potential LTE and small cell site locations based on backhaul criteria to ease the implementation, especially if there are a lot of sites.
5) Determine LTE and small cell placements and configurations with an ACP that optimises spectral efficiency to maximise the capacity gain in the network. The ACP will select site locations and optimise the number of cells and their configurations.
6) Verify the capacity and coverage improvements, both outdoor and indoor, with network analyses and Monte Carlo simulations.
By performing these steps, the ROI of LTE and small cell deployments can be greatly optimised. A pre-requisite to this process is a network design and optimisation solution that efficiently supports these steps and evolves with new technology advancements.