This post is by Sue Monahan, CEO, Small Cell Forum
In the eyes of many consumers, 4G/LTE is no longer a next-gen technology. Numerous operators around the globe have rolled out their networks, are in the process of doing so or are planning to in the near future. Similarly, the latest and most desirable devices being launched boast 4G capability; something that will become less a feature, more of a standard as the year goes on.
But as more of the population migrate to 4G, taking advantage of the faster data speeds available to them, there is a risk networks will face similar bottlenecks to those of 3G. It is of the utmost importance operators can deliver the headline speeds that make 4G so attractive.In February, at Mobile World Congress, the Small Cell Forum launched Release Three of its Release Program focusing on urban small cell deployments. This included a business case document that indicated four key drivers for urban small cells: capacity enhancement, depth of coverage, improved user experience and value-added services. The need is clear and operators are keenly aware of the fact.
Urban small cells are set to form a significant part of mobile networks going forward – partly due to the move to LTE – providing cost-effective capacity and deep coverage. Their relative low-cost and ability to be deployed where they are needed most, arguably makes them unparalleled as a tool for network densification. However, for urban small cells to be the success we at the Forum feel they are destined to be – and reach the millions deployed by 2016 that has been predicted – it’s important that operators have access to the tools and information they need.
As part of Release Three we approached operators to find out what they feel is holding them back – with backhaul and optimal site acquisition coming in as the most pressing concerns. The release also included papers that address both the regulatory and backhaul considerations for urban small cells and will add considerable detail in Release Four as we learn more from real world deployments. We also have many innovative member companies working to overcome these barriers whose work will help inform future releases.
The importance of small cells in delivering on the potential of LTE can’t be understated; but for that to happen, it’s vital we make sure operators have the ‘street smarts’ to effectively deploy them. If we do, I’m sure LTE will enjoy a very bright future.
If you’d like to learn more about small cells and the Forum’s Release Program, head to www.scf.io where all our documents are available to download for free or catch us at any one of the LTE World Series events we’re speaking at starting with LTE MENA in May and LTE World Summit in June.