Extreme densification of small cells is the key to addressing 1000x challenge. We need to evolve small cells in all directions: all forms – micro, pico, femto, metro, relays etc.; all technologies—3G,4G, Wi-Fi, all integrated; deployments by operators as well as users. The densification begins with the existing spectrum and techniques that are available today, for example, optimizations such as “Range Expansion” are possible today with HSPA+ and in the future with LTE Advanced networks. Many more enhancements and new deployment models that are needed to reach the 1000x goal are being worked, on as part of standards and product solutions.
Extremely dense deployments of small cellphone cells warrant a new low-cost, ad-hoc, and viral approach. An approach that doesn’t require traditional RF planning or optimization and that can better leverage existing premises and backhaul. These small cells have to be plug-and-play with self-organizing (SON) capabilities, deployed indoors and outdoors. They can even be user installed, but are always managed by operators, and coordinate with the macros and other small cells. Neighborhood Small Cells (NSC) is a special case of such approach with user installed indoor small cells, that leverage existing consumer-grade backhaul, and that also serve outdoor traffic. Qualcomm studies show that such a deployment could provide 1000x increase in capacity with mere ~20% household penetration and 10x more spectrum.
Qualcomm has developed technology to run LTE Advanced (LTE-A) over the 5 GHz band to address an expected 1,000x increase in mobile data traffic. The move is an early shot in what may be a battle between cellular and WiFi over the unlicensed spectrum.
The Qualcomm technology is so far just a prototype with no announced plans for products supporting it. Nevertheless, it raises the question of how best to use the 5 GHz band to handle a rising tide of mobile data, most of it carried today on cellular services operating in sub-3 GHz licensed bands.
Vendors including Qualcomm’s Atheros division are selling multiple WiFi products operating at 5 GHz. Some vendors may use 5 and even 60 GHz links on an emerging class of small-cell cellular base stations. And researchers working on next-gen cellular technologies are exploring cellular services on everything from 5 to 60 GHz.
Hellberg says LTE-A over unlicensed spectrum is superior to carrier WiFi due to its longer range, “controlled and robust reliability,” and seamless end-user experience. In addition, he added, mobile operators could benefit from a unified cellular service.
LTE over unlicensed spectrum “works just as carrier aggregation does today. The main thing is to get support for the frequency band where a license is — there is 500 MHz of spectrum available in 5 GHz.”