Meeting the need for mobile speed with small cells
By Mathew Simon July 2, 2014
- Operators can expect to see 30x as much data on their networks as they carry today
- They need cost-effective capacity in right place at right time, or risk being sidelined
IN Malaysia’s saturated mobile space, operators are using small cells to cost effectively boost capacity and coverage in the right place at the right time.
With 4G (Fourth Generation) or Long-Term Evolution (LTE) networks ramping up, mobile users with big data appetites are feeling the need for speed.
Carrying the latest smart device, LTE subscribers expect fast, reliable mobile broadband. They want to get online from anywhere – indoors or outdoors – at any time, on any smart device they choose to use, at up to 100 megabits per second (Mbps).
Ultra-fast networks and ultra-connectivity are in. Dropped calls, time-outs, and slow downloads are out.
The problem is that like most of Asia, Malaysia’s densely populated cities suffer from poor indoor mobile coverage. The majority of mobile usage occurs in buildings.
With demand for data growing exponentially the problem is not going to go away.
Driven by the increasing popularity of smart devices, consumers have developed big appetites for rich video content and cloud-based services. One smartphone generates as much traffic as 20 feature phones, while a tablet generates 100 times as much traffic.
It is easy to see why. At 100Mbps, it takes two seconds to download a 5MB song and five minutes to download a 750MB movie. However, the quality of the user’s experience is dependent on the network’s speed and capacity.
By 2015, the number of mobile broadband connections is expected to triple. Smartphone connections are projected to increase five times over today’s level. The data generated by all types of wireless devices will continue to rise and smartphone data will increase 18 times over today’s levels.
This means operators can expect to see 30 times as much data on their networks as they carry today.
To keep pace and differentiate on service, operators must add cost-effective capacity in the right place at the right time, or risk being sidelined.
This is where small cells become a critical part of the equation. Used strategically to complement a conventional tower-based macro network, small cells hold the promise of high capacity at a fraction of the cost.
One person can easily install a shoebox-sized small cell in less than two hours, indoors or outdoors. Designed to blend unobtrusively into the urban environment, small cells can be discreetly mounted inside or outside buildings, on lampposts, walls, poles or billboards.
They integrate easily into any 3G or 4G network and meld seamlessly with the existing RAN (radio access network) design and backhaul.
Moving the connection closer to the user results in faster and more reliable data connections, as well as higher data throughput on 3G and 4G networks –plus secure WiFi access.
This means users can enjoy fast, reliable mobile service in busy urban locations like office buildings, shopping centres, hotel lobbies, train stations and stadiums with no service degradation and better battery performance.
With many businesses totally reliant on mobile phones, improving coverage inside office buildings is a priority. Operators have been quick to seize the opportunity by offering small ‘enterprise’ cells to improve the connectivity within the office.
The allure of small cells is easy to see. Small, low-cost and unobtrusive, they give operators the flexibility to quickly boost capacity in the right place at the right time.
There is no time to waste. The arrival of cheaper smartphones in 2013 pushed Malaysia’s mobile Internet traffic consumption up 51% -- the largest annual percentage increase in over a decade.
Mathew Simon is the business solutions director at Alcatel-Lucent Malaysia, a company which has been involved in building Malaysia’s telco infrastructure over the last 22 years.
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