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April 29, 2013

Small Cell Strategy Summit to Discuss Best Practices for Improving Network Performance

Cell phone network capacity is getting worse every day: Cisco’s Visual Networking Index (VNI) reports that global mobile networks grew by 70 percent, and that mobile video traffic exceeded 50 percent for the first time in 2012. Network providers are not without options to expand affordably without sacrificing services. One of these options is to use “small cells”, tiny antennas so small that they can be handheld. To assist the community, TMC and Crossfire Media announced their inaugural Small Cell Strategy Summit where industry professionals will discuss the implementation of small cells.

Up until now, growth was met with increased cell tower installation, but that becomes a costly move. 4G network expansion is not a solution either. The VNI also reported for 2012 that 4G networks, though only 0.9 percent of mobile traffic accounted for 19 times more traffic than non-4G. It is clear that as smartphones penetrate the market more and more, the appetite for digital content grows. 

Small cells make much more efficient use of carriers' increasingly precious wireless spectrum use than traditional towers by using mobile data offloading, which is the use of complementary technologies in order to deliver data that was once targeted for cellular towers. A provider establishes rules that trigger an offloading action that are set off by either a mobile user or an operator.  

These low-powered devices can cut back on interference, improve cell reception indoors and become Wi-Fi hotspots to offload traffic from cramped cellular networks. Small cell networks can consist of high-density Femto, Pico and DAS systems, which target a specific area. Once deployed, small cell networks provide solid quality coverage, good data speeds and offload macro cells, all of which can improve network coverage which improves customer experience.

Benefitting from their small physical footprint, small cell networks rarely run afoul of city zoning laws. This is due in large part because the network can be designed around the city or urban area. Small cells can be deployed anywhere, from lampposts, to park statues and like an umbrella they can quickly cover an area. The London 2012 Olympics Committee deployed small cells to bolster network weakness and did not sacrifice the beautification projects with cell phone towers.

While the potential of small cells is clear and industry interest is growing, there is yet to be a wide scale deployment of small cell networks.

Edited by Rachel Ramsey

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