Feature Article

September 11, 2015

Nokia Offers Solution for More Intelligent Small Cell Site Selection

Small cells have been on a heck of a rollercoaster ride the past few years. For a while there, small cells were all that anybody in the wireless infrastructure space wanted to talk about. But then small cell adoption, which initially was expected to take off like a rocket, didn’t happen as rapidly as some folks were hoping for. Chris Stark, head of strategy and business development at Nokia Networks, said small cells deployment has been a challenge in large part because it can be difficult and time consuming to do site selection and acquisition for these network elements.

He’s seen several small cell deployments in which cellular carriers and their partners had installation locations in mind, but then couldn’t use them for various reasons, such as unavailability of pole space or what have you. In some cases, he said, a service provider or its contractor might go through identification and work related to four locations before being able to settle and install on a site.

Doing things this way is clearly time consuming and not scalable, particularly as small cell deployment ramps up, which Stark said is certain to happen, especially as cellular carriers move to 5G. What’s needed, he continued, is the ability to see a street, and all the poles, bus stops, and other “furniture” in the area, remotely. It is also helpful to understand the value of a site—taking into consideration all the positive aspects of a location, such as its spectral efficiency, availability of fiber points of presence, as well as all the negative things about it—like its cost, time to acquire pole space, and obstacles like railway lines that can get in the way of a deployment, he said.

Nokia now offers all of the above, and even assigns sites a value on a scale of zero (being bad) to 100 (being exceptionally good), Stark explained.

The solution, unveiled earlier this week, is called the HetNet Engine Room service. It leverages 3-D street level maps that Nokia creates using data culled from multiple sources to determine potential locations that are the most viable for deployment. It takes into consideration such parameters as traffic hotspots, spectral efficiency, and street assets such as pole height, and access to fiber and power cabinets. The solution also includes Nokia’s special Site Value Index to simplify the process of evaluating potential small cell installation locations.

The company says cellular companies stand to reduce their costs by 20 percent, deploy small cells 30 percent faster, and serve 10 percent more subscribers by leveraging these solutions. The savings figure in both in terms of time saved and by revealing important cost-related information such as the range of pole rental costs in the vicinity, for example. (Nokia’s research indicates there can be significant variation in costs for stuff like pole rental costs, which can range from $50 to $1,000 a month, and that such costs can range widely even from one side of the street to another.)

Edited by Dominick Sorrentino

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