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Small Cell

By Koyeli Majumder

Small cells are low-powered radio access nodes that operate in
licensed and unlicensed spectrum that have a range of 10 meters to
1 or 2 kilometers. They are "small" compared to a mobile macrocell,
which may have a range of a few tens of kilometers. With mobile
operators struggling to support the growth in mobile data
traffic, many are using Mobile data offloading as a more efficient
use of radio spectrum. Small cells are a vital element to 3G data
offloading, and many mobile network operators see small cells as
vital to managing LTE Advanced spectrum more efficiently
compared to using just macrocells. ARCchart estimates that by 2017
a total of 5 million small cells will ship annually.

Types of small cells

Small cells may encompass femtocells, Pico cells , and microcells. Small-cell networks can also be
realized by means of distributed radio technology using centralized baseband units and remote radio
heads. Beamforming technology (focusing a radio signal on a very specific area) can further enhance or
focus small cell coverage. These approaches to small cells all feature central management by mobile
network operators.
Small cells provide a small radio footprint, which can range from 10 meters within urban and in-building
locations to 2 km for a rural location. Picocells and microcells can also have a range of a few hundred
meters to a few kilometers, but they differ from femtocells in that they do not always have self-organising
and self-management capabilities.
Small cells are available for a wide range of air interfaces including GSM, CDMA2000, TD-SCDMA, WCDMA, LTE and WiMax. In 3GPP terminology, a Home Node B (HNB) is a 3G femtocell. A Home
eNode B (HeNB) is an LTE femtocell. Wi-Fi is a small cell but does not operate in licensed
spectrum therefore cannot be managed as effectively as small cells utilising licensed spectrum. The detail
and best practice associated with the deployment of small cells varies according to use case and radio
technology employed.

LTE Advanced eNB Small Cell


LTE Advanced Small Cell Design Physical


LTE Small Cell Integrated with Backhaul

Integrated Small Cell for Rural Communication is a cost effective solution

LTE Small Cell Design and Deployment Scenario

LTE Carrier Aggregation impact on Small Cell Design

LTE MIMO Adaptive impact on the Small Cell Design

LTE Positioning & Tracking impact on the Small Cell


LTE Coordinated Multipoint (CoMP) impact on the Small

Cell Design

LTE Het Net impact on the Small Cell Design

LTE Advanced Small Cell Design Challenges

Seamless Hand-off & Mobility management:

>Soft hand-off process between 3G, 4G and WiFi
>Inter-RAT and Intra RAT between legacy and Advanced LTE
>Non-Cellular Radios inter-working with LTE for traffic
Service Level QoS and SLA support
>Early deployments focused on data only. Ensuring Voice,
Video, and Gamming etc QoS has certain limitations.
>SLA Enforcement for the different types of services
Self Configuration, Plug and Play
>LTE Small cells required today lot of hand crafting and
tuning for performance

Small cells are an integral part of future LTE networks. In 3G networks, small cells are
viewed as an offload technique. In 4G networks, the principle of heterogeneous
network (HetNet) is introduced where the mobile network is constructed with layers of
small and large cells. In LTE, all cells will be self-organizing, drawing upon the
principles laid down in current Home NodeB (HNB), the 3GPP term for residential
Future innovations in radio access design introduce the idea of an almost flat
architecture where the difference between a small cell and a macrocell depends on
how many cubes are stacked together. With software-defined radio, a base station
could be 2G, 3G or 4G at the flick of a switch, and the antenna range can easily be
9.6 million residential femtocells have been deployed, representing 56% of all base
stations globally, as of February 2013. In total, almost 11 million small cells
encompassing public, enterprise and residential have been deployed by 47 operators