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Small cells, whats the big idea?


February 2014

Solving the HetNet puzzle


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SMALL CELL FORUM

RELEASE 6.0
Small Cell Forum accelerates small cell adoption to drive the widescale adoption of small cells and accelerate the delivery of integrated
HetNets.
We are not a standards organization but partner with organizations that inform
and determine standards development. We are a carrier-led organization. This
means our operator members establish requirements that drive the activities
and outputs of our technical groups.
We have driven the standardization of key elements of small cell technology
including Iuh, FAPI/SCAPI, SON, the small cell services API, TR069 evolution
and the enhancement of the X2 interface.
Today our members are driving solutions that include small cell/Wi-Fi
integration, SON evolution, virtualization of the small cell layer, driving mass
adoption via multi-operator neutral host, ensuring a common approach to
service APIs to drive commercialisation and the integration of small cells into
5G standards evolution.
The Small Cell Forum Release Program has now established business cases
and market drivers for all the main use cases, clarifying market needs and
addressing barriers to deployment for residential, enterprise and urban small
cells. The theme of Release 6 is Enterprise, with particular emphasis on real
world and vertical market deployments, and the role of neutral host solutions
to drive the mass adoption of small cells in business environments.
Small Cell Forum Release website can be found here: www.scf.io

If you would like more information about Small Cell Forum or would
like to be included on our mailing list, please contact:
Email info@smallcellforum.org
Post Small Cell Forum, PO Box 23, GL11 5WA UK
Member Services memberservices@smallcellforum.org

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Executive summary
This document describes what small cells are, why they are needed and the main use
cases with which they are associated.
Small cells are a growing part of network planning across the world and likely to
become part of future rollouts for most operators.
This paper was first published in February 2012. Much has changed since then. This
update aims to answer both the most basic questions and to map out the changing
and growing uses of small cell technology beyond its original deployment in the
home, to enterprises, urban areas and even rural populations.
It begins with a brief review of the mobile landscape. Due to consumer take-up of
ever-smarter mobile devices and the associated growth in data demand, that
landscape is changing. Small cells will play a significant part in enabling operators to
meet demand.
And they will do so in many contexts, as indicated by a review of the latest small cell
terminology and use cases, as well as the potential incorporation into small cells of
both licensed and unlicensed technologies.
But this does not mean that the future will be free of challenges, which is why
technical considerations, from interference management and backhaul to forms of
access, are discussed and assessed.
Nor are small cells the only approach to increasing coverage or capacity: macro
expansion, Cloud RAN and DAS are other options that could be included in operator
planning. Nevertheless, the momentum behind small cells is growing and across a
wide range of scenarios as five, very different, use cases indicate.
This activity has, we believe, been enhanced and accelerated by the work of the Small
Cell Forum and its members through its Release Program, Plugfests, consumer
research, studies, whitepapers, cross-industry cooperation and much more. This work
is reviewed in the penultimate chapter of this whitepaper, which concludes with a
summary of what we feel is a very positive outlook for the small cell industry across
all use cases.

Report title: Small cells, whats the big idea?


Issue date: 25 February 2014
Version: 030.06.03

Contents
1.
Why do you need small cells? ...........................................1
1.1
The ever increasing thirst for wireless data ............................. 1
1.2
The range of technical solutions ............................................ 1
1.3
Network operators recognize this inevitability ......................... 1
1.4
Licenced and unlicensed spectrum ......................................... 5
1.5
Vendors agree on the need for small cells ............................... 6
2.
Technical considerations ..................................................7
2.2
Backhaul ............................................................................ 7
2.3
Open access vs closed vs hybrid ............................................ 8
2.4
Self-organising networks (SON) ............................................ 8
3.
Other options .................................................................10
4.
Case studies ...................................................................12
4.1
Small cells in the home: Sprint ........................................... 12
4.2
Small cells in rural areas: SoftBank ..................................... 12
4.3
Small cells in the enterprise: municipality of Zaanstad ........... 13
4.4
Small cells in urban areas: Vodafone Greece ......................... 13
4.5
Small cells in urban areas: AT&T ......................................... 14
5.
Small Cell Forum activities .............................................16
5.1
Release program ............................................................... 16
5.2
Plugfests .......................................................................... 16
5.3
Re-use of existing standards ............................................... 17
5.4
Dealing with the difficult issues ........................................... 17
5.5
Proving market demand ..................................................... 18
5.6
Business case ................................................................... 18
5.7
Representing the industry................................................... 18
5.8
On-going activities............................................................. 18
5.9
Scaling up to the wider capabilities ...................................... 20
6.
Summary ........................................................................21
References ................................................................................22

Report title: Small cells, whats the big idea?


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Tables
Table 11

Technique versus capacity gain ........................................................ 1

Figures
Figure 11

Small cell shipments 2011-2018 Source: Mobile Experts ...................... 2

Figure 12

Small cells of all types form an integral part of modern mobile


networks ....................................................................................... 5

Figure 13

A continuum of applications of small cell technology ............................ 5

Figure 14

Operator expenditure on small cell infrastructure is set to grow


rapidly (Source: Rethink Technology Research ) ................................. 6

Figure 51

The Small Cell Forum's scope of work includes not only small cells but
also their interrelation with adjacent technologies ..............................19

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Issue date: 25 February 2014
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1. Why do you need small cells?


1.1

The ever increasing thirst for wireless data

Mobile networks in many countries have shifted from being predominantly voice
networks to mainly transporting data. Nearly 200 LTE networks are now in service
with downlink peak rates of 300 Mbit/s and uplink peak rates of 75 Mbit/s. Uplink
rates of 21Mbit/s are possible from even more operators. Some analysts predict that
mobile data will be as much as 95% of global mobile traffic by 2015 [1]. And mobile
data itself may dominate overall traffic soon after. Cisco VNI Survey predicts that IP
traffic from wireless and mobile devices will exceed traffic from wired devices by 2017
[2].
Consumer demand for data services is growing unabated, with penetration of
smartphones exceeding 50% in many countries (and close to a third overall). IDC
predicts smartphone shipments will reach 958.8 million units in 2013 [3]. Meanwhile a
large ecosystem of application vendors has emerged, reliant on always on, high
speed, low-latency wireless connectivity.
This poses a number of questions. Firstly, how will this enormous data capacity be
realised? Secondly, how it will be realised for customers who will require greater
speeds and more consistent coverage than today? And finally most importantly,
perhaps how can all of this be made economically sustainable for operators?

1.2

The range of technical solutions

A great deal of research has been conducted into every imaginable way of increasing
the capacity and quality of wireless communications. The primary options have been
documented by Martin Cooper [4], one of the inventors of the portable mobile phone,
who observed that the theoretical capacity of wireless communication at a location
doubles every two-and-ahalf years.
An analysis of capacity growth reveals that the vast majority has been achieved by
spectrum re-use enabled, in turn, by the rollout of more cells:
Technique

Capacity Gain

Frequency Division

Modulation techniques

Access to wider range of frequency spectrum

25

Frequency reuse through more cell sites

1600

Table 11

Technique versus capacity gain

LTE and LTE-Advanced offer attractive data rates of over 100Mbit/s as well as low
latency and high spectral efficiency. However, it is widely accepted that to achieve
significantly increased speeds in real world deployments, and therefore meet the
forecasted growth in demand, many more smaller cell sites will be required.

1.3

Network operators recognize this inevitability

These arguments have not escaped the operator community, which has been quick to
endorse small cells, in residential, enterprise, urban and rural contexts.
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In 2013 AT&T revealed that its public access small cell trial provided close to perfect
coverage and increased capacity in the most challenging metropolitan areas, and
reiterated plans to rollout 40,000 units by the end of 2015. Vodafone UK has been
testing public small cells and plans to start rolling out tri-mode models (3G, 4G & WiFi). Verizon also plans to roll out the technology, while BT has announced that it is to
start a technical trial of rural models.
Meanwhile NTT DOCOMO has launched the worlds first LTE small cell product, while
its subsidiary DOCOMO PACIFIC has commenced roll out of enterprise and residential
small cells [5]. Among the many consumer offerings available, Orange France recently
launched its first residential offering and Vodafone UK launched a new plug-size Sure
Signal residential small cell. And there are numerous other examples of urban and
enterprise small cell activity, planned or ongoing, in such countries as Bulgaria,
Greece, Norway, Australia, Azerbaijan, Qatar, Bahrain South Korea, Ghana and the
Republic of Congo.
The February 2014 Small Cell Market Status Report for the Small Cell Forum shows
that the cumulative number of small cells has already passed 7.9 million. The number
of enterprise and carrier-deployed small cells has grown to 208,000 units with some
significant deployments in Korea and Japan. The new report predicts that the installed
base of small cells will grow from 7.6 million units to 43 million units in 2018.

Figure 11

Small cell shipments 2011-2018

Source: Mobile Experts

Overall small cell equipment revenue will reach $10.5 billion per year. The urban use
case, including both indoor and outdoor small cells, will dominate revenues with a
market value of $8.5 billion 81% of the overall small cell market total despite
accounting for only half of small cell units deployed.
Small cell terminology
Although there is no formal definition or rigorous use of small cell terminology, the
following two sections covering technology and use cases attempt to clarify and
distinguish between them. However, it is important to appreciate that the terms and
use cases do cross over. Small cell technology is applicable to the whole range of
Report title: Small cells, whats the big idea?
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licenced spectrum and unlicensed carrier-grade Wi-Fi mobile technologies, such as


those standardised by 3GPP, 3GPP2 and the WiMAX Forum.
Technology
Small cell: An umbrella term for low-powered radio access nodes that operate in
licensed spectrum and unlicensed carrier-grade Wi-Fi, with a range of 10 meters up to
several hundred meters. These contrast with a typical mobile macrocell that might
have a range of up to several tens of kilometers. The term covers femtocells, picocells,
microcells and metrocells.
Femtocell: A low-power, short range, self-contained base station. Initially used to
describe consumer units intended for residential homes. The term has expanded to
encompass higher capacity units for enterprise, rural and metropolitan areas. Key
attributes include IP backhaul, self-optimisation, low power consumption and ease of
deployment.
Picocell: Typically used to describe low-power compact base stations, used in
enterprise or public indoor areas, the term is sometimes used to encompass outdoor
small cells as well. Some care is required in selecting the number and location of these
cells for indoor use, although the self-optimising features of newer picocells, borrowed
from femtocell technology, reduce the amount of specialist knowledge required.
Microcell: Typically used to describe an outdoor short-range base station designed to
enhance coverage for both indoor and outdoor users where macro coverage is
insufficient. Occasionally installed indoors to provide coverage and capacity in areas
above the scope of a picocell.
Metrocell: A recent term used to describe small cell technologies designed for high
capacity metropolitan areas. Such devices are typically installed on building walls or
street furniture (e.g. lampposts and CCTV poles). This category can include
technologies such as femtocells, picocells and microcells where they meet these
deployment criteria.
HetNet (heterogeneous network): A network where a mixture of macrocells, small
cells and in some cases Wi-Fi access points, are employed together to provide
coverage with handoff capabilities between them.
Use cases
Home: Small cells intended for home or small office applications. These applications
are typically indoor, involve locations where a single small cell is usually sufficient and
employ a standalone, self-configuring, low power compact base station connected
through broadband internet. These units typically support four to eight concurrent
active users. Being aimed at high volume, mass-market applications, cost
effectiveness is an important factor. This has been achieved through high levels of
integration, with system-on-a-chip (SoC) silicon and a low part count. Further savings
have been achieved through intelligent software, which automates many of the
external planning and configuration processes typically required of larger base
stations.
Enterprise: Premises-based small cells generally for indoor, premises-based
deployment beyond the home (which could include government buildings, hotels,
retail and hospitals as well as SMEs or corporate campuses). Deployment is coverage
driven but small enterprise-specific services and analytics can be offered. These are
larger units physically, with higher RF power, longer range and higher traffic capacity.
A range of 8 to 32 concurrent users per device is common, with larger capacity being
achieved across a campus or large building by deploying multiple units. Appropriate
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deployment guidelines allow enterprise IT personnel to successfully plan and deploy


these devices, although operator personnel may be involved in the larger
deployments. Backhaul may be shared with existing enterprise internet connectivity or
use a dedicated connection.
Urban: This typically refers to small cells that offer capacity for dense environments,
which may be indoor (e.g., shopping malls, convention centres or transport hubs) or
outdoor (e.g., parks or city centres) but are clearly urban. Again deployment is
capacity driven. There will usually be interaction with the macro layer via a HetNet.
Urban models are designed for high traffic areas and engineered into robust cabinets
suitable for deployment in unsupervised areas. Although capable of high traffic
capacity and tens to hundreds of simultaneous users, these may not require
significantly higher RF power because they target a relatively short range.
Rural: Indoor and outdoor deployment offering coverage for isolated locations and
remote communities. Rural models are designed to meet the need to serve localized
hotspots in remote areas, such as hamlets and small villages, which would otherwise
be served from a distant cell tower, or which might not otherwise be economical to
serve at all. Rather than using a repeater, a small cell adds capacity and frees up the
more expensive resource from the serving macrocell tower. It also allows deployment
in places where there is no existing macrocell coverage.
Small cells of several types span these use cases, providing a rich pallet of options for
operators in deploying solutions that fit the needs of local environments and changing
patterns of mobile usage (Figure 13).
Over recent years, the small cell has evolved considerably. Early femtocell designs
supported up to four simultaneous active users and were targeted at residential use.
The focus on low hardware and operating costs led to sophisticated self-configuration
and optimization capabilities.
Over time, small cell technology has evolved to deliver longer range and higher
capacity designs while retaining the early benefits of scalability, cost-effectiveness,
self-configuration and self-management. As the technology and use cases above
imply, modern small cells incorporating this technology can now address the needs of
small to large enterprises, public spaces and even rural hotspots, while being part of a
single coordinated operator network.

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Figure 12

Small cells of all types form an integral part of modern mobile networks

This evolution has led to an overlap in product functionality provided by femtocells,


picocells and urban small cells. These technologies have now converged to create a
continuum which is encompassed by the term small cells today.

Figure 13

1.4

A continuum of applications of small cell technology

Licenced and unlicensed spectrum

The most prominent unlicensed wireless system is Wi-Fi, which is characterised by its
large installed base, low cost, operator independence and familiarity to consumers and
enterprises, thereby making it a valuable component of many operators mobile data
strategies. Licensed small cells, meanwhile, provide support for all 3G handsets, and
increasingly LTE devices. Small cells also provide operator managed quality of service
(QoS), seamless continuity with the macro networks, ease of configuration and
improved security and battery life. Advanced implementations of Wi-Fi can also
provide some of these features, such as managed QoS and seamless continuity.

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Given each technologys strengths, it becomes clear that Wi-Fi and small cells together
complete the toolset operators need to handle the significant capacity challenge. The
result of this has been the increased development of small cell access points that
combine both licensed and unlicensed technologies, in order to benefit from the
technical advantages of each technology, while also employing all available spectrum
in the face of the significant capacity challenge. As we have already noted, 3G, 4G and
Wi-Fi multi-mode small cells are in development.

1.5

Vendors agree on the need for small cells

Operator demand for small cells is reflected by all sectors of the industry. Major radio
access network (RAN) vendors are actively promoting HetNets with a mix of large and
small cells. Many have offered end-to-end small cell solutions for several years, all
agreeing on the enormous capacity gains possible through the use of small cells alone.
Research of operator intentions show that by 2015, investment in small cells will grow
to exceed that in traditional macrocells and microcells for both 3G and LTE.

Figure 14

Operator expenditure on small cell infrastructure is set to grow rapidly (Source:


Rethink Technology Research 6)

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2. Technical considerations
There are several technical factors to be taken into account when considering planning
and deployment of small cells. These include not just the radio and backhaul
communication, but also end user impact and operational needs.
Interference management
More cells in a mobile network mean more cell borders, and greater potential for
interference. More automated selection of codes and frequencies is required, with
power levels carefully set to balance interference and coverage.
Self-organising network (SON) capabilities co-ordinate between all cells, large and
small, to harmonise the parameters and maximize the performance of the entire
network.
Mobility management
An increase in the number of cells means that fewer end-users are served by each
cell. In addition, statistical multiplexing becomes less effective, and measures need to
be taken to transfer users across to nearby cells or more actively constrain capacity
between users.
There are also more handovers. Therefore efficient and higher capacity is needed to
handle the higher signalling traffic and transaction rates.
A further challenge is increased neighbour management, with neighbour lists and
other data to be negotiated and managed across clusters of small cells and their larger
cousins.
Finally open interfaces are essential. This approach will help to optimise performance
between multiple vendors.

2.2

Backhaul

The need to be able to deploy small cells quickly and in much greater numbers than
todays cell sites is driving development of a wide range of wired and wireless
backhaul solutions.
For some situations, wireless backhaul operating out of band is an attractive option. In
other cases, where fibre is widely available, wired backhaul may be more appropriate.
A general rule of thumb is to use fibre and copper where youve got it, high capacity
micro and millimetre wave where a line of sight is available or non-line-of-sight
solutions where it is not. Satellite can address the remote rural or mobile scenarios
that other solutions cannot reach. Where multiple options are applicable, total cost of
ownership will decide. Most networks will evolve using a mix of both wired and
wireless backhaul. The technology mix and backhaul topology will vary depending on
the local constraints.
Of course, with more backhaul links, there are also more hubs and aggregation points.
Careful planning and performance management is required to avoid creating
bottlenecks where capacity is restricted by insufficient backhaul upstream.

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2.3

Open access vs closed vs hybrid

For enterprise and public outdoor small cell deployments, an open access model is
used, enabling any subscriber from the host network to use it. The backhaul
connection is provided and managed either by the network operator or the business
enterprise. This removes concerns about cost or quality of the broadband backhaul
and provides service to all customers, prepaid, postpaid and roaming visitors.
Residential small cells have commonly been designed with a closed access model. This
restricts their use to the owner and a nominated list of mobile numbers held in a white
list. This approach helps to prevent potential abuse by uninvited or unknown users in
the area, who may unwittingly use the full capacity of the small cell and prevent
access from the owner.
Restricting access also allays concerns that the small cell owner would have to pay for
extra wireline capacity that other, unknown users benefit from. A more sophisticated
option used where both fixed and mobile services are provided by the same network is
that the operator zero-rates the broadband traffic from the small cell so that no
charges are incurred.
There may be further concerns where a third party broadband wireline service is used
to connect the small cell and the end-to-end quality of service cannot be directly
managed. If this affects those users unaware that they are being handled by a nearby
residential small cell, the network operator may not have the technical ability to block
it.
One undesirable side effect of closed access is that it creates a small number of
situations that can affect service to non-femtocell users. However, interference
scenarios where non-small cell and small cell users conflict are infrequent.
Lastly, a hybrid access mode combines the benefits of both options. Any subscriber
may gain access, but priority is given to those on the white list.

2.4

Self-organising networks (SON)

Large, specialist teams are commonly employed at network operators to plan, design
and continuously tune the system for maximum performance. Although various
software tools are used to assist, manual intervention is often required to deal with
specific circumstances. The introduction of HetNets will increase the number and type
of cells, with an associated increase in interdependent parameters and interworking.
SON technology, already proven by the small cell industry, provides a major step
towards solving these issues. It promises to radically reduce the need for low-level
reconfiguration. Instead, the network continually monitors its own performance, the
traffic type and source, adapting itself automatically to achieve optimal performance.
Network planners will still be required, of course. Expertise continues to be needed to
determine where and when to install or move equipment and to manage the high-level
network quality metrics.
The small cell industry has developed extensive SON expertise and capability.
Femtocells were the first and largest commercial instance of SON, helping to develop
and prove the concepts in the wider network. In order to achieve low operational
costs, the ability for large numbers of consumers to self-install the equipment has

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been key. This feature is equally applicable to the wider small cell deployments in
urban, enterprise and rural environments.
With such close interaction required between the different layers of a HetNet, it is
important that open standard interfaces are implemented. These allow different
vendors products to be used in different parts of the network, so that the best
products can be selected for different tasks.

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3. Other options
Several options are open to network operators to increase coverage and capacity, of
which small cell deployment is just one. These different approaches are not mutually
exclusive, and it is likely that many network operators will adopt a mix of them.
However, small cells have become a well-recognised essential component of future
mobile networks.
Macro network expansion: New techniques continue to appear, evolving the
existing installed base and bringing with them the potential for increased capacity.
Additional spectrum is perhaps the easiest technical option, but can be very costly.
Many operators initially dealt with capacity demand by populating existing sites with
their full complement of 3G carriers. As well as purchase of additional spectrum, refarming 2G for more efficient 3G use and spectrum sharing are viable options.
Among newer approaches, adaptive antennas, multiple-input multiple-output (MIMO),
beam forming and related techniques can provide spatial reuse in addition to
frequency reuse, further increasing capacity.
A practical issue with macrocell expansion involves any visible changes to the antenna
being made. Neighbourhood opposition to any additional antennas and the imposition
of stricter planning regulations can make this more difficult. In some countries with
larger numbers of site-sharing networks, the weight-bearing load of the cell tower has
also become an issue.
Few industry analysts now believe that the forecast increase in data traffic demand
can be met by an evolutionary technology approach using macrocells alone.
Cloud RAN: Cloud radio access network (RAN) products have been launched by
several leading vendors. Unlike small cell solutions, where much of the intelligence is
distributed to the edge of the network, a cloud RAN concentrates the processing in one
or more large, centralised data centres.
In this approach, a large number of small radio heads are installed in the field,
connected by dedicated high capacity fibre links to the data centre. This matches the
physical appearance of multiple small cells, and so can also scale to deliver the high
capacity and performance of a small cell network.
Large data centres share the processing load across the whole network, reducing the
total processing capacity required and simplifying maintenance and upgrade for new
features and functionality.
However, this approach does require extensive high capacity fibre connections to
every radio head. This may not be cost-effective or feasible in many territories.
Distributed antenna systems (DAS): One or more networks may share active or
passive distribution systems to spread the operators signal around an arena, campus,
shopping mall or large building. The source of the operators signal can either be over
the air for systems designed to improve coverage in a small to medium size area
or from dedicated base stations for high capacity and/or large areas. In the dedicated
base station scenario, the operators signal can be distributed using several different
methods such as fibre, coax or CAT 5-6, depending upon the deployment scope.
Additional capacity is added by using additional spectrum or more base stations; this
also increases the complexity of the DAS network. Separate antennas can be

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connected to different areas of the buildings or campus, but it can be costly to


segment and separate smaller parts of buildings. The longer fibre runs may require
active repeaters if the base stations are not co-located.
Large-scale DAS networks are typically planned, designed, optimised and operated by
radio frequency engineers. Ideally, DAS networks are installed during the construction
phase of a new structure.
DAS networks and small cell deployments are not mutually exclusive. Depending upon
the coverage and capacity requirements, small cells may be used in conjunction with
DAS networks to enhance the performance of the network.

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4. Case studies
4.1

Small cells in the home: Sprint

Sprint initially started looking at indoor coverage enhancement technologies long


before its launch of femtocell services in 2007. It was responding to a common
challenge in the US market, where rural areas and geographies with very low
population concentration do not justify the rollout of a macrocell site.
Sprint developed and launched its original femtocell in three US markets during 2007,
followed by a nationwide launch in 2008. The original femtocell, Airave 1.0, was a
proprietary solution from Samsung. The Airave 1.0 supported three simultaneous
voice or data sessions, but data rates were constrained due to the 1xRTT air interface
technology and could only go as high as a theoretical 153kbps.
Based on the lessons it had learned from its first femtocell deployment, Sprint then
developed a new femtocell platform with open, standardised interfaces, IMS core,
3GPP2 and SIP signalling. The femtocell platform was designed to support multiple
venue-specific devices and device manufacturers. In August 2010, the Airave 2.0
consumer femtocell was launched on the new platform.
Sprint also changed its business model. With the Airave 2.0, the operator capitalised
the cost of each femtocell access point, which in turn made the femtocell a piece of
network infrastructure rather than a device that belongs to end users. This allowed
Sprint to offer the Airave 2.0 free to qualifying customers.
Sprint soon exceeded all the business case goals that were set for its femtocell
deployment: it shipped more Airave 2.0 femtocells in one month that it shipped in
total of the Airave 1.0.
Sprint has announced an LTE network rollout with a strong focus on small cells,
targeting consumer and enterprise environments, both indoor and outdoor. Sprint has
also said that it expects future networks to be heterogeneous: existing macrocells may
be complemented with small cells to alleviate either coverage or capacity constraints.

4.2

Small cells in rural areas: SoftBank

Japans SoftBank is believed to be the first, and to date only, national operator
worldwide to have deployed residential, enterprise and public access small cells in
both rural and metropolitan areas.
Following its initial consumer and enterprise deployment, SoftBank launched public
small cells during Q1 2011 and rural small cells during Q4 2011. The operator
deployed small cells in shops, while the rural outdoor small cells were deployed on
concrete poles. LTE small cell trials are under way or planned. In total, Informa
Telecoms & Media estimates that SoftBank has deployed more than 100,000 units in
the consumer, enterprise, metropolitan and rural areas.
A substantial portion of SoftBanks public deployments has been in rural areas, and it
is likely that the operator can now boast the highest %age population coverage of any
carrier. The operator has installed small cells in remote villages that would not
normally be economic to serve, as the population and usage is too sparse to justify
traditional infrastructure but using more cost-effective small cells changes that
calculation. Indeed, these isolated areas often do not have fixed broadband, (which is

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12

why satellite is usually employed for backhaul) so it becomes possible for communities
to get online through 3G on their phones or dongles for the first time.
These systems do not need high capacity (by definition there are few people in these
areas) so 16 users is sufficient, but the range must be increased over a standard small
cell so there is a need for both a bigger radio and some optimisation to the modem.

4.3

Small cells in the enterprise: municipality of Zaanstad

When the municipality of Zaanstad in the Netherlands brought together services


previously housed in three locations in its stunning new City Hall, it decided it also
needed a new, more effective, more efficient approach to working within the building.
The City Hall was to have a new telephony infrastructure bringing small cells to an
unusual enterprise application: a private mobile network that would allow the 1500 or
so City Hall staff to work and be contactable by smartphone rather than fixed line at
any one of 1050 workstations or anywhere else in the building.
Specialist IT services and solutions provider Dimension Data was the system
integrator for the project: the designing and building of a private GSM network fully
integrated with an IP telephony-based communications platform, bringing Unified
Communication functionality to employee smartphones.
When employees are working outside the building, they are also reachable and may
simply roam between the private GSM network and the public network. This,
however, isnt the only important advantage of private GSM. This approach also
provides a robust environment, with fewer access points being needed than with a
DECT or Wi-Fi network. With a private GSM environment employees experience the
benefits of proven GSM technology, but are not dependent on the public GSM network,
over which the municipality has no control and which may become congested at times.
An important part of the IP telephony solution is the PBX: an Avaya Aura Contact
Centre system, which handles all incoming calls to the main numbers that citizens and
businesses use to direct their questions to the municipality authorities.
Small cells were also part of the network: Dimension Data sourced the 41 picocells
from ip.access. The private GSM network technology came from another UK company,
Quortus, which offered the capability to embed full core network functionality into
cost-effective software applications deployable at small cell sites. This means that
advanced network features like data offload, session creation, switching and
handoff, traffic compression, edge caching and presence information could be
handled at the edge. The Dutch company Private Mobility provided the roaming
interconnect with the macro network. Together, these technologies brought together
normal voice, text and packet data services with advanced PBX functionality.

4.4

Small cells in urban areas: Vodafone Greece

In 2012 Vodafone Greece launched a zone-based service driven by a small cell as well
as an Android app that can be used for value-added services.
After establishing a consumer femtocell service, Vodafone Greece launched a public
area, small cell service in December 2012 in approximately 200 fast-food restaurants
and cafeterias of a well-known retail chain around Greece. This is the first hard launch
of small cell zone services based on location, which may enable a variety of new
business models while enhancing the user experience.

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Vodafone through its partnership with Hellas Online (HOL), a fixed-line provider
that offers triple-play services opted to provide both 3G and Wi-Fi access in order to
focus on a free data value proposition rather than restrict itself to either one of these
technologies. Wi-Fi and femtocells allow not only smartphones and internet feature
phones, but also notebook computers and tablets to be connected to the network.
The service, named Free 3G Hotspot, is deployed in approximately 200 Flocaf
cafeterias and Goodys fast-food restaurants across Greece. By using a small cell and
a directional antenna, Vodafone Greece is able to create a new cell that covers the
indoor location of these venues, enabling its network to handle traffic generated in
these areas differently.
As soon as the customer device is camped to the small cell, all traffic through the
small cell is whitelisted and does not count towards the subscribers monthly
allowance. An SMS notification is sent after five minutes to alert the user about the
service; this delay was implemented to avoid sending the SMS to customers who do
not intend to remain in the Free 3G Hotspot coverage area of the restaurant/caf. In a
similar fashion, an SMS is sent when the user leaves the coverage area of the small
cell but with a shorter delay. Vodafone Greece has also launched an Android app to
notify subscribers in real time when they enter or leave a Free 3G Hotspot: the app
monitors the ID of the cell that the handset is connected to and notifies the user.
The deployment drivers for Vodafones Free 3G Hotspot are first and foremost aimed
at establishing internet usage and free access as a daily commodity. The competitive
and financially challenging environment in Greece does not allow much flexibility for
mobile operators to launch new services but Vodafone Greece has created a relatively
cost-effective new location-based service that has the potential to attract massmarket interest. It is a service that could, in the future, potentially provide new
revenue opportunities by offering advertising options to venue owners through
Android apps or other location-based services.

4.5

Small cells in urban areas: AT&T

Mobile data demand has exploded in recent years. US telecommunications services


provider AT&T recently estimated growth of 30,000 % in only six years. This growth
will accelerate as more and more users buy smartphones, tablets and other wirelessenabled devices.
To meet this exploding demand, AT&T has been investing heavily in network
development. Its initiatives include Project Velocity IP, a $14 billion plan to expand
AT&Ts wireline and wireless network using multiple technologies. Another major
change is the formation of the Antenna Solutions Group (ASG). This division is
chartered to extend the capabilities of the companys mobile macro network to public
venues. Both initiatives will include a major role for small cells beginning with the
metrocell solution.
Metrocells are based on femtocell technology, but with enhanced capability, capacity
and coverage. The first generation of metrocells can serve from 16 to 32 users and
provide a coverage range from less than 100 metres in dense urban locations to
several hundred metres in rural environments. Available in both indoor and outdoor
versions, metrocells are plug-and-play devices that use Self-Organising Network
(SON) technology to automate network configuration and optimisation.
AT&Ts first field application for small cells took place in the fourth quarter of 2012;
wide-area deployments began in the first quarter of 2013. The small cells currently

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deployed support UMTS and HSPA+. This year, however, AT&T plans to introduce
small cells capable of supporting UMTS, HSPA+, LTE & Wi-Fi. In 2014, AT&Ts LTE
network build is planned to be largely complete and the present total of 35 % of its
postpaid customers using LTE-capable devices is expected to have risen. By 2015,
small cells will be the dominant technology used in the companys densification
program.
However, it is important to note that AT&T uses a variety of coverage techniques
alongside traditional macrocells, including Wi-Fi and neutral-host Distributed Antenna
Systems (DAS). In large public venues, DAS is often ideal. It is too expensive,
however, for deployment in smaller venues such as multi-dwelling units, apartment
complexes, small retail, office buildings and small hotels. Metrocells lightweight and
easy to deploy solve this problem. Backhaul is not an issue for indoor deployment
because AT&T can generally run fibre to the facility. Inbuilt SON technology means
that installation carried out by specialists at the moment will eventually be
possible to be carried out by the customer.
The predicted move towards neutral host versions of small cells is expected to further
expand the scope of deployments. So too will the arrival of cost-effective backhaul
solutions for outdoor use of metrocells. Such solutions have been deployed in trial
environments and are being further evaluated by AT&T Labs. Urban deployments of
the metrocell will help to augment capacity and fill coverage holes, further underlining
the importance of this impressively versatile small cell.

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5. Small Cell Forum activities


Small Cell Forum supports the wide-scale deployment of small cells. Its mission is to
accelerate small cell adoption to change the shape of mobile networks and maximize
the potential of mobile services.
The Forums work incorporates all small cell technology that uses licensed spectrum
and is managed by a carrier. It is concerned with the multiple ways in which licensed
small cells can be deployed by carriers across network architectures including urban,
rural metrocells, picocells and microcells.
In some areas the Forum cooperates with organisations where they overlap or
integrate with small cells, such as the interworking of unlicensed technologies such as
Wi-Fi.
Other areas may also be represented in Small Cell Forum workstreams where they
overlap with small cell technology (for example this may include HetNet, SON, Cloud
RAN and DAS). The Forums recent work is summarized below.

5.1

Release program

In February 2013 Small Cell Forum announced Small Cell Release One, the first
deliverable in its Release Program. The aim of this program is to help advance small
cell deployments by providing operators with all the information they need to
successfully launch a small cell technology in one easily digestible package. The theme
of Release One is the Home, providing the complete body of work that operators will
need to know in order to deploy residential small cells. Release One also contains
significant advanced work on future use cases.
The next release, covering enterprise small cells, was made available in December
2013 under the heading Enterprise. The small cells covered were premises-based
small cells generally for indoor, premises-based deployment beyond the home (which
could include government buildings, hotels and hospitals as well as SMEs or corporate
campuses).
Release Three: Urban foundations, published February 2014, focuses on establishing
the need, evaluating the business case and identifying key barriers to the commercial
deployment of urban small cells. Urban small cells are defined as licensed small cells,
deployed by operators in areas of high demand density on an open-access basis to all
the customers of the operator. They can be deployed outdoors on street furniture or
indoor public locations such as transport hubs and retail malls.
Release Four and beyond, we will delve into the detail of the solutions addressing the
issues identified.
More releases will follow, augmenting existing outputs and supporting additional uses
cases as the appropriate market drivers evolve. The newly created Release Program
Steering Group brings oversight to align that process with the needs of the release
roadmap.

5.2

Plugfests

A plugfest is an event around a certain standard at which the designers of electronic


equipment or software test the interoperability of their products or designs in relation
to other vendors. Small Cell Forum plugfests, held in partnership with ETSI, allow
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vendors to test and resolve interworking between their products. The plugfests aim to
cultivate an effective ecosystem of interoperable small cells (3G, LTE and the
integration of Wi-Fi with these licensed technologies). This helps provide operators and
consumers with a wider choice of small cell products while also facilitating economies
of scale. The fourth Plugfest, which was successfully completed in June 2013, was the
first focused on 3GPP Release 9-compliant FDD LTE small cells. The primary objective
of the event was to demonstrate the effectiveness of the 3GPP LTE standards in
supporting interoperability between small cells and Evolved Packet Core (EPC)
equipment from different vendors.
Successful interoperability tests, monitored by test tools, were conducted between
small cells and EPCs, security gateways, macro eNodeB and, as an option HeNB
gateways to verify the S1 interface implementations. In a multi-vendor HetNet
environment mobility scenarios such as hand-out with the macro network using S1
and X2 interface were tested. VoLTE (IMS) calls were also tested. The Plugfest
routinely repeated tests of IPsec/IKEv2 security protocols, which allow small cells to
communicate over the public internet to operators core networks in a highly secure
manner. The Forum has conducted three previous Plugfests on topics including device
interoperability, management and 3GPP standards.

5.3

Re-use of existing standards

Small Cell Forum seeks to identify and adopt existing standards where appropriate
solutions already exist. Examples include the use of the Broadband Forums TR.069
management protocol for remote management and configuration or IPsec for secure
encryption. The Small Cell Forum worked with Broadband Forum7 to extend this
protocol to include a specific small cell data model (TR. 196). This approach brings
many advantages:

Widely adopted standards with mature, cost-effective products already


available.
Reduced risk by using proven, mass market technologies
Faster time to market avoiding the need to develop, debug and mature
additional technology
Lower cost because the implementation of the standard is spread across a
wider range of applications, large enough to bring competitive pressure which
keeps costs low
Compatibility with existing mobile networks that do not require modifications
to handsets or core network components.

Solution vendors have simply been able to incorporate existing products into their
overall small cell architecture, such as TR.069 capable management systems (ACL)
and high capacity IPsec security gateways. The longer-term on-going maintenance of
these parts of the solution does not therefore have to be borne by the small cell
industry alone, avoiding the trap of high TCO (total cost of ownership) that proprietary
solutions bring.

5.4

Dealing with the difficult issues

As the small cell industry has evolved, a wide range of potential blocking issues have
been brought up. Small Cell Forum has faced up to each one in turn, producing a wide
range of technical and market papers addressing individual issues. Now numbering in
the dozens, they include insights and analyses of such important issues as backhaul,
LTE small cell synchronisation, interference, rural small cell business case and
enterprise services, as well as case studies on innovative or market-leading rollouts
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and technologies. While instructive in their own right, many are also being
incorporated into the information resource package that is the Small Cell Forum
Release Program.

5.5

Proving market demand

Extensive consumer research was conducted to assess the level of consumer interest
in residential femtocell products, and confirmed a resounding demand for improved
performance. A 2010 study involving over 1100 participants identified that where
coverage is poor, 44% said they would stay with their current operator if they could
have a femtocell, and 35% said they would consolidate all users in the household to
the same operator, with some 60% of households overall being interested in having a
small cell.
The residential small cell market now includes several large-scale deployments,
including AT&T, SFR, Softbank, Sprint, and Vodafone. Enterprise and urban
deployments have also reached tens of thousands of units, proving the scalability of
small cell architectures.

5.6

Business case

Technical studies have also demonstrated the strong business case, particularly for
data offload, where large numbers of small cells have been shown to be significantly
more effective than the standard macrocell expansion approach. The revenue-earning
potential of the enterprise market, where the combination of small cells and networkbased management applications will allow operators to add significant value with
exciting new features, is already strong, while advances in backhaul technology and
falling small cell costs are even making the business case for rural small cell rollout
attractive.

5.7

Representing the industry

Small Cell Forum has more than 150 members including 68 operators representing
more than 3 billion mobile subscribers 46 per cent of the global total as well as
telecoms hardware and software vendors, content providers and innovative start-ups.
This diversity of membership is reflected at Board level, where the entire small cell
ecosystem is represented.
As of February 2014, nine of the top 10 mobile operator groups (by revenue) were
offering small cell services, including AT&T, China Mobile, France Telecom/Orange,
Telefonica, T-Mobile/ Deutsche Telekom and Vodafone.
The Forum can truly claim to represent the interests of the entire small cell industry,
speaking for it with one voice and securing partnerships and agreements on their
behalf.

5.8

On-going activities

The Forums work incorporates all small cell technology that uses licensed spectrum
and is managed by a carrier. It is concerned with the multiple ways in which licensed
small cells can be deployed by carriers across network architectures including urban
small cells, rural small cell metrocells, picocells and microcells. In some areas it
cooperates with organisations where their interests overlap or integrate with small
cells: the interworking of unlicensed technologies such as Wi-Fi, for example. Other
areas may also be represented in Small Cell Forum work streams where they overlap
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with small cell technology (for example, this may include HetNet, SON, Cloud RAN and
DAS).
Under the direction of its Executive Board and informed by members the Forums key
policy priorities include:

providing an independent impartial voice for all stakeholders in the small cell
sector, including vendors and operators. This is a global commitment, with all
this implies in the context of technology options and choices
developing a policy framework that encourages and drives the
standardization of key aspects of small cell technologies worldwide
building and maintaining dialogue with other relevant industry and official
standards bodies to further small cell technologies for the benefit of
residential and business consumers, the industry and Forum members
the promotion of such standards-based solutions across the industry and to
the relevant industry standards bodies, opinion formers and the broader
communications community
building and maintaining an eco-system that delivers the most commercial
and technically efficient solutions.

Figure 51

The Small Cell Forum's scope of work includes not only small cells but also their
interrelation with adjacent technologies

With these priorities in mind, therefore, the Small Cell Forum supports and drives
forward the adoption of industry-wide standards, regulatory enablers, common
architectures and interoperability to enable the widespread adoption and deployment
of small cell technologies by telecom operators around the world. It also directs and
implements a multi-faceted campaign to raise the profile, drive technology
development and deployment and to promote the potential of small cell solutions
across the industry and to journalists, analysts, regulators, special interest groups and
standards bodies.
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5.9

Scaling up to the wider capabilities

Today, according to a recent market status report from Mobile Experts, there are at
least 56 operators using small cell technology, with 44 offering residential small cells,
and at least 33 operators using enterprise, urban, or rural small cells. While some of
the residential deployments have stalled, recent emphasis has shifted to the
enterprise and urban scenarios, especially with LTE operators. The Mobile Experts
forecast calls for growth to over $10 billion for non-residential small cells, with the
residential market growing to roughly $400 million per year in 2018.
Small Cell Forum has helped accelerate the pace of adoption, dealing with common
issues, promoting the industry and supporting its growth.
Market forecasts from a range of reputable analysts project rapid growth of all types
of small cells.
Predictions for the market from Infonetics include:

a quarter of total traffic will be carried over small cells during 2016. Also
during that year 3 million small cells will be shipped and the market will be
worth about US$2.1 billion
the number of small cell units sold will grow nearly 40-fold from 2011 to
2016, including 3G microcells and picocells, 4G mini eNodeBs, and 3G and 4G
public access femtocells
global small cell revenue will grow at a 73% compound annual growth rate
(CAGR) during the five years from 2011 to 2016
public space femtocells will make up more than 50% of all small cells shipped
in 2012 and 2013; 3G small cells will account for 63% of global small-cell
shipments, with 4G small cells kicking off and ramping up rapidly to make up
37%.

Mobile Experts anticipates:

a shipment volume of roughly 8 million small cells during 2017


half of small cells will incorporate Wi-Fi by 2016
70 million small cells to be shipped by 2017, including femtocells deployed by
mobile operators and picocells used for high-capacity urban networks
LTE small cells will be a major part of the forecast growth over the next five
years, with more than two-thirds of small cells deployed in 2017 devoted to
LTE-FDD or TD-LTE.

In addition DellOro Group has published a forecast claiming that the small cell market
will almost quadruple by 2016, which will have an impact on macro revenues, and
Juniper Research has published a report claiming that small cells will account for a
steadily increasing proportion of offloaded data over the forecast period (2012-2016),
reaching over 12% by 2016.

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6. Summary
Rapid forecast growth in mobile broadband data demand is becoming a reality. Strong
take-up of smartphones, tablets and other data devices is reflected by the high levels
of data traffic carried on mobile networks today.
The mobile industry has established a consensus that Heterogeneous Networks
(HetNets), comprising a mix of small and large cells, will be essential to satisfy the
capacity, speed and performance requirements of the future.
The small cells used in tomorrows networks will use many techniques and capabilities
originally pioneered for femtocells. Indeed, femtocell technology is not restricted to
residential or indoor use and has already been incorporated into small cells of all
categories. Scalability, automated configuration, self-optimization and rapid
deployment have been taken to new limits by the millions of small cells in commercial
use today.
Mobile network users worldwide will benefit from higher quality, lower cost and faster
service through the pioneering work of the small cell industry, embodied in the whole
range of small cell types.

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References
1
2
3
4
5
6
7

http://www.chetansharma.com/GlobalMobileMarketUpdate2012.htm

Cisco VNI Survey:


http://www.cisco.com/en/US/solutions/collateral/ns341/ns525/ns537/ns705/ns827/VNI_H
yperconnectivity_WP.html
http://www.idc.com/getdoc.jsp?containerId=prUS24143513
Coopers Law: http://www.arraycomm.com/technology/coopers-law

See press release http://www.ipaccess.com/content2012/news/pressrelease.php?id=129

Rethink Research: presented at Bath base station Conference September 2011


http://www.rethinkresearch.biz/index.asp
World's first femtocell standard published by 3GPP, Forum press release, 7th April 2009
http://femtoforum.org/fem2/pressreleases.php?id=242

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