Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Small Cells Advance at 4GWorld

By Greg Friesen, VP of Product Management, DragonWave Inc.

One of the top themes at 4GWorld in Chicago was the advancement of small cells. A new industry term that is being called several names, from small cells to Metro Cells to MicroCell to Pico, but all refer to street-level, urban cellular deployments. It was really encouraging to hear a lot of affirmative thoughts from industry experts that this type of small cell network architecture can, in fact, bring higher capacity per user, as well as improve indoor coverage. With growing constraints on spectrum, and as spectral efficiency limits are quickly being reached, there was overwhelming agreement at the show that small cells are the best way to meet the increasing mobile user data demands. Small cells are also a key piece to delivering improved indoor mobile coverage.

The 4GWorld focus on small cells was well timed with two product announcements DragonWave made at the show. The first was the introduction of two new microcellular backhaul products, Avenue Link and Avenue Site. The second announcement was a partnership with FiberTower to use its spectrum in conjunction with our Avenue products, allowing both companies to offer integrated microcellular backhaul solutions.

DragonWave’s Avenue product line leverages the small form factor, all-outdoor Horizon Compact Plus products, combined with a 5” mini-antenna to offer street level microcellular backhaul. The mini-antennas operate in 24Ghz, 26Hz, 28GHz, 32 GHz, 38 GHz and 60 GHz. With FiberTower offering 24 and 39 GHz spectrum covering 99% of the United States, the partnership, ensures that Avenue products are deployable for their entire U.S. customer base.

The Avenue Site product is unique to the industry by integrating all the equipment at a cell-site tower into a single unit that is deployable on a lamp pole, traffic light or side of a building. The Avenue Site includes three independent, easily aligned, high-capacity packet backhaul links, a UPS power supply, battery backup, Ethernet switching, a GPS antenna and a 4G base station slot.

With the introduction of small cellular architectures, there is a whole new set of deployment challenges that Avenue is designed to address. The first challenge is providing street-level, high capacity backhaul. As this architecture requires a five- to ten-fold increase in the number of sites, the next challenge is to reduce per site TCO by an order of magnitude. Avenue achieves this by reducing site lease costs, maintenance costs, CAPEX and installation costs through integration and micro site optimization. In addition, because many installers will not be trained in telecom, and likely will be the same staff used for other city maintenance, installation must be simplified. Features like self-test, integration, and simple alignment help to greatly streamline the installation process.

Even though small cells may still be in their infancy, it’s clear that carriers are preparing to build infill networks over the next few years, and we’re committed to stay at the front of this adoption curve.

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