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5G small cells – the story gets bigger


It’s remarkable to think that since 5G was launched just over 12 months ago, it’s already been deployed in more than 70 networks around the world, at least 40 of which are live. During that time, we’ve seen huge leaps in the performance of 5G networks. A fact highlighted by Nokia’s recent record-breaking data rate achievement - 4.7 Gbps running on the commercially available AirScale base station platform.

Providing high speed mobile connectivity in outdoor environments is one thing … in 5G not without its own challenges. However, around 80% of mobile calls are initiated by users indoors; a statistic unsurprisingly unchanged since the introduction of mobile broadband (UMTS) at 2.1 GHz.

Buildings block signals

The fact is, buildings and the materials they’re made from, do not easily propagate radio waves, particularly at higher frequencies. 5G introduces the use of new bands, including the so-called ‘mid-bands’ such as 3.5 GHz and millimeter wave bands. While massive MIMO beamforming antennas can help deliver some coverage from outdoor base stations using these higher frequencies, it’s difficult to beat a dedicated indoor solution for 5G.

Small cells are nothing new. They came to prominence with the introduction of mobile broadband and are now an essential part of most mobile networks. Nokia’s AirScale indoor Radio solution, ASiR for short, is the latest in a long line of small cell solutions deployed in more than 300 networks around the world.

Small cells for any situation

ASiR supports multiple radio access technologies and is a great solution across a wide variety of situations from a small office to large enterprises, hospitals and transportation hubs. It’s easy to deploy, using Cat 6a cable, which significantly simplifies and speeds up installation. What’s more, the ASiR pico radio heads (pRRH) are powered from the same Cat 6a cable, via power over Ethernet; no more unsightly power supplies and their cables.

ASiR is highly flexible. Begin with LTE and when the time is right, add 5G. Need to expand coverage? Simply daisy-chain additional pRRHs in the required locations. Network planning of in-building solutions can be challenging. However, with ASiR’s single frequency network (SFN) approach, interference and network planning concerns all but disappear … and so do the associated costs.

Protecting investments

ASiR uses Nokia’s AirScale System Module (baseband) and so enjoys macro feature parity. Out with the old in with the new? Not so fast. While many existing legacy in-building solutions cannot support 5G, ASiR enables the insertion of RF signals from legacy solutions, extending the value of an operator’s original investments.

We live in a dynamic world, with various business models and changing needs. Happily, ASiR supports different arrangements including neutral hosting, which offers opportunities for all parties considering deploying 5G small cells.

The Nokia AirScale indoor Radio system portfolio continues to grow and fulfill the increasing need for indoor coverage with 5G. And that means the story of small cells in the 5G era can only grow.

Share your thoughts on this topic by joining the Twitter discussion with @nokianetworks or @nokia using #5G #smallcells #innovation

Darrell Davies

About Darrell Davies

Darrell Davies, senior marketing manager at Nokia, is responsible for the imaginative marketing of Nokia’s AirScale radio access network portfolio. This role draws on his wealth of experience in the mobile telecommunications industry, in which he has worked for more than twenty years. This high-tech engineering background is allied with considerable experience in marketing management and a master’s degree in business administration.

Tweet me @DCD269

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