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Oct 19 2015

7 ways to pull down costs while putting up small cells

This blog is by Andrew Burrell at Nokia Networks. Twitter: @AndyBurrell

All the planning is done. You've picked the best sites for your small cells, and all the permits have been secured. Power and backhaul are in place. Now it’s time to get your base stations installed and running, ready to deliver exciting services to your customers and generate revenue for you.

With lots of site locations in busy urban areas that can be difficult to access, the physical deployment of small cells can quickly add up to big bills. So Nokia Networks has come up with seven innovations to bring those costs right down and help ensure that your installation budget stays reasonable:

1) Smaller and lighter for easier handling: At just 5 kg in weight and 5 liters in volume, Nokia Flexi Zone outdoor base stations are the smallest and lightest available. This makes them easier to lift and fix in place by a single engineer. And the mechanical fixing is quick, with no docking stations, which reduces the installation time and costs for hiring lifting gear.

Small cell_Nokia_happy engineer

2) Everything in one unit: Another advantage of Flexi Zone Base Stations is that they are true all-in-one products, with integrated antennas for both omni and directional connectors, a transport module for both electrical and optical connection, an integrated 1 Gbps router and switch, GPS & all other sync options built in, as well as Bluetooth module and dock. This makes installation so much simpler and faster, a bonus when the engineer is at the top of a lamp post: no fiddly cabling, no need for multiple fixings. This can compress several hours of work into 15-20 minutes per site. Fast installation means less time on site, lower costs for hiring access equipment and less disruption to the surrounding areas.

3) Golden benefits of Bluetooth: Integrating Bluetooth communications into Flexi Zone Base Stations dramatically cuts deployment time: As soon as one base station is mounted and connected, the installation engineer (and the bucket truck) can move on to the next site. Meanwhile, the commissioning engineer can remotely connect to the base station from a nearby vehicle to perform initial set up and final verification. There is no more need to keep access equipment in place for several hours at each site to support the commissioning engineer. Once again, less time on site means less money spent for the bucket truck, and expensive rental equipment can be used to its full extent to deploy as many site as possible in a day.

4) Remote delivery: Outsourcing the setting up of small cells to Nokia Global Delivery Centers (GDCs) in India and Portugal brings many cost benefits. Experienced and highly skilled engineering teams can remotely configure the network using proven workflow management tools and processes that are tightly governed, adhere to strict quality procedures, and take advantage of best practices learned from the many projects worldwide that the GDCs have run. Common processes and tools ensure the most efficient and fastest configuration and the lowest costs. Our GDCs use a central ‘Smart Service Delivery Platform’ to connect the work of different teams and output from different tools in order to maximize the usage of automation. Example: The planning department generates a planning file with certain site-specific parameters. This data is merged with an XML Site Configuration File from iSON Manager and used to automatically configure the small cell in the field. The local field engineering team will also receive an automatic work order informing them of all the details necessary for the physical installation.

5) Standardizing site designs for economies of scale: While no two macro sites are the same, small cell sites are often similar – for example, using lamp posts or walls. We’ve hooked into these similarities by designing standardized mounting hardware that is simple and fast to install. Using the same fixings and mounting procedure for multiple small cells simplifies the workload for faster installation by less skilled personnel and minimized risk of errors, all of which adds up to substantially lower costs.

6) Clustering small cells for bulk deployment: When there are several small cells in close physical proximity, planning and installation for them all can be undertaken simultaneously for much more efficient implementation. In addition, we pre-assemble as much of the hardware as possible before delivering, eliminating the need to build the small cell sites in the field from multiple components. This is again faster and saves costs.

7) Fast configuration in minutes with automation: Nokia Flexi Zone Base Stations can use intelligent Self-Organizing Network (iSON) capabilities with clever HetNet enhanced algorithms to handle the higher number of neighboring cells and underlay situation typical in a small cell set up. Configuration is automated, and enhanced plug and play works for all situations to enable fast set up and configuration times of 20-25 minutes so that costly and skilled commissioning engineers aren't tied up for hours.

Watch our new video (intentionally with no sound): Nokia Networks Small cells video shows how to quickly deploy small cells

Please share your thoughts on this topic by replying below – and join the Twitter discussion with @nokianetworks using #NetworksPerform #mobilebroadband #smallcell.

About Andrew Burrell

Andy is responsible for Nokia Global Services’ Ultra Broadband and Analytics marketing. He loves to use his various devices to keep up with social media, news, and above all, the football results. Finally realizing that the phone call from Arsenal FC was never going to come, he has given up playing and now prefers to watch football on TV, and to keep up with the latest scores from the side of the pitch through his brilliant 4G connection. Tweet me @andyburrell