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Jun 16 2015

Big numbers aren’t just for big cells

This blog is by Stephane Daeuble at Nokia Networks. Twitter: @stephanedaueble

One of the most remarkable spectacles in the world takes place at the Hajj religious pilgrimage in Mecca, where each year more than 1.3 million visitors gather. Equally remarkable is the amount of mobile data this mass of people generates. This year, Nokia Flexi Multiradio Base Stations handled 120 Terabytes of downloads over five days!

It’s a great example of how Nokia macro cellular technology has advanced over the years and will continue to progress in the future. And yet, capable though macro cells are, the changing structure of networks and growing subscriber demands mean that in many cases, they are not enough, even with capacity-boosting technologies such as Carrier Aggregation. Macro cells can also be difficult and time-consuming to deploy cost-effectively.

Small cells score at mass events

Enter the small cell. Small cell networks can be set up almost instantly to meet the needs of special events, yet offer the traffic handling capabilities of a macro network. Nokia is meeting these needs with Flexi Zone small cells, which have scored several successes lately at major sporting and cultural events around the world. Notable amongst these was a race event in China for which China Mobile made full use of Nokia’s TD-LTE-Advanced HetNet solution. There have also been numerous deployments in busy indoor and outdoor areas like major exhibitions and shopping malls to complement existing Distributed Antenna Systems (DAS) systems. Major outdoor sporting events like marathons and surfing competitions have also been served by the technology.

Based on Nokia’s Flexi Zone small cells, the solution ensures subscribers get a great experience for the entire event, giving them the opportunity to stay connected and share their enjoyment.

At some events, Nokia Flexi Zone small cells have supported a record-breaking 600 simultaneous active LTE users with each micro base station, which is as high as the macro sectors achieved at the Hajj festival or the Busan fireworks festival in Korea.

In practical terms, strategically placed small cells enabled the Flexi Zone layer to capture 40-80% of the total traffic, making them a very effective solution for adding capacity at special events.

Nokia Flexi Zone outperforms by 8 to 1

The fact is that Nokia Networks small cells outperform competitor offerings by around eight to one in terms of the number of LTE users they can handle (up to 840 active users). This is a growing story, with an ever-increasing need for small cells to pack a lot into a small form factor to deliver the same performance as macro cells.

But that’s not all. Flexi Zone ‘all-in-one’ base stations use the same software (with the same features, same O&M, same IoT) meaning that operators don’t need to think twice about using small cells. As long as there is a pole (even a wooden one), space on a wall, a spot on a rack, space on top of pipes, virtually anywhere - small cells can be deployed in hours and will deliver amazing capacity.

Small cells are proving their worth in high pressure, temporary events but those are just dress rehearsals for the future as hot spots grow into hot zones and lead to ultra-dense networks in all urban areas. Operators will increasingly find they need to use small cells as a major part of their wider networks, and Nokia Networks will be there to support them. Small cells have a big future.

Tell us about your most creative small cell deployment – and/or send a photo and I’ll post the best ones in my next blog.

And please share your thoughts on this topic by replying below – and join the Twitter discussion with @NokiaNetworks using #NetworksPerform #mobilebroadband #smallcells #HetNets.

About Stephane Daeuble

Stephane is responsible for Small Cells and Flexi Zone global product marketing at Nokia. A self professed IT geek and gadget guy, he knows firsthand the value of high speed connectivity that Small Cells provide, and has been an active industry advocate on the role they will play in future HetNets and Ultra-Broadband. Connect with Stephane on LinkedIn