Two years in the making, Ericsson has launched a minimalist small cell radio that will fulfill the need for indoor coverage that mirrors the functionality of the outdoor cellular infrastructure, Johan Wibergh, head of networks and executive vice president, announced at an industry analyst forum Sept. 25.
Networks are struggling to keep up with smart phones depending on multimedia applications and people expecting the same experience indoors as well as outdoors, Wibergh said.
“We don’t really live up to that as an industry it is hard to provide great indoor performance,” he said.
The disk-shaped small cell, which is small enough to fit a person’s hand, is called Ericsson Radio Dot System. It fits into a gap that Ericsson perceived between pico/femtocells and distributed antenna systems, according to Wibergh.
“Are there not indoor coverage solutions already being used today? The best performance you can get indoors today is called DAS and it is quite costly. On the low-end side, you have the emerging femto/pico cell market, which provides less performance,” he said.
Perhaps the most important goal for small cell technology is the functional parity between the indoor wireless systems and the macrocellular network, Wibergh said. Ericsson’s macro-base station software currently has 7 million lines of code. Every year it adds another million lines of code, adding new functionality, standardization, performance improvements and redundancy.
“If you want to have seamless connectivity, you need the same functionality indoors, so you need to use the same software everywhere,” he said. “With DAS you use macro base stations, but with picocells it is too much software [to access the same functionality of the macrocellular system].”
By coordinating the indoor cell with the macrocell, fewer indoor cells can be deployed, saving 50 percent of the total cost of ownership.
Dots are connected and powered via standard internet LAN cables (Category 5/6/7) to indoor radio units that link to a base station. The Radio Dot System supports integration with Ericsson’s carrier Wi-Fi portfolio enabling real-time traffic steering across both Wi-Fi and 3GPP networks.
Kris Rinne, senior vice president, network and product planning, AT&T Services, also took part in the industry analyst forum, to give the operators’ viewpoint.
“Small cells are a key component of AT&T’s Project VIP network enhancement program as we seek to constantly improve our customers’ mobile Internet experience,” she said. “We have been talking about designing networks from the inside out, rather than outside in. We needed to address a wide variety of environments, from the home to the office to the neighborhood to the venue or workplace. In order to accomplish this, we needed a solution that is flexible, where we can add incremental functionality and capacity as people move around the environment.”
Tom Sawanobori, vice president of corporate technology for Verizon, was on the dais the second day of the industry analyst forum and gave his tacit approval of the product.
“Verizon looks forward to collaborating with Ericsson to test and trial this innovative in-building coverage solution,” he said. “The Ericsson Radio Dot system has the potential to meet customer needs for a flexible, cost effective solution, while also allowing for faster deployment.”
The product is expected to be commercially available in late 2014.