Small cell deployments increase Wi-Fi and cellular wireless communications capacity and signal strength by placing a large number of limited-range radio access points, also called nodes, within densely populated areas. A light pole node, model LPN-16, also referred to as an outdoor small cell, is a high-density, neutral-host small cell infrastructure layer from Wytec International that allows small cells to serve multiple wireless carriers simultaneously.
In comparison with small cell coverage, a traditional large cellular tower could cover a larger area to a distance of approximately 2 miles, but with less capacity.
Next-generation networks and services address the diverse challenges and problems (cost, speed and latency) in delivering broadband data to the small business, enterprise, residential and municipal markets.
Behind the Small Cell Boom
Many small cell manufacturers and analysts say small cells will enhance 5G, a telecommunications standard not fully defined yet, but that holds great promise. Futurists and wireless communications carriers predict that tremendous bandwidth and nearly ubiquitous small cell deployment will one day provide the capacity for almost universal 4K video streaming, augmented reality and virtual reality video and television, and autonomous cars everywhere.
That is all likely to come true. Small cells exist not only to enable future 5G networks, but also to enable and enhance 4G networks that have recently been overwhelmed by ever-increasing traffic. Because of the massive subscriber uptake of 4G mobile services over the past few years, carriers have been unable to keep up with the additional bandwidth demand required from their existing 4G networks.
In any case, small cells have caught on like fire. At the end of 2017, fewer than 5 million small cells were installed in the United States. The Release 10.0 “Small Cells Market Status Report,” published in February by the Small Cell Forum, estimates that number will more than double by 2025 with 11 million small cells installed (see the figure on this page). Another Forum report, which surveyed more than 50 Tier 1 and Tier 2 mobile and converged network operators, predicts a 50 percent increase in small cells between 2018 and 2020 alone.
Small cells can be installed indoors or outdoors and are compact enough to be attached to street lights, electric poles and traffic light poles. They can even be mobile, perched atop buses, or carried in the sky by drones. By 2019, global demand for outdoor small cell solutions alone is expected to grow by a factor of six, according to Deloitte’s “Flashpoint Edition 13,” which is a series about small cells.
The term “network densification” has been used to describe the process of growing the number of additional transmission sites or nodes in an area with both increased bandwidth and wider coverage to manage the current subscriber demand. Small cells have been the key component in densification, providing the necessary additions to existing 4G networks as a solution to the public’s growing bandwidth needs.
Unique LPN-16 Advantages
Wytec developed its light pole node to be a new, cost-effective and easily upgradeable system for providing high transmission speeds through a neutral host and shared infrastructure solution.
Recognized by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office with patent number 9,807,032, model LPN-16 is an “upgradeable, high data transfer speed, multichannel transmission system.” The local area network system includes modular, multifrequency, multichannel, upgradable transmission nodes. It provides transmission and network services for as many as 16 carriers for wireless data, video and voice; voice over Internet Protocol; local portal for emergency services; mesh node from one transmission to the next; single and multichannel transmission; WiFi access; and several other similar services. And, unlike most 4G small cells, the light pole node is not dependent on any radio frequency.
This range of services, the increasing demand on 4G networks and the imminence of 5G networks needing small cell capabilities squarely place Wytec in the path of several massive industries and markets. These markets include small cells as a service, outdoor Wi-Fi, the internet of things and a host of other related communications services.
The light pole node’s speeds are difficult to beat. When the company received the first prototype, it obtained permission to place the unit on a utility light pole in downtown San Antonio, Texas, for testing. The test included the use of three frequencies, one of which was millimeter wave. The equipment used for the speed test included a 5-GHz radio in both the light pole node and a Samsung smartphone.
In multiple trials, the equipment configuration produced download and upload speeds at 388.5 Mbps, with a latency of 3 milliseconds. By comparison, a popular cellular network produced 35.73 Mbps with a latency of 61 milliseconds.
Small cells are booming now because achieving advances in capacity and network speed require densification of networks using both licensed and unlicensed radio-frequency spectrum to patch coverage holes, optimize signal strength and increase capacity for meeting consumer demand.
Densification is bound to continue and uptick dramatically. The Small Cell Forum research also found that, by 2020, 40 percent of the operators surveyed expect to deploy between 100 and 350 small cells per square kilometer (indoors and outdoors) in the areas they densify.
Much of that deployment is just about keeping up with 4G demand, but 5G is coming up quickly. Analytical firm CCS Insight announced in April that it is significantly increasing its 5G subscriber forecasts. Because of the growing number of carriers globally that have committed to launching 5G as early as this year, the firm said it now expects almost 60 million 5G connections worldwide in 2020 – a 50 percent rise from its October 2017 forecast. The firm expects the number of 5G connections to pass 1 billion sometime in 2023.
Today, small cells are enabling the rapidly growing number of internet-of-things devices. They are a catalyst for a remarkable future, one that will have dramatic effects on fields as diverse as public safety, homeland and energy security, education, medicine, and smart cities and buildings.
Bob Merola is chief technology officer at Wytec International. Visit www.wytecintl.com.