February 26, 2015 — As up in the air as the small cell market is, there is movement and maybe the big guns are getting a bit more serious – and creative. T-Mobile wants to deploy LTE technology in the unlicensed spectrum. Interesting, since there are no standards for that. T-Mobile calls it “pre-standard LTE-U” (also known as LAA – licensed assisted access). Interesting…this is targeted at the 5 GHz frequency band, the band showing the most activity for Wi-Fi as well. This move is to add capacity and coverage to T-Mobile’s licensed spectrum.
The reason this is noteworthy is because there we are seeing traction in the LTE-U arena (Ericsson has such a solution), which focuses directly on the small cell market. T-Mobile, which has the most to gain (in terms of coverage) from small cell deployments seems to be a bit more aggressive in their movement in this arena.
On that same note, Verizon is getting into that game too – bolstering network capacity. They have allocated $500 million to their small cell program. Their interest is more in the cell edge where most of the signal degradation happens. Interestingly, Verizon said that small cells were at the top of their priority list due to “changing market condition.”
Tony Melone, executive VP of networks at Verizon, noted that “small cell deployments will be an increasingly cost-effective way to add capacity, while at the same time improving cell edge performance and thus further increasing the value of the spectrum we currently hold.” Wonder what that really means?
There seems to be a fair amount of stirring as the year starts out. There is a consensus that 2015 will be the year that goes down in history as when small cells got on the radar screen. But it will be a while before the small cell industry gets all the kinks worked out. But it is nice to see creativity on the part of the big players, which can only help to accelerate the pace of development.
Ernest Worthman is the editor of Small Cell magazine.