Vendor programs are helping small cell deployment offerings gain momentum, according to ABI Research. The programs include the former Alcatel-Lucent’s small cell site certification program and Metro Cell Express; Nokia’s HetNet Engine Room; Ericsson’s Small Cells-as-a-Service; and Huawei’s Crowd-Sourcing solution
Each one uses a slightly different strategy on lowering deployments costs and streamlining. Taken in total, those types of solutions have helped the industry move forward on more efficient deployment processes through a variety of better information, managed services and site and development resources.
• Network design. Those vendor services are, in many cases, formalizing the effort to build a better small cell network with lower cost and faster deployment times. Whether operators leverage such services from their equipment vendors or other network service companies, there are a number of common threads in design: master-use agreements to make many sites available; a fiber-first approach; and clustering to drive some cost efficiencies.
• Many companies take a fiber-first approach for backhaul. If there is a fiber point of presence, it is preferred to put the small cell on that point, even at the cost of performance slightly. That gets the network started and deployed. At a later date, they can revisit the site and backfill with wireless backhaul arrangements for areas that need additional coverage.
• Clustering is another way to build some level of scalability. In some applications, small cell clusters of 10 to 15 cells being linked to one aggregation point have been deployed. In such cases, unlike one-off small cells, efficiencies come from designing and installing the cells in relative bulk to cover malls and other high-capacity hot spots.
• Finally, experience is often the best teacher, and individuals and companies across the ecosystem have learned from pilot projects and trials and are leveraging those lessons to address small cell deployment challenges.