We had quite a few interesting discussions in the Small Cells Global Congress, Operator Mindshare session. Here are some of the things that were discussed:
Licensed v/s Unlicensed deployments:
Many operators are now deploying WiFi in the unlicensed spectrum. This can help in the short term to alleviate the capacity problems but as more and more of this unlicensed spectrum nodes get deployed, they create interference between each other and make them unusable for anyone. An example was provided about Tokyo where in some areas, too many free WiFi hotspots means its unusable for anyone. One solution is to have one operator do all the logistics for the deployment and other operators can pay to use the service. Who (operator) would be the first one to go through the process of deploying everything first? Everyone would prefer wait and watch approach.
Providing free WiFi:
The consensus was that the free WiFi provided by operators don't give any additional benefit to them and there isn't much of a business case.
Consumer awareness for residential Femtocells:
Globally, not much effort is being done by the operator to make the end users aware of residential Femtocells and this is hampering the take-up A point was made about when Vodafone launched their product, Vodafone Access Gateway (VAG), it was perceived as negative thing because the ads show that if the coverage was poor you can install this to improve coverage. From a users perspective, it showed that the network had poor coverage. Still consumer awareness is important, how to do it?
Placement of Small Cells:
Where should the public small cells (metrocells) be placed. The Biggest challenges are:
* Site Acquisition is the biggest problem. - This is a bigger problem if lap posts are sought to deploy on public locations
* Power - Lamp posts are centrally switched off, so small cells on laamp posts may need alternative sources
* Power meter if used in a shared location
* Bullet proof (especially in the US)
* Backhaul - especially is non line of sight case.
* Health concerns (if visible)
* Visual appearance
Operators should be clearer in what they want. Right now the vendors are pushing the solutions that operators not necessarily need and not giving what the operators want. The Backhaul should be more flexible and future proof. It should be able to cater for upcoming technologies like Carrier Aggregation, CoMP, etc.
Shared v/s Dedicated carrier for 3G Small Cells:
Dedicated carrier is ideal but is not easily possible for most operators. When shared carrier is used it causes interference and handovers are not easy.
Interoperability in the new hardware equipment for support of small cells:
Certain vendors are still not creating the the networks that can interwork with other vendors equipment. As we are moving towards LTE, this seems to be a much bigger problem. Sprint for example has 3 completely different networks in the US with no interoperability between them. Standards are not helping either as they do not dictate implementation.
Some Interesting discussions on Case studies, Business Cases, etc.
* Deployed residential Femtocells
* Deployed for coverage purpose
* Dont have handover capability yet
* Want to be able to deploy Microcells/Small Cells on Highways, around 1-2Km radius
* Their typical Microcells use 40W output power
* The cost of deployment if Macro using cabinet, antenna, etc is roughly 100K per site.
Telefonica, O2 trials in UK
* To get access to council lamp posts, it was required that the bidder offer free WiFi
* O2 set a high bar by paying lot of money to the councils in London, but this is not a sustainable model
A Business case for carrier neutral WiFi on light pole in Lima, Peru
* Each light pole can have 3 different locations
* The retail business case is to get the user to usse the offering and maybe offer the operator services, tempting to move to this operator from current one
* There can be a wholesale case of selling the WiFi capacity in bulk to companies, organisations
Some interesting statistics thrown up:
* WiFi cell radius is 30m in South America
* 83% of people in US think that operators should provide free WiFi because of lousy coverage of the mobile network.
* The first 4000 customers of a WiMax operator were using an average of 750 MB per day, 22.5GB per month.
* Some fixed Internet operators are now thinking of putting a cap on unlimited offering at 350GB per month.
There were no consensus and conclusions for many items so feel free to write your opinion in the comments.