Small Cell, Big Growth

According to the Dell’Oro Group, mobile Radio Access Network (RAN) LTE equipment is forecast to grow at a compound annual growth rate of more than 50 percent over the next five years. The public access small cell market is expected to generate significant revenues in the outer years of the forecast period and account for nine percent of all RAN revenues in 2016. Overall Wireless LAN market revenues are forecast to reach almost $10 billion in 2016, an increase of 54% over 2011 revenues, according to Dell’Oro Group.

Small cell networks, with seamless roaming and offloading to public WiFi, may be among the fastest growing segment.

Carrier-grade Wi-Fi networking company Ruckus Wireless, estimates that 36 percent of Internet traffic is being delivered over Wi-Fi today. By 2015, Wi-Fi could be responsible for 46 percent of traffic, with less than 10 percent being delivered over cellular networks. Their adaptive antenna Beamforming can avoid interference while ChannelFly can change the channel in real time to find one with the best capacity.

Their SmartCell Gateway is a Wi-Fi controller supports 10,000 access points and is scalable to support hundreds of thousands. It lets the Wi-Fi network be interfaced to the mobile core using Hotspot 2.0 which allows subscribers to uses the same authentication for seamless roaming between Wi-Fi and cellular networks. It can support the entire PCCW hotspot network or the KDDI hotspot network, which has 100,000 access points.

Ericsson bought BelAir Networks for an undisclosed sum in February for its carrier-grade Wi-Fi equipment. BelAir’s strand-mounted gear for cable operators feature both WiFi and microcellular radios and use the cable for backhaul.

The 802.11ac standard, defined for the capacity-rich 5GHz spectrum (with a usable bandwidth of 160-420 MHz), introduced a number of new techniques like advanced modulation and encoding, multi-user MIMO, beamforming and channel bonding, that has the potential to dramatically increase Wi-Fi capacity.

Wireless backhaul will be used in most microcells, but operators will have to pick the best solution for each small cell. And this is where the uncertainty lies, says researcher Monica Paolini. She thinks sub-6 GHz will provide non-line-of-sight, point-to-multipoint architecture, while millimeter-wave (60 GHz and e-band) will require line of sight and point-to-point architecture. LTE-A relays may have the best approach of all, using a time-division slot in the main channel so a separate radio is not required.

In 2011, up to 90 percent of all tablets sold in the United States still relied on Wi-Fi, rather than on 3G or 4G LTE. PC World has 10 ways to get the most from your Wi-Fi-only tablet.

Posted by Sam Churchill on .

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