If anyone knows about small cells, it might be Liu Ju, Director of Huawei’s Small Cell Product Line. China Mobile’s TD-LTE trial, going on now, already has some 20,000 nodes now operational in China, with 200,000 expected by the end of the year. Contrast that with the large carriers in the United States which have roughly 40,000 towers each. interviewed Mr. Ju recently, for his take on small cell deployments:

Firstly, could you give a short recap of Huawei’s view of the small cell market, especially the growing interest in small cells?

For Huawei, small cells are one of the company’s top three wireless strategies, the other two being GigaSite and SingleSON. Small cells are so important, as part of the overall mobile network architecture, we have set up a separate organization to focus on them.

When designing any cellular network, we think a deployment strategy should start from a high power macro cell (typically > 10 W), followed by lower power micro (1 to 10 W), pico (< 1 W) and then femto (20 mW) in that order.

In urban areas, public indoor scenarios, urban streets and city squares are the key small cells application scenarios for high-end users in next few years.

What spectrum is most relevant for small cells?

In busy urban areas, it is capacity rather than range that’s required. In some countries, we are already seeing macro cells deployed very densely: in London every 400 to 500 meters, in China every 200 meters, and in Japan even closer. In this situation, we don’t recommend using lower frequencies (e.g. 700 or 850 MHz) because of the greater interference issues. Instead, we’d expect both 3G and LTE to use higher frequencies, such as 1800 MHz, 2.1 GHz, 2.3 GHz and 2.6 GHz.

What are the key challenges to be addressed before small cells, and especially small cells, become widely adopted? Will small cells be shared between operators?

The key challenges are site acquisition, co-channel HetNet interference control, and backhaul. I discussed earlier the three most critical product features (modular design, beamforming radio, wireless backhaul) that can help solve these challenges.

Competitive pressure will drive widespread deployment during 2013 and from 2014 and the deployment of small cells will blossom. For outdoor scenarios, three to 10 micro cells per macro cell could be deployed.

Related Dailywireless articles include; China Mobile: Go For TD-LTE Launch, Clearwire: On the Hot Zone, Qualcomm Aims for Everything with S4 Processor Family, Clearwire Cuts TD-LTE Deployment, South Korea Completes Nationwide LTE Coverage, Brazilian 4G Auction Raises $1.3B, Huawei LTE 4×4: Goes to 250 Mbps, Clearwire and China Mobile Announce TD-LTE Testing Plan

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