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Today’s Mobile Network Expansion, and "Small Cells".

Apr 01, 2016

Today’s Mobile Network Expansion, and

With today's mobile network expansion challenges it is important to employ a wide range of tools available to address the wide range of problems associated with implementing today's mobile network expansion projects.

In 1964, Abraham Kaplan worded the popular phrase, "Give a boy a hammer and he will decide that everything he comes upon needs a pounding". It was Abraham Maslow who modified the wording in 1966 to, "If a hammer is all you have, everything looks like a nail". This concept is commonly referred to as, "Maslow's Hammer". It means over-relying on a tool one is familiar with. What does this phrase have to do with today's mobile network expansion?

Maslow was trying to point out that we need different tools for different jobs. It meant that if we only had a hammer we would only see problems and their solutions in a very narrow way, because our only possession would be that one single tool - a hammer! Maslow's argument is that we need a wide range of tools to address the wide range of problems we might experience in life.

It seems we're all guilty of taking the approaches or tools that served a purpose previously, and seeking to make them the absolute solution for newer problems or challenges. Therefore, our question can be answered by using today's mobile network expansion as an example. Referring to conversations about "small cells" - Yes, a hammer may be needed, but other tools from the toolkit may also be needed, like a screwdriver, a wrench, and so on.

Perhaps the best approach to the issue of small cells begins by considering the root of the problem, and then determining the most suitable tools to use for each application. The core of the "small cell" conversation is similar to Maslow's Hammer. The reason for this is that everything starts to look very much like a small cell application if all you have is a small cell. But stepping back and looking at the overarching problem reveals that many tools could be considered. However, solutions must justify the investment, perform at top level, and resolve the bigger problems like the following:

  • Site acquisition.
  • How, whilst overcoming issues of space availability, network operators are able to increase capacity through backhaul availability along with densification power.

Possible Solutions to the Problem of Network Densification Include:

  • Using techniques like RF optimization, carrier adds, and more expert techniques including the employment of MIMO technologies and sector splitting to increase the capacity efficiency of current "hot" macro sectors.
  • Applying macros with "shorter" above-ground height antennas (mini macros) with basic remote radio head technology, but in order to meet zoning requirements and for easier concealment they would need to be engineered so that they fit into the shape of a cylinder.
  • Using DAS (Distributed Antenna Systems) to extend both coverage and capacity in indoor and outdoor applications in situations where the best fit would be a multi-technology, multi-frequency, multi-operator application.
  • Using small, low-power radio access nodes to cover specific areas, like hotspots.

Consequently, choosing the best tool actually comes down to assessing individual applications and trying to gauge future state requirements. The first – not so difficult; the second – not easy at all!

There Are Four Primary Considerations Regarding Application.

  • Size of the Capacity.

    How many users do we need to support, in what space, and at what quality level?

  • Physical Considerations.

    What are the size considerations, regulatory and architectural constraints, and allowances for power and backhaul?

  • Implementation Challenges.

    In addition to investment expenses, what are the challenges of time to deployment and solution maturity?.

  • Quality Challenges.

    In addition to interference mitigation, what are the challenges of optimization and network interoperability?

When it comes to future state needs, it is very difficult to predict. What we do know is that the evolution of both technology and application is accelerating at a rapid pace.

According to Cooper's Law of Spectral Efficiency, the highest number of data transactions or voice conversations that can be handled in all useful radio spectrum covering a specific area, doubles each 30-month period. The consensus appears to be that we're growing even faster today, and one wonders how much faster that figure can increase.

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5 comments

  • Scott asks, “Can someone explain to me what’s going on? I keep losing my wireless internet connection, what can I do?” Wireless connections can be tricky because there are so many things that can affect them—where the router is in relation to your devices, the antenna on the router, the age of the router, and your household structure (materials can weaken signals). You can sometimes move the router to a more central location, but what you may need to do is buy a signal booster. This will increase the power of the signal your router pulls in, boosting it throughout the house and likely keeping your signal strong.

    Archie Baxter on
  • It looks like there are some intelligent people on this site. Can someone explain to me what’s going on? I keep losing my wireless internet connection, what can I do?

    Scott Pinkerton on
  • Thanks for the small cell wireless networks tutorial guys. I enjoy reading your blogs to learn about things like small cell architecture, Nokia small cell solutions, and Nokia small cell specifications. It’s like this—I may not be the one installing things, but I will have a better grasp on the available technology (like outdoor small cell and small cell 5g). That means when management starts making decisions I can make an informed opinion.

    Harrison Goulding on
  • There are serious challenges for people with large buildings looking to increase their wireless network and as you mention, there is no “magic bullet” or “one size fits all” approach. Given the complexity of cell phones and the cell phone carriers, there are challenges based on how many people, what type of building you have etc. From what I know, a residential home would need something like a cell phone booster to increase a cell phone signal and make for clear calls, no dropped calls, etc. A large building like a stadium might need the DAS system mentioned, which requires DAS design and installation. That way a large number of customers have access to powerful signals. There are a lot of variables, but a lot of answers too from what I’ve read.

    Billy Nance on
  • Never heard of Kaplan or Maslow but I am stealing both their quotes for personal use. With technology growing at an exponential rate, I don’t know how tech gurus keep up with all the changes or knowing what tools to use. However, the article is crucial because we need those people to know exactly what tools to use and what technology to employ to make life run smoothly. For example, I’ve heard cell phone boosters are great for getting rid of dropped calls and bad reception in certain situations. At the same time, I’ve heard DAS is better for doing the same thing in scenarios where a cell phone booster might not. We need to have the right tool for the right job (as the saying goes).

    Luke Fellows on

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