Smart Small Cell Deployment Backhaul Efficiencies

One thing I have noticed about the large carriers is that the small cell deployments are planned out very differently. Indoor is one division and outdoor is another division and getting them to work together is frustrating! When you work wireless deployment you are always looking for ways to improve, all of you reading this know that. Let’s add our years of experience to this process.

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Indoor teams and outdoor teams don’t talk much. So why should they? Really, who cares? Well, if they want to maximize their backhaul and limit expenses they will start looking at the deployment system, not the individual cell. What needs to be done is to have synergies working between the small cells locations and how they can be worked together, unfortunately they are not always located close. Location matters, but first, let’s makes a distinction.

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Let’s compare DAS to Small Cell. One big difference between DAS and Small Cell is that the small cell usually stand alone whereas the DAS may include a full BTS or small cell or repeater and even more. DAS systems are more complicated. However, when DAS is installed, there is a clear goal for coverage and loading. When small cell is installed you are usually alleviating a loading or coverage problem based off data you see or to make a customer happy. DAS is a specific solution to serve a specific audience. Small cell is going to be treated as a fill in most cases, for passing traffic. Small cells are usually strategically located to fill holes where DAS will fill one large hole and provide a large solution. DAS is big bucks and small cell is supposed to be cheaper, (which it is right up to the backhaul). They both are made to work together in on beautiful Heterogeneous Network. Het-Net rules!

So where can companies save in the small cell deployment? By sharing the indoor links with the outdoor small cells. If they would plan the deployment of both indoor and outdoor up front they could run the backhaul to the building then be sure to run a wired or fiber link to the roof, or a data room with a window, and shoot it outside to the outdoor links. The bulk of the price is the backhaul, and the wireless backhaul is a great solution, so take advantage of both. Plan ahead and see if you can work the locations together. From the rooftop you may be able to shoot the links to the poles. Find a solution that works best.

This all takes engineering and planning, but I see so many companies are not looking at the deployment holistically. This is where you, the deployment team, should be ready to offer a solution. If you win the bid in a region then show your value by offering them solutions. They may not listen but if you have a better solution, at least volunteer to improve what they have that will save them monthly cost. The upfront cost, (CapEx) may be more but if you can lower the monthly recurring costs, (OpEx), then it may have a reasonable return on investment, (ROI). Another advantage is that wireless links can speed up the deployment until the fiber “right of way” is ready. If that is the case make a point to offer to remove the wireless backhaul so they can use it in future deployments.

Think through the deployment from a high level, and then focus on the specific tasks. One thing that they are doing is adding the full spectrum up front. I don’t really understand the point unless they know it needs to be ready up front. Remember that bandwidth costs money, so let’s be efficient with the option to grow. Whether its fiber or wireless, plan for growth.

I will tell you from experience that small cells are placed for a need, but usually the need is a best guess. This is very different from DAS because there is a predetermined need usually for specific events like a football stadium where you will have heavy loading over a short period of time. Very specific designs for DAS, that is why they are more complicated. Small cells on the other hand usually are there to fill an “offload” need based on statistics, usually per call measurement data, (PCMD), provided from the carrier.

So if there is a need in a building and you can’t hit it from outside, then start inside and work your way out. It is not easy because you need to work site acquisition with the building owner (that is another story), but if you’re already installing equipment there, then take the time to secure roof rights. Use all your assets. Plan ahead to weigh out the costs so when it’s time to deploy you are ready to complete the system inside and out.

OK, it was high level, but I tried to keep it shorter this week and remember to be smart, be safe, and pay attention to what you’re doing. Planning will help you prepare so plan the deployment, plan to be safe, and plan to be successful!

 Tell me, what do you think?? Questions? Agree or disagree?

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