Cisco has been providing a form of small cell using unlicensed spectrum to the enterprise market for more than 10 years, and several years ago it started providing licensed femtocells in residences for AT&T. But it was not until last year, with the purchase of Ubiquisys, Intucell and Broadhop, that it got serious about small cells.
With these companies’ small cell solution portfolios now fully integrated into its product line, Cisco is now rolling out new goodies for the wireless industry to feast its eyes upon, according to Lisa Garza, marketing manager.
Cisco’s Wi-Fi engineers worked with its licensed small cell engineers to see how these radios can be made to play well together, not cause interference and be managed as a whole. As a result, Cisco launched an indoor small cell that integrates LTE and WCDMA coverage with carrier-grade Wi-Fi, using the same footprint.
“Several key operators asked us to integrate Wi-Fi with the 3G/4G small cells, in order to get indoor voice coverage and to improve the coverage of the network overall,” Garza said. “The unit provides carrier-grade Wi-Fi with security and 802.11AC along with 3G/4G. It is a Wi-Fi radio that acts like a small cell radio in that it has self-organizing network capabilities and can do interference management.”
At the Mobile World Congress, Cisco announced products that bring its small cell solutions into the LTE era, such as the USC 5416 small cell, which is the LTE version of the USC 5310 3G small cell introduced a year ago.
The USC 5416 follows the multimode trend because it plugs into Cisco’s Aironet 3700, an 802.11AC Wi-Fi access point, to make a dual mode access point.
“We know there is an installed base of a more than a million Aironet 3600 and 3700 Wi-Fi access points already hanging in enterprises today, so we wanted to allow enterprises to upgrade their networks without going through all the expense of replacing products,” Garza said.
Cisco Quantum SON is now fully integrated with our Universal Small Cell portfolio, which provides resilient, automatic operation, with self-installation, self-optimization, and self-healing, even in shared frequency indoor environments.
“We take the centralized SON at the macrocell layer and integrate it with the SON at the small cell layer,” Garza said. “That is the value of bringing the IntuCell and the Ubiquisys teams together; the promise of SON for HetNet.”
Garza reports that customers are asking for multi-operator small cells. In an in-building deployment, only every fourth Wi-Fi access point needs a small cell integration, so Cisco is trialing a network in which each of four carriers can integrate into a fourth Wi-Fi access node.