A flurry of multi-mode, multi-band small cells and chipsets are entering the market, as carriers begin to focus on improving 3G/4G LTE network performance through data offloading, while charting a smooth migration path from 3G to 4G LTE.
“Carriers worldwide are going to demand more small cells, to have absolute control over performance variables and to reduce their costs,” Ted Abrams, wireless consultant, AWI, told the DAS Bulletin.
Purewave launched a multi-mode, multi-band small cell base station this month, intend to providing simultaneous LTE, WCDMA and Wi-Fi coverage or a combination of these technologies chosen by the operator. The Lyra 400 supports up to 128 active users.
“There is a need for multi-mode technology because operators are not likely to invest in a single technology platform for any of their networks,” said Principal Analyst for Informa Telecoms and Media Malik Kamal-Saadi. “The equipment needs to be as future-proof as possible. From the device side, there are several flavors out there. Small cells must be able to support all of these devices, as well. Networks are multi-mode and multi-band, so small cells need to be also.”
Huawei recently jointly won an award for “Best Innovation in Commercial Deployment” with Vodafone Group at the 2013 Small Cell World Summit in London. The award cited a project for a “MetroZone Small Cell Solution [that] enables ‘Smart Cities’ today and in the future.” The deployment used Huawei’s AtomCell, which is a multi-mode (GSM/UMTS/LTE/WiFi) base station with a power level of 10 watts or less. AtomCell Pico and WiFi access points (AP) offload 60 percent of all indoor traffic, according to the company’s web site.
Last fall, Ubiquisys (now owned by CISCO) launched a multi-mode indoor metrocell, the GM7, which runs 4G LTE and 3G HSPA+ simultaneously, as well as Wi-Fi. Software-deﬁned resource allocation allows the operator to tune the balance of 3G and 4G capacity according to changing demand. The GM7 can, therefore, be deployed and remotely upgraded to be 3G-only, 4G-only, or a combination of 3G and 4G.
Ericsson’s multi-mode radio base station, the RBS 6000. supports GSM/ EDGE, WCDMA/HSPA, LTE and CDMA in a single unit. Alcatel-Lucent’s small cells have similar features.
Broadcom introduced multimode, 3G/4G small cell technology in February, using what it called the “industry’s first” dual-mode WCDMA and LTE small cell systems on a chip. On a 20-megahertz channel, the BCM617xx Series supports 4G LTE with full 150 Mbps down link and 50 Mbps uplink and 128 active users, and 32 active 3G WCDMA users with data rates of 42 Mbps in the downlink and 11 Mbps in the uplink. It also supports 4G LTE on a 40 megahertz channel and 256 active users, or 64 active 3G WCDMA users with data rates of 84 Mbps in the downlink and 22 uplink Mbps.
Greg Fischer, Broadcom’s vice president and general manager for broadband carrier access, said, “As mobile operators continue to focus on delivering faster data rates and better quality of service, Broadcom’s dual-mode devices support a seamless transition from 3G to 4G LTE for providers and the consistent, high-performance mobile experience end-users crave.”
Ubiquisys’ GM7 uses Texas Instruments’ TMS320TCI6614 chipset solution and ActiveCell software, which can dynamically balance between 3G and 4G according to demand.
In June, Qualcomm Technologies introduced a family of small cell chipsets, the FSM99xx, which integrates the company’s 3G and 4G technologies and supports advanced 802.11ac/n Wi-Fi in pico, metro and enterprise small cells.
While chipset OEMs are coming up with reference architecture for multi-technology small cells (WCDMA, LTE and Wi-Fi), no one has produced a chipset with both 3GPP technologies (GSM,WCDMA,LTE) and 3GPP2 technologies (CDMA, 1XRTT, EVDO), which is necessary for a neutral host small cell, Manoj Das, director, technology services, Mantra Telecom, told DAS Bulletin.
“Multi-mode, multi-band, multi-technology, multi-protocol small cells would be required for neutral host small cell network,” he said. “That is a far reality at this point of time.”
Multi-band chipsets are here now. But radios, filters and antennas are band specific, according to Abrams.
“Solutions that claim multiple frequency bands need to recalibrate filters and exchange antennas in real time, he said. “The idea is feasible, but not commercial right now.”