Challenge: Transforming Small Cell Architecture
The expansion and evolution of cellular networks over the past few decades has been staggering. Networks originally designed for voice communications have been able to adapt to higher and higher data traffic loads. This growth has traditionally relied on a network of macro cells to balance wireless coverage and capacity.
Smartphones, notebook computers and increasingly tablet computers have driven the rapid development of mobile data services and accelerated the growth of data traffic. In many high-density places, macro base station networks have been unable to meet the needs of users. Introducing LTE to a macro network can only provide limited and short-lived help, as traffic grows faster than it can handle the incremental capacity.
While macro networks will continue to provide basic wide-area coverage and support for high-mobility subscribers, operators have begun to look for other solutions to increase capacity in high-traffic areas. Wi-Fi offload is the most widely and successfully adopted solution in cities, airports, and stadiums where user density is high and demand is high. At the same time, operators are also exploring more solutions, such as home base stations, to increase cellular coverage and capacity in residential areas; small cell underlays, to cope with high capacity densities and complement and enhance them Wi-Fi and macro deployments.
There is no single product or technology that can carry the current and future growth of data traffic, and the synergy of multiple solutions is the general trend. The biggest challenge for mobile operators is not which solution to choose, but how to integrate various technologies, how to find a balance to maximize their cumulative benefits, and how to leverage existing assets to facilitate network evolution.
Operators need a long-term, multi-step strategic development blueprint to increase RAN capacity density and meet the needs of users in high-traffic areas for data services. Wi-Fi technology serves for mobile data offload and is one of the most efficient and economical methods. Based on Wi-Fi, operators can rapidly increase capacity and successfully meet the challenges of high-density areas.
In the long run, mobile operators can obtain secondary capacity improvements through LTE small cells, and reduce costs and complexity through Wi-Fi access point positioning, shared venue lease agreements and backhaul. The integration of Wi-Fi and LTE small cells can help operators optimize network utilization on the RAT, provide users with better performance and create a seamless composite RAT experience.
Beyond macrocellular networks
Today, macrocellular networks typically provide network coverage over the entire mobile operator coverage area. The conventional solution to increase capacity is to put more base station units in the same area. This method works for a certain period of time, but for various reasons, the return it can get decreases with the increase of traffic. Thus, any attempt to increase capacity by increasing the number of cells becomes increasingly expensive, yielding small marginal improvements.
To provide enough capacity growth to handle the explosion in mobile network bandwidth demands, we need a new approach. The premise of this approach is to use low-power, short-range devices, that is, Wi-Fi access points or 4G small cell devices that are densely deployed closer to users.
Small Cells: Meeting the Challenge
Small cell deployments are one of the most popular long-term strategies for mobile operators around the world, as they enable short-term content increases, as well as the flexibility and compact form factor required to accommodate highly localized deployments in high-traffic environments. However, when planning a small cell underlay network to help operators maximize new network revenue and control costs, there are still several challenges to address:
? Fixed-installed assets: A large number of nodes are required, and typical small cells are not installed on telecom assets like cell towers that operators are accustomed to managing or leasing.
? Increased operating costs: Although the equipment and installation costs of a small cell are relatively low compared to macro cell modules, the total cost of installing and maintaining a dense small cell network is still considerable due to its many locations .
? Seek a flexible form: Small cell location sites usually have strict restrictions on equipment specifications, power supply, and availability, and are difficult to guarantee. As a result, a flexible, compact, low-power form factor can greatly speed up deployment and reduce installation and operating costs.
Massive Backhaul: A backhaul solution is needed that is well suited for dense urban environments and near-Earth devices.
Integration with the core of the cellular network: The underlying network of the small cell must be fully integrated with the EPC and support SON, allowing operators to view and manage user data traffic, support mobility management, mitigate interference, and implement unified policies across different RAT networks.
Wi-Fi: LTE small cells, an easy upgrade
Most mobile operators no longer see Wi-Fi offloading and small cells as competing solutions. They realize that both play an important role in composite RAT, multi-layer cellular networks ranging from macro base stations to residential femtocells.
Once mobile operators have Wi-Fi offloading infrastructure in place, most of the work in implementing LTE small cells has already been done. Coupled with early Wi-Fi "enclosures", it can already stay ahead of competitors without Wi-Fi offload, offering a license-based Wi-Fi access point and small cell site with power, back-up A network of pass and lease agreements. Having the right to install small cells is the key to reducing installation and operating costs and the number of installations. Ruckus SCG provides a platform that can co-manage small cells and Wi-Fi access points. The Smart Mesh backhaul network is ready to support LTE small cells as well as Wi-Fi access points.
To take advantage of existing Wi-Fi offloading facilities, the small cell must have a form factor compact enough to fit in the location of the Wi-Fi access point, either as an add-on module or as a stand-alone unit, which is easy to install and replace, supports SON features and is fully integrated with EPC supporting LTE macro networks.
Over the years, Ruckus has gained the necessary experience building self-organizing Wi-Fi solutions, including auto-configuration, auto-optimization, and auto-healing. This early experience gives Ruckus a strong competitive and time-to-market advantage, adding strong support for unified Wi-Fi offload and LTE small cell solutions.
Wi-Fi and LTE complement each other to help operators solve growing traffic challenges
While macro networks are still necessary to cover and support highly mobile users, they are no longer able to provide the required capacity increase, even with LTE deployments. To ensure effective management of expected traffic loads and increase capacity density in high-traffic urban areas, most mobile operators are deploying or planning to deploy Wi-Fi access points and 4G small cell underlay networks. Small base stations are closer to users in a smaller range and can provide higher capacity density than macro base stations. Increasingly, Wi-Fi will coexist with the LTE underlay, and both will play an important role in operators' long-term data strategies.
Not only can Wi-Fi and LTE operate together, but crucially, they can complement each other in a comprehensive deployment strategy that leverages next-generation wireless, spectrum technologies and the lowest TCO to provide maximum capacity growth.
The initial deployment of an IEEE 802.11n Wi-Fi offload solution that can provide an immediate capacity boost for mobile operators is available for most data-centric devices in the hands of users. But just as important, mobile operators can build on the Wi-Fi infrastructure platform a network of sites that can be shared by Wi-Fi and LTE small cells, enabling long-term data strategies. Once they decide to roll out LTE small cells, operators can simply add an LTE small module to their Wi-Fi access points to share lease fees and backhaul capacity.
The Ruckus solution goes beyond typical Wi-Fi coverage to provide a Wi-Fi offload solution with unmatched wireless performance, carrier-grade scalability, and flexible management options. Today, it provides operators with powerful tools to fully integrate the Wi-Fi and LTE underlay with the macro core to optimize the utilization of network resources and provide their subscribers with smooth and seamless composite RAT, multi-layer network connectivity .