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Five ways to deploy small cells and the implications for backhaul

20 August 2012

Five ways to deploy small cells and the implications for backhaul
It seems now that the mobile industry is convinced that small cells will be rolled out in great numbers to help operators keep up with the insatiable appetite for mobile broadband. 

There does however still seem to be less clarity on how the small cells will be deployed in practice.

Will they just be deployed at specific demand hot-spots to ease congestion, or will they be liberally peppered over entire cities to provide a general capacity uplift? 

Small cells are also being touted as a low cost solution for coverage not-spots, both in remote rural locations and deep indoors where macrocell signals cannot reach. 

Another option is of course to hand out plug-and-play femtocells to consumers and enterprises and let them decide where best to put them. 

Since small cell rollouts are in their infancy, we can’t say for sure which of the above approaches is the best – and in all likelihood, a mixture of different styles will be used depending on the particular needs of an area. 

As with learning any new skill, we must start by breaking it down into individual tactics before we can combine them together into one fluid strategy.

Backhaul is another great unknown, with 56% of operators citing it as one of the biggest challenges for outdoor small cells in a recent informa survey

At CBNL we have spent the last few years thinking through this problem with our customers and in industry alliances with the NGMN and Small Cell Forum.


Having considered the five deployment styles mentioned above, we see that each one has different implications on the backhaul. 

For example, when deploying to improve coverage, backhaul capacity can be relaxed, but link availability (up-time) must be as good as for macrocells.

The reverse is true for small cells deployed for capacity which have existing macrocell coverage as a backup.

Understanding how requirements differ helps to identify the best types of backhaul solution for the different deployment approaches.

The decision tree diagram below summarises the different ways of deploying small cells, the implications for backhaul and the types of backhaul solution which are most appropriate in each case. 

If you’re interested to find out more on how deployment styles impact the backhaul, you can read all about it in our recently published whitepaper “Small cell deployment strategies and best practice backhaul

Small cell deploment strategies

Categories: 5G FWA Blog

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