This week's Small Cell Global Congress in Berlin attracted some 150 delegates, and is a smaller event than the similarly titled Small Cell World Summit in London. The major focus was on metrocells, but there were contrasting views on the urgency of the need for adoption. We also heard case studies about residential femtocells, 2G off-grid rural small cells in Indonesia and new commercial models for wholesale metrocell hosting. Backhaul for the last mile (or few hundred metres) to connect public access metrocells was also a hot topic for debate. There were lots of questions asked, many viewpoints presented, and several areas where there wasn't a clear consensus answer.
Avren's HetNet Europe conference, formerly known as the Bath Basestation Conference, attracts a fairly technical crowd who are dealing at the sharp end with the issues of mobile radio networks. A tremendous range of information is covered, both during the presentations and the offline networking, of which I've covered only a sample below. While few would dispute the growing trend of mobile data traffic (although some do and did), I sensed that most European operators seem set to deploy a combination of UMTS900, Wi-Fi offload and 3G small cells before embarking on heavy investment in LTE. From a technical viewpoint, today's biggest challenge appears to be figuring out cost-effective backhaul for public access outdoor small cells. Otherwise, we saw new business models and players entering the fray, offering to solve the logistical and practical problems of how to scale up and deploy large numbers of small cells when you don't have the CAPEX budget, staff or systems in place to do so.
Several analysts have published reports with their estimates and forecast of small cell shipments recently. Some were released quietly, and others with strong headlines. We’ve looked behind the hype and spoken to a few people in the industry to come up with a considered view.
China Mobile now seems to be recognizing that it can't solve its data capacity demand issues through macrocells alone. With a low takeup of their 3G service (less than 10% of subscribers), the strain on their huge GSM network is taking its toll. As with many other network operators elsewhere, their strategic plan involves a combination of 2G, 3G, 4G and Wi-Fi but critically, they recognize that small cells have an essential role to play and have been moving forward with trials and deployments.
The annual jamboree for the small cell industry continues to evolve and grow organically. This year's event didn't just have a new name (no longer Femtocell World Summit), it had quite a different feel about it. There has been a substantial groundswell of opinion change from operators in the last six months. LTE, Wi-Fi, Policy Management alone won't be enough to meet their own data traffic forecasts, and everyone is now very serious about deploying substantial numbers of small cells.
As before, Avren have their own style of running the event which attracts all the key players, enables extensive networking and delivers truly great content. It's also quite enjoyable too.
Apologies for the somewhat lengthy report here (which still didn't do justice to the range and depth of information discussed). Apologies to all those I've been unable to mention below. I'll follow up on many aspects included and excluded in the weeks ahead.
More Articles ...
- Wi-Fi has limits that small cells can capitalize on
- LTE Operator Mindshare on Small Cells
- Small Cells in Latin America
- Verizon Wireless to deploy small cells, already short of LTE spectrum
- Small Cell roundup from Mobile World Congress 2012
- Some thoughts on Mindspeed acquisition of Picochip femtocell chip design business
- Large growth in femtocell shipment numbers is not materialising
- 2011 Femtocell End of Year Report Card
- Radisys see growth in dual mode 3G/LTE femtocells and small cells
- Spotlight on ip.access femtocell and their small cell solutions
- Will SFR break the mould of residential femtocell rollouts?
- Googlemaps and femtocells
- BBC 3G coverage finds gaps - Are femtocells the right solution?
- Taqua acquires Tatara Systems
- Femtocells and The Village Pump
- Will Apple IOS 5 generate greater demand for femtocells?
- Illiad plans Free Mobile France will launch with free femtocells
- The Five Femtocell Ecosystems
- RadiSys acquires femtocell software supplier Continuous Computing – What are the Implications?
- Femtocells restore mobile service after natural disasters