Our recent case study of the City of London highlighted how urban small cells deployed at street level are becoming a viable solution for busy metropolitan areas. Nokia have also been active in New York and other US cities, where densification is essential to maintain high performance and customer satisfaction. We review a Nokia case study for a major US network.
Traffic growth isn’t just forecast – it’s here today
Data consumption continues to increase and shows little sign of abating. Our recent survey of cellular traffic reports and forecasts provides increased granularity about the types of traffic and associated peak times of day.
Storing/backup traffic (such as your smartphone’s photos) peaks in late in the night (6am) while streaming and gaming are evening activities. Most cellular data is now LTE (69%), video (60%) and quite fast (6.8Mbps average). There is less of a distinct busy hour of traffic demand and a more constant high level of demand throughout the day.
Customer expectations remain high and operators continue to innovate to keep up with demand.
Nokia believes that a combination of optimisation of existing sites and densification with small cells provides the best business case. Optimisation involved making best use of spectrum assets and the latest LTE features. Densification related to rolling out an underlying layer of small cells at street level.
New York, New York
One major US operator was concerned about falling customer satisfaction levels in major cities and engaged Nokia to resolve the problem.
An initial trial to prove their approach works was conducted in Manhattan, New York.
A total of 192 Nokia FlexiZone Micro and MiniMacro small cells were installed to serve the street level. These are compact and lightweight enough to be suitable for mounting on light-poles, yet fully functional with feature parity and similar processing capacity of smaller macrocells. The maximum 2x5W RF power is more than enough when installed in such a dense configuration, but in some cases, the operator preferred the macro-like 2x20W of the Flexi Zone MiniMacro to cover from the outside, important buildings like large shops, hotel lobbies, tourist locations, etc.
Having interviewed several fibre companies in the past, I would have expected dedicated fibre runs to each small cell installation. While that is possible (and some operators to prefer that choice bearing in mind a future 5G upgrade with high backhaul bandwidth requirements) this can add significant cost and deployment time compared to wireless alternatives.
Nokia were able to use many of the existing rooftop macrocell sites as backhaul hubs for the new small cell installations. This speeded up the project timescale considerably, and does not preclude upgrading any site to fibre in the future.
Replicated across 30 key cities nationwide
This first trial proved so successful, propelling the operator to the number 1 place in terms of average datarate in New York City, that the approach has been copied in many major cities across the US, with more to follow.
Measureable results have been very good. San Francisco average download speeds were 35 Mbps compared with an industry average of just 22 Mbps.
While the exact configuration may not match every city worldwide, the proof of Nokia’s approach can be found in the improved measurable customer satisfaction levels. Inevitably that feeds through to the bottom line.
Download the full case study on this approach from Nokia’s website