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Small Cell World Summit: Making small boxes bigger

Posted by Darren Willsher on 5th June 2013

It’s the start of Small Cell World Summit, the annual London gathering to discuss all things small cells (who’d have thought it!) and, perhaps more importantly, HetNets.

As I’ve blogged about before, one of the main challenges HetNets face is getting all of their different technologies and protocols to place together nicely.

With this in mind, Qualcomm’s announcement at the show today presented an interesting approach to tackling this problem – combining 3G, LTE and Wi-Fi on a single chip. This follows on from claims made by AT&T earlier this year that they will be able to deploy multimode small cells from as early as next year, as well as demonstrating how tech vendors are managing to squeeze as much as they can into a traditional small cell.

This is really quite important for the industry: a single small box that hosts multiple services is a much more appealing prospect than multiple boxes in multiple locations for any council having to approve planning permission.

The next challenge though, is the one that will really make a difference to the humble subscriber, and that is getting the operators to play nicely with each other.

A different kind of clever small box

Installing a small cell on a streetlight might mean some hassle dealing with council planning departments, but it’s a far cry from the wildly different approach that needs to be taken to install a massive base station on a hill somewhere.

As a result of the ease with which small cells can be rolled out, some operators have already begun signing deals to cover entire boroughs – great news for the operator and its customers, but not so great if you’re on a different network and happen to live there.

This is where the industry needs to work together – and do it sooner rather than later. This has now even more importance than ever, with the upcoming 4G rollout meaning that being closer to a cell has a massive impact on the download speeds you get.

With this in mind it’ll be interesting to see the stories and discussion that come from the event. I strongly recommend anyone with an interest follows #scws2013 on Twitter over the next few days.

Photo courtesy of Tim Hoggarth.

Darren Willsher

Darren has been with Wildfire for six years and is one of the driving forces behind the agency’s telecoms and networking portfolio, with experience working on a range of international, multi-channel accounts including CSR, Picochip (now Mindspeed), Real Wireless, The Small Cell Forum, Samsung and Allied Telesis.