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What is HetNet and why does it matter?

Posted by Darren Willsher on 27th September 2012

Over the last few days we’ve been down in Bristol at the HetNet basestation conference. Now, before those outside of the telecoms industry switch off, a lot of what was discussed is relevant for any of us who use mobile devices, particularly those who want quicker data rates on the go.


Mobile networks are changing; they were set up to deal with voice and texts and now people are downloading videos and using apps all on devices that were simply unimaginable 10 years ago. As a result the networks need to adapt, and that means bringing them closer to the users. So the concept of a HetNet (simplified a bit I’ll admit) is a network with a lot of different aspects and technologies, from Wi-Fi to femtocells and everything in between, all working together seamlessly.

Being closer to the cell means you get quicker data rates and services work better, something that is particularly relevant with the rollout of LTE/4G.

So what’s new?

Across the industry companies are realising just what this means and how different it is from the traditional network architecture. However one thing was clear, consumers ultimately don’t care how they’re accessing the network, they just want services to work. Which is fair enough really.

This is a challenge as simply switching from one Wi-Fi network to another isn’t easy, so when you add in several other radio technologies this gets quite complicated.


The challenge for those in PR and marketing is how to present these changes to subscribers, who ultimately aren’t interested in how it works, despite the fact that the benefits can be substantial.

My colleague Ian wrote an excellent blog explaining just how confusing LTE on its own is thanks to the iPhone 5 launch. So once you add in even more layers of complexity, suffice to say it doesn’t get any easier.

For those at the tech and telecoms end it’s an easier sell, but to consumers there’s going to be a battle between operators as they work out just how to package up their offering and explain it to a mass market.

So now what?

The overall message was that the process needs to be made easier, whether that’s on cost, interoperability or accessibility. The challenge for everyone in the industry is to make this happen.

If you want to see a more detailed write up of the conference then head over to the LinkedIn group.

picture credit

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.