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Wireless Infrastructure Newsletter

Qualcomm gears up for 'hyper-dense' networks March 26 2014

By Caroline Gabriel, Research Director, Maravedis-Rethink

Public access small cell deployments may still be limited in number and scope, but with the technology set to gain scale this year, industry players are already looking at ways to push it further to help hold back the deluge of mobile data. One of the emerging buzz-phrases is 'hyper-dense networking', taking the number and performance of small cells to new levels.

If forecasters are right and data traffic increases by about 1,000 times in the coming decade, the equivalent in terms of bits per second per square kilometer is very challenging. As the IEEE puts it in a recent publication: "The innovations through higher utilization of the spectrum and utilization of more bandwidth are quite limited: spectral efficiency of a point-to-point link is very close to the theoretical limits, and utilization of more bandwidth is a very costly solution in general. Hyper-dense deployment of heterogeneous and small cell networks that increase cells per square kilometer is a very promising technique."

Of course, this is also a very complex option in terms of managing interference, driving down cell site costs and securing backhaul. But there is already intense discussion of how hyper-density might be achieved. Most of this remains just talk, but Qualcomm – on the rampage in metrocells after a hesitant start- is showing off how the approach might work in reality.

The chip giant, never averse to a bold demonstration, is claiming the densest network ever constructed in a working environment, equating to 1,000 cells per square kilometer (a neat figure given that Qualcomm's ongoing marketing campaign revolves around the '1,000x Data Challenge'). It has put the trial together for Sprint's TDD technology, working with Airspan, the WiMAX specialist that has evolved into a small cell vendor with heavy emphasis on self-organization and integrated backhaul.

That approach fits well with Qualcomm's own, given the giant's acquisition of small cell access/backhaul chip firm DesignArt and its own UltraSon software. All these elements are in play in the two-day trial at the Nascar Speedway in Phoenix, Arizona, which is phase two of Sprint's ongoing tests of "hyper-dense small cell networks" for the 2.5GHz TDD airwaves it acquired with Clearwire. The Clearwire build-out will be an important element of Sprint's multiband, multimode LTE services, its high frequencies and unpaired spectrum providing the capacity to outperform Verizon and AT&T in areas of high data demand, and to enable Sprint to hang on to one of its few remaining differentiators, unlimited data plans.

Nascar tracks have been symbolic demonstration venues for Sprint since the Nextel push-to-talk days and the carrier sponsors the car race series. Such events put advanced technologies through their paces with a heavy concentration of fans combined with challenging RF conditions. This trial is running on Airspan's AirSynergy 2000 Pico Base Stations, which support various features of LTE-Advanced including carrier aggregation, and are powered by Qualcomm's chipsets and its UltraSON software.

Qualcomm is claiming various good results from its two-phase trial. In phase one, conducted in November, it said UltraSON was seen to improve data speed and quality but also reduce signalling load significantly. In phase two, the emphasis was on measuring the capacity gains from small cells, compared to existing macrocells, and on analyzing the user experience.

SVP Dan Rabinovitsj said in a statement: "This trial of a hyper-dense small cell network allowed us to showcase how our silicon and software solutions, including UltraSON software, improve the aggregate throughput of a cellular network, and reduce frequent handovers and signaling load to the core network."

"Nascar is one of the most challenging environments for wireless data delivery due to a highly dynamic wireless environment and very high demand for data capacity," said Steve Worling, senior director of IT for the organization. "We are constantly evaluating next generation technology that can enable better on-track experiences for our fans and teams. Small cells are compelling given their low installation costs, modest physical footprint and potential to relieve the pressure put on the macro networks during the race from data hungry fans."

Public access small cell deployments may still be limited in number and scope, but with the technology set to gain scale this year, industry players are already looking at ways to push it further to help hold back the deluge of mobile data. One of the emerging buzz-phrases is 'hyper-dense networking', taking the number and performance of small cells to new levels.

If forecasters are right and data traffic increases by about 1,000 times in the coming decade, the equivalent in terms of bits per second per square kilometer is very challenging. As the IEEE puts it in a recent publication: "The innovations through higher utilization of the spectrum and utilization of more bandwidth are quite limited: spectral efficiency of a point-to-point link is very close to the theoretical limits, and utilization of more bandwidth is a very costly solution in general. Hyper-dense deployment of heterogeneous and small cell networks that increase cells per square kilometer is a very promising technique."

Of course, this is also a very complex option in terms of managing interference, driving down cell site costs and securing backhaul. But there is already intense discussion of how hyper-density might be achieved. Most of this remains just talk, but Qualcomm – on the rampage in metrocells after a hesitant start- is showing off how the approach might work in reality.

The chip giant, never averse to a bold demonstration, is claiming the densest network ever constructed in a working environment, equating to 1,000 cells per square kilometer (a neat figure given that Qualcomm's ongoing marketing campaign revolves around the '1,000x Data Challenge'). It has put the trial together for Sprint's TDD technology, working with Airspan, the WiMAX specialist that has evolved into a small cell vendor with heavy emphasis on self-organization and integrated backhaul.

That approach fits well with Qualcomm's own, given the giant's acquisition of small cell access/backhaul chip firm DesignArt and its own UltraSon software. All these elements are in play in the two-day trial at the Nascar Speedway in Phoenix, Arizona, which is phase two of Sprint's ongoing tests of "hyper-dense small cell networks" for the 2.5GHz TDD airwaves it acquired with Clearwire. The Clearwire build-out will be an important element of Sprint's multiband, multimode LTE services, its high frequencies and unpaired spectrum providing the capacity to outperform Verizon and AT&T in areas of high data demand, and to enable Sprint to hang on to one of its few remaining differentiators, unlimited data plans.

Nascar tracks have been symbolic demonstration venues for Sprint since the Nextel push-to-talk days and the carrier sponsors the car race series. Such events put advanced technologies through their paces with a heavy concentration of fans combined with challenging RF conditions. This trial is running on Airspan's AirSynergy 2000 Pico Base Stations, which support various features of LTE-Advanced including carrier aggregation, and are powered by Qualcomm's chipsets and its UltraSON software.

Qualcomm is claiming various good results from its two-phase trial. In phase one, conducted in November, it said UltraSON was seen to improve data speed and quality but also reduce signalling load significantly. In phase two, the emphasis was on measuring the capacity gains from small cells, compared to existing macrocells, and on analyzing the user experience.

SVP Dan Rabinovitsj said in a statement: "This trial of a hyper-dense small cell network allowed us to showcase how our silicon and software solutions, including UltraSON software, improve the aggregate throughput of a cellular network, and reduce frequent handovers and signaling load to the core network."

"Nascar is one of the most challenging environments for wireless data delivery due to a highly dynamic wireless environment and very high demand for data capacity," said Steve Worling, senior director of IT for the organization. "We are constantly evaluating next generation technology that can enable better on-track experiences for our fans and teams. Small cells are compelling given their low installation costs, modest physical footprint and potential to relieve the pressure put on the macro networks during the race from data hungry fans."

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