Advances in baseband SoCs and backhaul technologies have plowed the way for small cell deployments.
“There are multiple silicon providers starting to produce second- and even third-gen silicon that gets the efficiencies necessary to get the performance we need in a small power envelop and form factor,” said Mansfield.
“I see a lot of progress in multimode SoCs from several silicon providers who have really accelerated their development time frames to get the technologies on a single chip, leveraging power over Ethernet--especially for indoor cells,” he said.
Vendors with small cell SoCs now include Broadcom, Cavium, Freescale, Mindspeed, Qualcomm and Texas Instruments.
Carriers also have come up to speed on the full portfolio of options for providing backhaul for small cells. The Forum helped with a set of white papers and other documents it calls its Release 1.
The Release 1, focused on home-based femtocells, lays out the various wireless line-of-sight, non-LOS, satellite, wired Ethernet, VDSL, Docsis and optical infrared options, each useful for different deployments. “It takes a tool box,” Mansfield said.
The Forum will publish in early December its Release 2, focused on indoor cells for businesses. A Release 3, planned for early 2014, will describe how to deploy outdoor cells for hot spots and big event venues that need high capacity.
“You have to put together the full package in an easily digestible way so anyone can pick it up,” he said. “Operators that don’t have large staffs can take the lessons from larger operators and overcome obstacles,” he added.
Other groups are filling in other pieces of the still-evolving puzzle. For example, the 3GPP’s Release 12 of LTE—now in progress—“has a tremendous amount of small cell content in it, like how to integrate small cells with macro basestations” Mansfield said.
Other groups are working on standards for building carrier-grade Wi-Fi, integrating Wi-Fi and cellular nets or automating the process of managing small-cell nets. “It’s very encouraging to see the level of cooperation to speed the enhancements we need to the market,” he said, noting the forum recently hosted a meeting of reps from the groups.
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