Home » Mobile Internet (Aug’11)

Mobile Internet (Aug’11)

Update: 4G World 2012: The Future of LTE [LightReadingTV YouTube, Nov 2, 2012] (on an Oct 29 – Nov 1 conference “where enterprises and operators met to discuss the state of the art of the mobile enterprise marketplace” [as per the announcement])

A panel on what the next three years will look like: – Simon Stanley, Senior Analyst, Heavy Reading as moderator – Asok Chatterjee, Vice President, Ericsson; Chairman, 3GPP Project Coordination Group – Stephen Turnbull, Division Marketing Manager, Freescale Wireless Access Division, Freescale – Noy Kucuk, Vice President of Marketing, Networking Solutions Group, LSI at 4G World 2012, Oct 29 – Nov 1, Chicago

More information in the post Applying 2-16 cores of ARM Cortex-A15 in ‘2014 vintage’ LSI Axxia SoCs that will power next-generation LTE basestations from macrocells to small cells opening upto 1000 times faster access to the cloud by 2020 [‘Experiencing the Cloud’, March 13, 2013]

Update: Webinar: What is Next for HSPA+? [QUALCOMMVlog YouTube channel, Feb 25, 2013]

We reached a billion connections for the HSPA family in 2012 and Dual-Carrier is now deployed by over 100 operators. So what are the next steps for HSPA+, both in the near and long term? Tune in to this webinar to learn more about HSPA+’s role in 1000x, the dual-Carrier evolution and upcoming commercial progress, voice enhancements, spectrum innovations, and the future HSPA+ evolution.

Update: 586 million LTE smartphones to be shipped globally in 2016, says MIC [DIGITIMES, July 6, 2012]

Global shipments of LTE, either TDD or FDD, terminal devices are on the rise along with increasing deployment of LTE networks around the world, and the global shipment volume of LTE smartphones will keep growing to 586 million units in 2016, the Chinese-language newspaper Economic Daily News (EDN) cited forecasts by the Market Intelligence & Consulting Institute (MIC) under the government-sponsored Institute for Information Industry as indicating.

MIC: Global shipments of LTE terminal devices, 2012-2016 (m units)

LTE smartphones

Other terminal devices (e.g. network interface cards and routers)

2012

64

41

2013

188

69

2014

300

74

2015

440

117

2016

586

154

Source: EDN, compiled by Digitimes, July 2012

Total update on Aug 26, 2011 with a lot of additions to the original July 19, 2010 content on the following subjects:
— LTE and LTE Advanced — HSPA Evolved (parallel to LTE and LTE Advanced) — Heterogeneous networks or HetNets — Femtocells and Picocells — Qualcomm innovations in all that — Ericsson’s LTE Advanced demo — Current roadmaps on evolutions of current 3G+ broadband mobile networks

With that this core information now contains everything needed to understand not only the current state-of-the-art of the 3G+ mobile Internet but also the best possible approximation for the upcoming true 4G (see my note a little later) version of it coming around years 2013-14.

See also:
– all Mobile Internet category posts
especially:
Good TD-LTE potential for target commercialisation by China Mobile in 2012[July 13, 2011] with 5 network infrastructure vendors covered in detail (Huawei, ZTE, Ericsson, Nokia Siemens Networks and Alcatel-Lucent) as well as special emphasis on lightRadio and related QorIQ Qonverge SoCs from Freescale quite essential for Alcatel-Lucent value proposition (also with possibility to “revolutionize” the macro-, pico- and femtocells used today)
IMT-Advanced (4G) for the next-generations of interactive mobile services, China is triumphant [Oct 24, 2010]
“4G” WiMAX vs. 3.75G HSPA+ [July 24, 2010]
3.9G TD-LTE rollout in 2012 with integrated 2G, 3G and 4G? [July 19, 2010]

The system of wireless data standards as per wikipedia [July 19, 2010]:

GPRS, EDGE and 1xRTT are bolt-ons to existing 2G cellular systems, providing Internet access to users of existing 2G networks (it should be noted that technically both EDGE and 1xRTT are 3G standards, as defined by the ITU, but are generally deployed on existing networks.) 3G systems such as EV-DO, W-CDMA (including HSDPA and HSUPA) provide combined circuit switched and packet switched data and voice services as standard, usually at better data rates than the 2G extensions. All of these services can be used to provide combined mobile phone access and Internet access at remote locations. Typically GPRS and 1xRTT are used to provide stripped down, mobile phone oriented, Internet access, such as WAP, multimedia messaging, and the downloading of ring-tones, whereas EV-DO and HSDPA’s higher speeds make them suitable for use as a broadband replacement. …

ITU World Radiocommunication Seminar highlights future communication technologies [ITU, Dec 6, 2010]

A highlight of these activities has been the recent decision of the ITU regarding the platform for the next generations of mobile broadband telecommunications, known as IMT-Advanced.

Following a detailed evaluation against stringent technical and operational criteria, ITU has determined that “LTE-Advanced” and “WirelessMAN-Advanced” should be accorded the official designation of IMT-Advanced. As the most advanced technologies currently defined for global wireless mobile broadband communications, IMT-Advanced is considered as “4G”, although it is recognized that this term, while undefined, may also be applied to the forerunners of these technologies, LTE and WiMax, and to other evolved 3G technologies providing a substantial level of improvement in performance and capabilities with respect to the initial third generation systems now deployed. The detailed specifications of the IMT-Advanced technologies will be provided in a new ITU-R Recommendation expected in early 2012.

Note [Aug 26, 2011]: Although ITU is rather permissive about the usage of 4G term I will take a more strict position here and throughout my trend-tracking blog. So LTE Release 8 and 9 I will call 3.9G as well as all the HSPA Evolved beyond current Release 8 HSPA+ and DO Advanced beyond current EV-DO Revision B. Therefore Release 5 of HSPA (HSDPA) as well as Release 6 of HSPA (HSUPA) I will call 3.5G, and Release 7 and Release 8 of HSPA (HSPA+) 3.75G. Consequently I will use the 4G term in true sense only, i.e. related to the above mentioned IMT-Advanced in general and LTE Advanced in particular.

In fact there are two families of mobile Internet standards: 3GPP and 3GPP2. The 3GPP family has more market share than the 3GPP2 as a consequence of the market share differences of the corresponding mobile phone standards. For the 3.5G and 3.75G mobile broadband connections these two families are simply called the HSPA family and the EV-DO family. It has been forecasted [Jan 2010] that at least in this decade these two families will determine the mobile broadband adoption scene with the 3.9 LTE just starting (chart generated from source data included in the slide #4 of How to meet data demand? presentation from Qualcomm):

One should note, however, that:
– for TD-SCDMA the actual end of 2009 and H1 2010 numbers are already higher than that of the forecast numbers (see the chart on my OPhone OS (OMS) 2.0 based on Android 2.1 [July 5] infonugget)
– TD-LTE might be moving ahead by 2 years as per my 3.9G TD-LTE rollout in 2012 with integrated 2G, 3G and 4G? [July 19] infonugget
– TD-LTE will also be used much more widely than has been expected so far because it is definitely winning against the competitive WiMAX technology: see my WiMAX/WiBro <=> TD-LTE and LTE in general [June 28] and Intel dismisses WiMAX Program Office [July 1] infonuggets

Therefore both the TD-SCDMA and LTE numbers could be significantly higher than in the above forecast.

Wireless Intelligence has also reported Global mobile connections surpass 5 billion milestone [July 8] in which overall WCDMA and CDMA families, as well as GSM and Other numbers are given for H1 2010. This shows that while from the above mobile broadband forecast the sum of HSPA and EV-DO families would be somewhat around 340M worldwide for H1 2010, it is just 30.9% of the 1.1B WCDMA+CDMA families’ connections, not to speak of just being 6.8% of mobile connections globally (of the 5B).

Therefore it is still a lot to go in using Internet with mobile connections, even more with mobile broadband connections. It is even true for the most developed geographies (see both the chart and the data below):

Back to the wireless data standards wikipedia page: one can find there, among others, a table based overview and throughput information, but a wikipedia link directory at the very end is providing an even better presentation of this system of standards.

It is worth to copy here that link directory since it also provides direct access to the relevant wikipedia articles:

2G transitional
(2.5G, 2.75G)
GSM/3GPP family
HSCSD · GPRS · EDGE/EGPRS (UWC-136)
3GPP2 family
CDMA2000 1xRTT (TIA/EIA/IS-2000) · 1XAdvanced
Other
3G (IMT-2000)
3GPP family
3GPP2 family
CDMA2000 1xEV-DO Release 0 (TIA/IS-856)
3G transitional
(3.5G, 3.75G, 3.9G)
3GPP family
3GPP2 family
CDMA2000 1xEV-DO Revision A (TIA/EIA/IS-856-A) · EV-DO Rev. B (TIA/EIA/IS-856-B) · DO Advanced
IEEE family
4G (IMT-Advanced)
3GPP family
IEEE family
5G
Research concept, not under formal development

If one wants to understand that within the whole mobile Internet landscape than go to the overview section of wikipedia article Comparison of wireless data standards.

Related wikipedia articles:
Cellular networks · Cellular network theory · Mobile telephony · History · List of standards · Comparison of standards · Channel access methods · Spectral efficiency comparison table · Cellular frequencies · GSM frequency bands · UMTS frequency bands · Mobile broadband · NGMN Alliance

What is not properly represented in the wikipedia articles above is the evolution of the mobile internet technologies in general and their releationship to the LTE in particular. For that let’s see first a January 2010 view of this subject just in terms of HSPA and LTE families: LTE Advanced [Benefits] [Qualcomm, overall a May 2010 presentation, but the slide below is of Jan 2010]:

Here one can see that in terms of downlink speeds with the release 10 of HSPA+ the HSPA family has been projected to achieve 168 Mbps which is higher than the peak rate of LTE Relase 8 downlink. Also the peak rate of release 9 HSPA+ is higher than the minimum peak rate of the LTE Relase 8 downlink.

For the current state with operators we have the following July 2011 numbers from GSA(The Global mobile Suppliers Association):
– for the HSPA family:

see: Chart: Commercial HSPA and HSPA+ networks data speeds [July 26, 2011]
as well as:
Global HSPA+ Network Commitments: 136 HSPA+ commercial networks, including 39 DC-HSPA+ (42 Mbps) [July 18, 2011]
HSPA Network Operator Commitments: 410 HSPA commercial networks, 162 countries – lists and analysis [July 18, 2011]

– for LTE:
see: Map: Worldwide LTE network commitments, launches and trials [July 6, 2011]
– GSA Chart – Regional distribution of 166 LTE network commitments — 12-July-2011

see: Chart: 218 Operator Investments in LTE: all network commitments and trials [July 6, 2011]
as well as:
Evolution to LTE report confirms 218 operators investing in LTE; 24 commercial networks [July 6, 2011]

For the evolution from the current situation we have an overall Qualcomm slide from their latest LTE Advanced presentation [Qualcomm, August 2010, but the slide below is of June 20, 2011]:

Relative to the one and a half years earlier projection presented earlier here we can see that while the release 8 LTE went into wide commercial use in 2011 this did not happen to the  release 9 of HSPA+. In other words the first version of LTE is generally overlapping with the same release of HSPA+ in wide commercial deployments which speedwise means 72 Mbps vs. 42 Mbps in the current downlink peak speeds, and 36 Mbps vs. 11 Mbps in the current uplink peak speeds.

In addition release 10 of LTE (LTE Advanced) is now projected for wide commercial introduction to start at the same time as release 10 of HSPA+, i.e. in H2 of 2013, just 2 years away. However the LTE family then will have up to 1 Gbps download speed and 375+ Mbps uplink speed while the HSPA family “just” 168 Mbps peak download speed and 23 Mbps uplink speed — a huge difference!

Indeed Ericsson demonstrated the viability of the LTE Advanced technology to regulators in Stockholm in June 2011 with 8×8 MIMO and 3×20 MHz (60 MHz aggregated) delivering close to 1 Gbps in downlink. See Test Driving LTE Advanced in Stockholm [June 27, 2011]:

see also: LTE Advanced: mobile broadband up to 10 times faster [Ericsson press release, June 28, 2011] where it is stated

The first stages of LTE Advanced are expected to be in commercial operation in 2013.

The enhancements introduced with LTE Advanced include carrier aggregation and extended multiple-input, multiple-output (MIMO) functionality. From a user perspective, this means that information can be retrieved and sent much faster, even when the network is congested. This, in combination with the faster speeds, improves the user experience significantly.

Note as well that “LTE Leverages new, wider and unpaired spectrum” which is leading to very obvious consequence that for LTE deployment mobile operators should obtain new spectrum licences. This is also the reason why they still need to evolve their HSPA or EV-DO family networks (if no spectrum is available for them).

Another factor heavily influencing the LTE introduction is the data traffic growth in coming years. In the January 2011 UMTS Forum Report 44 on Mobile traffic forecasts 2010- 2020 [May, 2011] the main changes compared to 2005 findings of a similar kind of report are summarized as:

  • Mobile penetration rates
  • The smartphone impact
  • New devices: tablets & other connected devices
  • Evolution of the mobile value chain

Share of smartphones in mobile shipments, 2010-2014 forecast

The magnitude of change from 2005 findings could be best demonstrated when we compare the 2010 statements regarding the voice and data with their 2005 counterparts:

  • Voice was overtaken by data at the end of 2009. Voice traffic growth should remain limited compared to traffic growth from 2010 to 2020. [2010]
    vs.
    Voice will stay the predominant service: In 2012, voice (simple and rich) is still the first service category in terms of daily traffic volumes. Simple voice duration will remain flat in both consumer and business segments. However, total call duration will be higher in 2020 than in 2012 thanks to the increase of rich voice and VoIP calls. [2005]
    vs.
    Data is the n°1 service category at the beginning of 2010 in terms of traffic generated on mobile networks. [2010]


Mobile traffic as a function of mobile Internet enablers

  • As a conclusion, total worldwide mobile traffic will reach more than 127 EB in year 2020, representing a  33 times increase compared with 2010 figure.

So called heterogeneous networks or HetNets are essential for coping with such demand increases besides faster technologies like LTE. In Heterogeneous Networks [June 8, 2011] Anders Furuskär from Ericsson Research explains the concept:

Heterogeneous networks are an attractive means of expanding mobile network capacity. A heterogeneous network is typically composed of multiple radio access technologies, architectures, transmission solutions, and base stations of varying transmission power.

Qualcomm’s LTE Advanced video [Feb 10, 2011] is shedding light on how such enormous increases in the speed and traffic capacity demands would be met with the upcoming 4G/LTE Avanced mobile Internet technology by relying on HetNets as well:

Applying adaptive interference management to heterogeneous networks [HetNets] with interference cancellation based advanced receivers in the devices providing much higher performance leap. Learn more about LTE Advanced: http://www.qualcomm.com/products_services/airlinks/lte_advanced.html

And here is a more detailed explanation: LTE Over-The-Air Live Demo [Aug 23, 2011]

Live Over-The-Air LTE Advanced test system demo. Multiple Macrocells & Picocells communicating with different devices. Improved user experience & capacity due to adaptive Interference Mgt & Advanced Devices. Learn More about LTE technologies at http://www.qualcomm.com/products-services/wireless-networks/lte

LTE Advanced Hetnets: Our test system today — your network tomorrow [Prakash Sangam Senior Manager, Technical Marketing, Qualcomm, Aug 19, 2011]

It is indeed fun to watch an abstract idea crystallize into a technology and to see it come to life, overcoming the doubts of non-believers, and the objections of naysayers. I experienced this feeling recently, while on the test drive of our over-the-air (OTA), LTE Advanced HetNet test system here in San Diego.

LTE Advanced brings in many dimensions of improvements, be it leveraging very wide bandwidths, or higher orders of MIMO. But from our perspective, the biggest bang for the buck comes from the enhancements of Heterogeneous Networks (or HetNets, as they are often called).

HetNets are a mix of big macro cells, augmented with small pico, femtocells, remote radio heads, relays and others. Well, what is the “big deal?” you may say. “Pico cells have been used in 2G/3G networks for a while, and operators are already deploying femtocells.” In fact, recently [June 2011] the total number of deployed 3G femtocells bypassed that of 3G macrocells.

True, it is a well known fact that these small cells, bring the network closer to the user and provide a leap in performance – very high data rates, very good coverage, increased capacity etc. But, LTE Advanced can make this leap substantially higher, so that operators get even higher capacity, and users get an exceptionally better mobile broadband experience.

LTE Advanced, together with devices that have advanced receivers, expand the effective coverage of these small cells (Range Expansion), so that they offload more traffic from macro networks — much more than what they would have done otherwise.

I know, the technical intelligentsia out there would want to know how this is done. Well, there are two features really, that make these wonders possible — Adaptive Resource Partitioning (ARP) and device interference cancellation (IC). The former dynamically allocates time and frequency resources between the macro and picocell in accordance to the traffic load each is experiencing. So the cell that has more traffic gets more resource and vice a versa. Device IC cancels the interference from neighboring cells (overhead channels) so the device can decode the picocell, even at a very low-signal level (at the cell-edge for example), in effect extending its coverage.

So, in essence, LTE Advanced realizes the full benefits of HetNets. We showed this via a live demo at this year’s Mobile World Congress. The OTA test system that I mentioned above is a natural outgrowth of the demo, and it utilizes actual macro and pico cells to create a real network.

All of our innovative LTE Advanced algorithms are put to test and being perfected here. Which means, the HetNet benefits that we are vouching for are not just talk, but are vetted in realistic network scenarios.

If you would like to get more insights about the OTA test network, as well as understand LTE Advanced a little better, we invite you to listen to our upcoming webinar on 23rd Aug, 9am PST. [check in Qualcomm Video Center for post view availability]

See also:
Qualcomm LTE Press Kit
Qualcomm Webinar: LTE Advanced [59:53, May 18, 2010]
LTE Advanced: Heterogeneous Networks [6:16, Sept 1, 2010] (also on YouTube)
all LTE Advanced related videos on Qualcomm Video Center

Currently Qualcomm‘s Self Organizing Networks (SON) solution UltraSON for home, small business, enterprise and up to 32 users using femtocells for HSPA+ or EV-DO Rev B, and WiFi too is the commercially available leading edge for femtocells. See this Femtocells Video [Aug 26, 2011]:

Femtocells bring network closer to the user providing the next performance leap. Innovative interference management techniques take performance to a new level & are required for denser femto deployment, expansion into enterprises and other areas. Qualcomm’s femtocell chipset solution incorporates state-of-the-art UltraSON interference mgmt expanding coverage, capacity & enhancing user experience.
[Learn more about femtocells at http://www.qualcomm.com/products-services/wireless-networks/femtocells]

The first commercial device with Qualcomm UltraSON came to the market this summer for the entreprise space (see AirWalk’s EdgePoint PRO Enterprise Femtocell Available with Qualcomm’s UltraSON Technology [June 16, 2011]) but will also be soon available for consumer space as well (see D-Link Announces Development of Femtocell Solutions Based Upon Qualcomm’s FSM Chipset [June 23, 2011]). Sampling of the chipset started on June 22, 2010.

Qualcomm’s Femtocells Press Kit is providing the whole collection of information. The major description here is:

What are Femtocells?

Cellular access points that use broadband IP-based backhaul connections to extend the reach of cellular service within a localized area, such as a home or office, improving coverage and capacity.

And here is a more detailed explanation: How big (or small) is femto? [Prakash Sangam Senior Manager, Technical Marketing, Qualcomm, Aug 30, 2010]

A femto is incredibly… infinitesimally… extraordinarily small! It’s actually one quadrillionth of a unit, which, in other terms, is one part of a number that has 15 zeros! Well, the femto that I am going discuss here is not that femto. The one I’m talking about is femtocell, which has lots of buzz around it these days.

Femtocells — or femtos — are your very own, personal base stations that sit in your home or office, providing the best possible network coverage to you. They are being heralded as the provider of the next leap in performance for wireless networks. They provide near peak data rates, and very high capacity. And they put the full capacity of a base station at your disposal.

Since femtocells are usually installed by users, they bring substantial cost savings to operators. They help improve indoor coverage and by off-loading traffic from the macro network, they improve performance for other users in the network as well.

The figure below shows an example of the phenomenal improvements in data rates that can be achieved through femtos. The violet-colored bars indicate the data rates experienced by users before introducing femtocells. The orange-colored bars indicate data rates after.

Example of data rate improvements achieved by introducing femtocells

Going back to the definition of femto, you might ask “is the femtocell really that small?” While it may not be one quadrillionth the size of a macro, it is actually fairly small — similar to the size of typical WiFi router. It’s also smaller than a traditional macro base station. In comparison to the macro base station, it also consumes less power and is easier to deploy. Unlike macros, users install femtos themselves, which saves a substantial amount of time and money for operators in terms of on site acquisition, deployment, back-haul and operational activities.

If this innocent looking small box is that good, should I be worried about my neighbors stealing its magical powers? Does the use of femtos affect non-femto users (macro users) in any way? Will its capacity be impacted if all of my envious neighbors deploy their own femtos? What concerns, if any, do operators have about femtos? Get answers to all those questions in my next blog!

With femtos, improved coverage and near peak data rates are only part of the fun… [Oct 7, 2010]

In my previous blog, I touched upon the benefits of femtos to both operators and users. What’s all the excitement about? What makes a femto fun? For starters these plug-and-play devices enable flexible deployments, thanks to the intelligence of the chipsets (such as Qualcomm’s FSMs), which provide the brains behind the operation.

Brain power is even more relevant when femtos are used in restricted mode and share the spectrum with the macro network. As the name suggests, restricted mode allows only registered users to use the femto. For other users in the network, let’s call them macro users, who can’t access the femto, its signal appears as interference. By the same token, signal from the macro users will be interference to the femto in uplink. In some cases, the interference can be so severe as to totally jam the femto’s uplink.

So the question is, “How do you mitigate that interference?” (interference from femtos to macro users in the downlink, and from macro users to femtos in the uplink).

Fortunately, we have already figured this out. For the downlink, the basic idea is to manage femto transmit (tx) power in a way that provides good coverage in the target area, but nothing more.

For the uplink, restricting the interference getting into the femto does the trick. We are packing a set of innovative interference management algorithms into our FSM chipsets that effectively achieve this, without requiring intervention by either the user or the network operator.

Here is a brief description of each of these algorithms:

  • Adaptive tx power/Self-calibration: When the femto is turned “ON” it listens to, and measures the strength of nearby macro sites. Based on the coverage, the secret sauce in the self-calibration algorithm sets the tx power to a suitable level. This happens every time the femto is switched “ON” and can be considered as a coarse adjustment.
  • Range tuning: This mobile assisted, tx power turning algorithm is a form of fine tuning. Femto tx power is adjusted taking into account the registration attempts by (restricted) macro users, which may indicate too much coverage. This technique also factors in the signal strength measurement reports of femto users, which may indicate the need for more coverage. Unlike, the Self-calibration, range tuning is periodic. So at the end of the day for example, the range tuning algorithm can set the most optimal power level, based on measurements from the whole day.
  • Guest user protection: The femto is always looking for the presence of macro users in its coverage area. Whenever it detects one, and observes that the femto user is not in active state, it temporarily throttles down the power to reduce interference. A typical case for this might be an active macro user passing by your home/femto.
  • Home user protection: This feature protects the femto from being jammed in the uplink by a strong interferer (macro user). It employs adaptive attenuation (in the uplink) to pad down the effect of the interferer, while still comfortably receiving the signal from the femto users.

These techniques demonstrate that femtos are not only magical — they also have feelings for their neighbors. Importantly, the femto can truly be “plug-and-play.” Operators are well served to employ the breed that takes advantage of the aforementioned interference management techniques.

As usual, if you want more information, please check out our webpage at www.qualcomm.com/femto.

See also:
– for Qualcomm FSM (Femtocell Station Modem) chipset information: Femtocell Station Modem (FSM) Platform
– for the research behind UltraSON: Femtocell Interference and Mobility Management: UltraSON™
– for products and services related information: Femtocells – The Next Performance Leap [July 8, 2011]
Qualcomm Webinar: Femtocells—The Next Performance Leap [1:02:14 long, June 29, 2010]
– all femtocell related videos on Qualcomm Video Center

Latest background information:

Is it a Picocell or a Femtocell? [Aug 9, 2011]

The small cell market segment is just coming of age and at the same time rapidly evolving. As a result femtocell and picocell family product naming conventions emerge with inconsistencies between companies because of the sudden segment boom. However, industry-wide there are some common aspects that classify whether a product is a femtocell, enterprise femtocell, picocell or even a metrocell.

Capacity: The number of users that can connect to a device is often the most obvious differentiator when determining which name to give a small cell. Femtocells support somewhere between 4 to 8 users, just enough to cover a household. Enterprise femtocells cover 16 to 32 users (simultaneous 1xRTT and EV-DO) depending upon the size of the building. Picocells and metrocells are often deployed in public areas so they would generally support between 32 to 64 users or even more.

Automatic Configuration Capabilities: Femtocells and enterprise femtocells are equipped with self-optimizing or self-organizing capabilities since they are typically installed by a consumer or business unit. Picocells or metrocells are installed by the operator’s deployment team and could include automatic self-configuration, manual configuration, or a combination of both depending upon the deployment circumstance and what method is ideal for the operator.

Power Output: Femtocells typically have power output in the range of 20mW for a consumer femtocell and up to 200mW for an enterprise femtocell. Picocells will typically have power output at 200mW or more.

Hand-off Capabilities: Picocells must have full soft and hard hand-off capabilities to meet the same standards of the macro network. Enterprise femtocells are expected to be able to provide soft hand-off between each device, within a building or campus as well as full hand-off capabilities with the macro network. Consumer femtocells typically have hand-out capabilities to the macro network but do not accommodate hand-in or soft hand-off between femtocells.

Location: Femtocells and enterprise femtocells will nearly always be installed indoors in a private home or office. A picocell will usually be installed either inside in a large public area or outside with a protective cabinet. A metrocell is unique because it is typically installed as a strand mount unit in a metropolitan area.

Femtocell
Enterprise Femtocell
Picocell
Metrocell
Capacity
4-8 channels
16-32 channels
32-64 channels
32-64 channels
Configuration
Automatic
Automatic
Automatic or manual
Automatic or manual
Power Output
20mW
200mW
200mW
200mW
Handoff
Hard
Soft, hard
Soft, hard
Soft, hard
Location
Indoor
Indoor
Indoor/Outdoor
Outdoor

Please note that Qualcomm as a leading chipset provider for femtocells sees this a little differently:

Initial femtocell deployments are typically restricted access residential and small enterprise hot-spots, but there is a clear trend toward femtocell networks, where open access femtocells are used more as the traditional open pico-cells.
[From Femtocells – The Next Performance Leap [July 8, 2011] ]

In addition to obviously foreseeable high growth in demand for indoor cells such as the ones based on Qualcomm’s UltraSON solution there is a similar situation for picocells as well, see: Outdoor Picocells Market Expected To Reach $8 Billion by 2016 [ABI Research press release, Aug 12, 2011]

 The outdoor picocell market, which is still in the early stages of development, is projected to reach $8 billion in global revenues by 2016.

Currently, while many outdoor microcells are in operation, outdoor picocells are undergoing operator trials, with several companies, including Alcatel-Lucent, Huawei, Bel-Air, Airspan, and NEC focusing their attention on these new lower cost and easier-to-deploy alternatives. Other vendors working on developing solutions include NSN, Ericsson, and ZTE.

These outdoor picocells, which plug onto utility poles, lamp posts, and rooftops, are in response to the burgeoning smartphone market. “Mobile operators have already started to compete on mobile broadband speeds apart from coverage, and small cells will help them differentiate their services,” says Aditya Kaul, practice director, mobile networks. “Operators are likely to start with identifying specific ‘hot sites’ in congested metro areas, and start using outdoor picocells to alleviate capacity demand. Outdoor small cells are just another tool operators can use in conjunction with macro network optimization, Wi-Fi offload, caching, media compression, and other techniques.

Metro areas aren’t the only places where small cells are expected to appear. “Apart from outdoor small cells having a role in urban areas, they also have a role in rural and suburban areas where zoning restrictions prevent macro tower deployments,” says Kaul.

The big challenge that carriers are focusing on is small cell backhaul. Carriers need to ensure that backhaul doesn’t adversely affect overall OPEX or CAPEX for outdoor small cells. There are currently multiple solutions being considered, including fiber, copper, microwave, E-band, and >5GHz point-to-multipoint, all of which will play a role.

ABI Research’s new study “Small Cells: Outdoor Pico and Micro Markets,” examines the economic advantages, as well as problems, of deploying small cells in urban, suburban, and rural areas. It addresses the state of the small cell market and market projections, with market forecasts segmented by region, power output, location, and radio interface.

It is part of the Femtocell and Small Cell Research Service, which includes other Research Reports, Market Data, ABI Insights, Vendor Matrices, and Research Surveys.

ABI Research provides in-depth analysis and quantitative forecasting of trends in global connectivity and other emerging technologies. From offices in North America, Europe and Asia, ABI Research’s worldwide team of experts advises thousands of decision makers through 40+ research and advisory services. Est. 1990. For more information visit http://www.abiresearch.com, or call +1.516.624.2500.

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