BelAir Networks has unveiled a new small metrocell base station designed for easy outdoor deployment, which combines licensed 3G and LTE bands with carrier Wi-Fi access and integrated wireless backhaul options.
The technology is aimed at mobile operators looking to cost-effectively increase capacity in their licensed 3G networks and add Wi-Fi to further augment this capacity in the unlicensed band.
The company, which produces small cell wireless networking solutions, believes the BelAir 2100 metrocell reduces installation and operating costs, as well as overcoming the operational barriers to small cell deployment.
Stephen Rayment, CTO at BelAir Networks said: ‘The small cell market has got a lot of interest over the last year from mobile carriers. The purpose of small cells is to solve 3G network congestion. They should not be confused with residential femtocells, which are about improving coverage. We are about improving capacity, so our small metrocells will underlie the carrier’s macro network with concentrations of small cells.’
The BelAir2100 supports multiple licensed bands including HSPA/HSPA+, CDMA2000 1 x EVDO, LTE and integrated dual 802.11n carrier Wi-Fi radios, which support Hotspot 2.0 (including 802.11u) standards for seamless secure roaming from the operator’s network onto Wi-Fi.
‘There are three key operational challenges that need to be solved with small cells,’ continued Rayment. ‘These are operational power, mounting and backhaul and we have addressed these. The compact form factor is designed to be fast and easy to mount on walls or poles, which reduces installation costs and keeps down ongoing OpEx. Our backhaul options include wireless and wireless mesh, Ethernet, fibre and HFC wireline.’
Another challenge is ensuring reliable handover of calls or data from the metrocell network to the macro network. The BelAir2100 Metrocell is designed to mitigate interference and enable full RF interoperability between the licensed band and Wi-Fi access radios, as well as between the metrocell and the macro network. It also features an all IP backhaul and supports multiple tunneling protocols, enabling full mobility across networks.
‘We have solved those problems by ensuring that the metrocell radio can work with the macro RAN vendor’s equipment, be it Ericsson or Nokia Siemens Networks. We’ve put in the power, antenna and carrier Wi-Fi radios and wireless backhaul and then left a space for the radio used by the mobile carrier’s choice of macro cell vendor,’ said Rayment.
‘Tier One carriers haven’t really addressed the pragmatic, deployment management issues of metrocells yet, but we have come up with a way to make it happen on a real live network, by using any Tier One company’s radios,’ explained Rayment.
This means BelAir can meet the requirements of different networks in different regions. The metrocell is initially targeted at relieving congestion on 3G networks, but being LTE ready, it is future proofed to handle congestion on 4G networks if and when they too hit congestion problems in areas with high user concentrations.