Nokia Solutions and Networks has introduced its new Flexi Zone LTE microcell and picocell base stations. NSN said that not only are they the smallest, but also the industry’s only small cell solution with the same features and capacity as macro base stations.
NSN believes this is critical for integration into high-capacity heterogeneous networks (HetNets). To complement the base stations, NSN is enhancing its expert Services for HetNets with the use of a new multi-layer hot spot analysis and planning tool to help operators match their network deployments to business objectives.
Daryl Schoolar, principal analyst for Network Infrastructure at Ovum notes: “One of the reasons for reality of small cell uptake not matching early overhyped expectations can be attributed to the fact that maturity of the product offerings had not met operator expectations. Software and feature parity between macro and micro/pico cells is one of the critical steps needed in the small cell market maturation.
“It will help create tighter integration between the two network layers, which can lead to improved HetNet performance. Along with integration, mobile operators need to have a strategy with how to manage their small cell networks as they scale and traffic hotspots expand,” said Schoolar.
Output and processing power
Packing up to 5W of output power in an install-anywhere 5 kg/5 liter box, NSN’s new all-in-one base stations will be available in early 2014. They are considerably smaller and lighter than existing microcell and picocell units, enabling them to be mounted closer to the centre of traffic hot spots and robust enough to be deployed both outdoors and in public indoor locations.
The base stations also feature a built-in GPS module and 1588v2 synchronization, avoiding the need for any extra units, further simplifying and speeding deployment.
The macro-level processing power comes from a custom System on a Chip that allows the new base stations to run the same software as NSN’s macro base stations. This makes it easy to integrate them into complex HetNets and drastically simplifies software upgrades across the network so that the same features are available everywhere at the same time.
Macrocell feature benefits for small cells
Operators will benefit from all the macrocell features, such as easy software upgrade to LTE-Advanced, full support of NSN’s NetAct Operations Support System (OSS), intelligent Self-Organizing Networks (iSON) automation as well as the industry-acclaimed Smart Scheduler* and interference mitigation** for superior subscriber performance in dense urban areas .
Initially expected to be used to provide hot spot capacity, the microcell and picocell base station software can when needed be remotely upgraded to create denser and larger hot zones as part of NSN’s Flexi Zone architecture.
Randy Cox, head of small cells product management at NSN, observed: “Small cells have conventionally been cut down versions of macro base stations with reduced performance. In contrast, Flexi Zone microcell and picocell base stations use the latest System on a Chip technologies to deliver the same processing power as a macro base station. As traffic demand rises, they can be upgraded to a full Flexi Zone deployment to build seamless multi-layer, high-density, future-proof HetNets.”
Radio access security
The new microcell and picocell base stations also include NSN’s radio access security solution, which encrypts the traffic between the base stations and core network and automatically ensures that only operator authorised base stations can access the network.
They are fitted with Bluetooth capabilities that enable remote access to the base stations from the ground. This is used for configuration when mounting the unit and, later on, for field maintenance thus reducing the time, cost and street disruption of using specialist access equipment.
Enhanced Services for HetNets
To support its Flexi Zone solution, NSN has enhanced its Services for HetNets capabilities with a new analysis and planning tool that can optimise the deployment of base stations for multi-layer hot spots. NSN services experts can use this tool to analyse an almost unlimited range of geo-tagged data to plan the network according to the operator’s business objectives.
This data may include, for example, social media, geo-located traffic, device and application profiles, and roaming information, as well as data from NSN’s Customer Experience Management insights, such as user satisfaction. This allows operators to deploy small cells precisely where needed to achieve the results they want and to justify the necessary investments.