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Cities will soon need 40 small cells per square kilometre

With mobile data traffic set to rise tenfold by 2015, carriers will need to install dense layer of cells, says Actix

By CAROLINE GABRIEL

Published: 3 December, 2012

READ MORE: Femtocell | LTE

The latest estimate of just how many base stations will be needed to deliver mobile broadband capacity to a city center comes from testing firm Actix, which predicts that this figure will reach over 40 per square kilometre by 2015.

The firm's estimates rely on a predicted mobile data traffic growth from 300Gbytes per day to over 3,000Gbytes, necessitating a new network design which can drive capacity via small cells, often living in a separate layer of spectrum.


Dense inner city networks currently have a typical 5-7 3G macrocells per square kilometre and 2-3 carriers, but this will increase with the addition of about 40 small cells to add capacity to the macro sites, and 5-7 carriers, Actix says, after conducting studies based on test data from five major cities.

CEO Bill McHale said in a statement: "In the next three years, mobile data is projected to grow by at least 10 times, which is equal to 3,000Gbytes per square kilometer per day. Mobile operators are beginning to understand that small cells will be an essential part of the network to meet this soaring data demand and we will see the shape of RAN infrastructures changing rapidly as a result of micro and pico cells being added."

Actix has been evolving its business from its roots in drive test data to a broader set of analytics about network performance, which can be fed into carriers' OSS and network management systems. Such systems will become more complex and more business critical as data traffic grows and as network topologies chance to suit.

McHale added: "From our work with operators it's clear that traditional manual approaches to ensuring customer experience, targeting network capacity and managing multivendor networks cannot scale to meet this new mobile landscape. Operators will need to make more effective use of customer insight, network analytics and multi-technology optimization to survive."

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