Nokia upgrades small cell portfolio to aid deployment options

Moves to a hybrid SON model for small cells to enable multi-vendor Het Nets, easier deployment and more responsive optimisation. Adds frequency band support for flexible deployment options.

nokia_flexi_zone_indoor_picoNokia has introduced an upgrade to its FlexiZone small cell portfolio.

First, there are five SON innovations that will sit on the small cell themselves and on the Flexi Zone Controller node that manages clusters of small cells. Nokia told TMN via email that the overall FlexiZone SON approach is aimed at moving from a centralised (C-SON approach) to more of a hybrid C-SON/Distributed SON (D-SON) model, enabling more features on the FlexiZone base stations themselves and the Flexi Zone Controller.

Nokia said siting more SON features at or near the network edge can simplify deployment in a multi-vendor environment and enable SON engines to react more responsively and dynamically to changes in the Het Net environment, as well as perform simultaneous boot-up and small cell layer optimisation.

Although Nokia was reluctant to share out the “internal names” of the SON features, it was willing to share the “benefits” that the SON upgrade brings. These include 25% faster installation, lower cost O&M and simultaneous optimisation between a small cell layer and a macro underlay provided by a different vendor.

The company added that the controller would also be able to enable full planning and provisioning of the small cell, even where the controller is a different environment from the mini base station. For example, the Controller could be deployed in an enterprise HQ yet also controls small cells deployed in the enterprises’ retail outlets/affiliates/factories/suppliers on a different LAN & behind multiple firewall and routers. It could also allow operators to share one controller for several different deployment locations:  ie. one controller per business park with small cells  in multiple units, or one controller in a city area with multiple hotspots.

Secondly there are also three new features that Nokia says are a world first for small cells. These are:
– Two carrier aggregation on the uplink
– Downlink 256 QAM.
– 40MHz bandwidth support on Unlicensed frequencies

Plus – the operator has added a host of new frequency band options – with 25 new bands and RAT variants for the Flexi Zone Multiband  base station and eight variants for the Mini-Macro (macro cell in a small cell form factor) )portfolio. The frequency band extension includes Flexi Zone Micro support for 3.5GHz band support (the USA’s CBRS band) – meaning that Nokia has two product lines supporting this band – the other produce being the indoor pico BTS.

What is notable is the framing that Nokia gave this announcement – that these feature and RF upgrades were designed to support ease of deployment. In the case of the SON features this is due to increased support for multi-vendor environments, and the ability to be more responsive, and support different network environments from the same controller. The radio upgrades are about providing more flexibility to host site and mobile operators.

Operators consistently state that the biggest barriers to small cell deployment are logistical and commercial. Principally, they need simple set up and operation combined with a technical flexibility that allows them to deploy small cells within their existing network environment and management.

For more on Nokia’s small cell trajectory read here.