Small Cells World Summit 2017 Report

Small Cells World Summit 2017 hears about shared access, rising deployment numbers and the need for timing.

The day before the Summit started Nokia assembled a few journalists in a meeting room and gave them a portfolio update. Of note in this was the revelation that the company will be shipping tens of thousands, in fact more than 50 thousand, of its Mini Macro cell sites to Sprint. This is on top of another wide scale roll out of the boxes – which are 2x20W sites in a 5 litre box – in China and Japan where the vendor expects to ship another 40,000. There are 3,000 headed to Brazil, as well, to be deployed as an underlay under Ericsson macro cells.

The company is also supporting a range of shared and unlicensed methods in both its RRH and “all-in-one” small cells, including LWA, LAA, MulteFire and CBRS, where it is testing interoperability against several SAS providers.  Also upcoming from Nokia will be a new cloud-based FlexiZone Controller product.

EE’s nooks and crannies

One notable aspect of the event was the amount of talk about using small cells in rural, in dense indoor and in other hard to reach areas. Mansoor Hanif spoke of some of the work BT is looking at to enable it to spread coverage to hard to reach areas. There is a real range of work, best summed up in this picture.

Of note is its work with TIP, where it hopes to be able to plug in open base stations as part of its Kuha community-run small cells programme – as per its project on the island of Harris supported by Nokia at the moment. With Lime Microsystems it is delivering a software defined radio base to Open Source, and hopes to attract developers to build applications on top of the Lime SDR platform. Hanif wants to move the cycle for introducing a new feature into a network from months to weeks – but he added that he doesn’t think any operator has the skills to manage that internally – hence the move to Open Source.

Lime’s CEO Ibrahim Busheri told TMN that the open SDR platform will enable operators to deploy networks in a completely different way, reducing their reliance on traditional radio system vendors.


KDDI’s Fumio Watanabe presented some findings from the operators trials of mobile mmWave systems. The operator’s field trial use 40GHz and 60GHz bands, with a user moving between different bands and being “handed over” between access points. This sort of mobility requires dual interband connectivity and multi-site CoMP to handle the mobility between different sites and bands as a user goes out of line of site of an access point.

It may also require some architecture shifts Watanabe said, including the likes of ICN and MEC.

On a panel on the first morning, hosted by your correspondent, Watanabe, Hanif and AT&T’s Gordon Mansfield delineated the options available for achieving “hyper density”. Hanif pointed out that EE is some way off deploying hyper-dense networks, although he did identify dense indoor deployments across the country as candidates for denser deployments, to meet demand.

Watanabe said that KDDI sees MIMO in LTE bands as a solution to meeting some density requirements, rather than moving directly to hyper dense small cell deployments, and Hanif agreed that deploying features such as higher order MIMO to macro sites can achieve gains quicker than deploying denser, small cell-based, networks.

Mansfield said that AT&T was absolutely committed, as a matter of strategic direction, to increased deployment of small cells, adding that shared and neutral host models will become increasingly important to making the economic rationale for such investments.


Backhaul provider CCS has a couple of things going on. First, it is involved as the backhaul provider to Telefonica O2’s deployment of outdoor WiFi and cellular small cells in the City of London. Steve Greaves, CEO, said that the company will support 450 small cells and 150 WiFi access points by siting its backhaul nodes at 30 Virgin media fibre points – with each backhaul node supporting 3-5 WiFi access points. The backhaul nodes are providing 1.2Gbps capacities at 24/26/28 GHz bands.

Greaves is also enthused by an upcoming product launch from CCS, as the company enters the 60GHz band with a 10Gbps product. Greaves says that CCS will go beyond products from the likes of Siklu, by modifying the basic WiGig chip that providers currently use, to add tighter carrier grade SynchE 1588, and greater interference control. The product will not be available until early 2018, he added.

Another interesting aspect of the City of London deployment – the concession model between the City of London and Telefonica – means that Telefonica must host other operators’ small cells within the deployment if asked. But these may not be on the same pole as Telefonica’s small cells, given there is a limit of two boxes per pole. From a backhaul perspective – that obviously introduces more complexity – as Telefonica must introduce a V-LAN for each operator, with different QoS.

Virgin Media Business, by the way, has 100,000 cabinets in London alone, and wants to use them to act as potential hosts for small cells, by adding a small pole to the cabinet, said its adviser Paul Coffey. The company is also looking at enabling neutral host model using its street infrastructure. Its wholesale business supplying backhaul to the UK’s operators already runs to £150 million per year, Coffey said.

You can read much more about Small Cell Innovation in 2017 by downloading TMN’s Small Cells Market Update.


One topic rising up the small cell agenda, due to momentum in the USA, is shared use of the CBRS band. Companies with announced products included Accelleran, which has added Band 43 support to its product targeting the space. Ip.access too has said it will have a CBRS variant. SpiderCloud also announced CBRS support in the week prior to the event. Nokia said in a briefing this week that it is upgrading one early iteration of its CBRS product in order to upgrade it to the greater power levels now allowed by the FCC. That product will be available Q1 2018. Nokia added that its Airscale Micro RRH will support LTE and LAA as well as CBRS, as will its “all in one” multiband small cells.

A panel on shared spectrum exhibited the clear difference between US and European momentum on CBRS. While SpiderCloud’s Art King outlined the potential that US carriers and cable companies see in deploying LTE in shared spectrum – sometimes seeing its value as a secondary channel in LAA deployments. KPN’s Jos Beriere, HetNet Project Manager, was much more equivocal, saying that the operator has spectrum it can use for indoors before it needs to move to shared, and then unlicensed, usage.  He said, “The typical spectrum portfolio of a European MNO is bigger. Also, the way we live and build is different. We have less high rise and have shops more in city centres versus outside, so we get a lot covered today by the outdoor network because of that. So that makes the timing different for those technology developments.”

Google’s Simon Saunders said that he wanted to see a more tiered approach to providing access to spectrum, rather than the current polarity of licensed/unlicensed. A tiered framework would allow the balance of owned/shared spectrum to adapt as usage changed and be different in different parts of country. On CBRS he said Google’s access system and sensing network is being opened up to vendors already, with interest in providing CBRS-enabled high speed private LTE.

CommScope was continuing to push the benefits of its OneCell, indoor C-RAN solution. However, marketing man Josh Adelson – a nominee for a Small Cell Forum’s outstanding contribution award on Tuesday night –  hinted that there was a lot he could tell us about traction with operators, if he were allowed.

Comba Telecom was displaying work it is doing in Hong Kong to develop Smart City solutions. These included the development of “smart poles” – lighting poles equipped with chargers for power, displays and small cells for connectivity. One application the project is looking at is lamp posts that only light up as a car approaches, using an edge based MEC platform to provide the intelligence, thereby saving electricity and power requirements on street lighting. Another MEC use case the company is exploring is to provide cached and highly localised information on campuses – such as learning materials and technical instructions in labs, as well as push messaging to students.

Huber & Suhner was showing a fully commercial version of an outdoor connector that it announced last year – designed for enabling quick and easy connection to different vendor radios. The idea is to be able to simply present fibre to different vendors’ radio sources, aiding installation. But also, with an integrated WDM module in the device, the connector enables installers to connect more cells per fibre over the FTTA connection reducing the number of fibres required in a fronthaul connection.

One curious aspect of the exhibition, which is not massive, was that there were four or five “clock” companies there – the companies that provide timing and synch to networks. These included OscilliQuartz (now part of Adva Optical), Rakon, Epson and Qulsar? So what’s going on? Well, according to Adva, it’s all to do with a predicted increased need for Synch in C-RAN and small cell-based networks.

Adva itself was marketing a new ruggedised and outdoor, pole-mountable Ethernet NID to deliver Synch to a small cell site. How ruggedised? Well, it is designed to withstand a shotgun blast, which is something that is required in certain States of the USA we were told, where firing at things on poles is a common pastime.

The OSA 5405 SyncReach is an integrated PTP grandmaster and GNSS receiver with a patent-pending dual antenna and receiver to enable roll out of small cells and meet the stringent timing requirements of 4.5G and 5G connectivity. The idea is that with the OSA 5405 operators can migrate from legacy GNSS RF antennas and cables to standard copper and fiber Ethernet cabling.

Adva’s representative said that the timing companies were all at the show because the timing and synch “market is about to explode”.  Just not, it seems, at the prompting of the contents of a shotgun cartridge. 

You can read much more about Small Cell Innovation in 2017 by downloading TMN’s Small Cells Market Update.