T-Mobile readies modular, multi-band small cells - Mobile World Live

T-Mobile readies modular, multi-band small cells

10 NOV 2017

T-Mobile is gearing up to deploy a new type of small cell to hit the gigabit mark, specifically a modular multi-band design that incorporates both licensed and unlicensed spectrum.

During a Gigabit LTE event in San Jose, California, T-Mobile VP of Network Engineering Mark McDiarmid reiterated the operator’s plans to roll out 2,000 additional small cells this year and another 25,000 by the end of next year. But instead of traditional small cells, McDiarmid told Mobile World Live T-Mobile will be using a new modular design that supports two bands of licensed spectrum alongside Licensed Assisted Access (LAA) technology.

McDiarmid explained the decision to move to a modular, multi-band design came in response to increased regulatory hurdles around municipal small cell permitting:

“Our thinking evolved quickly last year…we thought to ourselves, let’s just take the step and build something modular that meets their aesthetic. We’re inoculating ourselves against their jurisdictional [requests for] one after the next application.”

The specs
McDiarmid said the small cells will support “the trifecta” of gigabit features – that is, carrier aggregation, 4×4 MIMO and 256QAM – over 40MHz of the carrier’s PCS and AWS spectrum as well as 60MHz of LAA on the 5GHz band. The units will be able to provide coverage across an area of a few hundred yards up to a quarter of a mile depending on the environment, he said.

“Think of that connected using dark fibre to the network. It doesn’t have a big footprint, but if you think about the number of gigabits you can ship per mile when you put four or five of these together you’ve got a serious capability,” he explained. “The idea is to build a real density of capacity in a totally new way.”

In addition to shifting to multi-band small cells, McDiarmid said T-Mobile is also deploying gigabit capabilities on its macro network and in its device lineup. Already, “several million” customers have gigabit capable Android devices, he noted, but more options will be added to the lineup in the coming year to help increase consumer adoption.

Why gigabit capabilities matter
Executives from Qualcomm, which has been working closely with T-Mobile, indicated the presence of gigabit devices on the network benefits all customers, even those without gigabit capabilities. That’s because gigabit devices use fewer network resources to complete their tasks, and hop on and off the network more quickly, freeing up bandwidth for non-gigabit devices. Illustrations of how the network performs with and without gigabit devices can be seen below:


Diana Goovaerts

Diana is Mobile World Live's US Editor, reporting on infrastructure and spectrum rollouts, regulatory issues, and other carrier news from the US market. Diana came to GSMA from her former role as Editor of Wireless Week and CED Magazine, digital-only...

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