Heterogeneous networks (hetnets) can alleviate the pressures of growing mobile data consumption, according to Ericsson radio technology general manager, James Evans.
He was speaking the ACMA’s RadComms 2012 event. Hetnets essentially features the use of different access technologies together to form a mobile network.
According to Cisco’s visual network index report, global IP traffic is expected to reach 1.3 zettabytes. Mobile data traffic is set to skyrocket as well.
Telcos have been pushing 4G, which is more spectrally efficient than 3G, as a way to ease mobile data demands but it might not be enough to satisfy growing data consumption, according to Evans.
“There will be incremental improvements [in cellular technology standards] but there’s no magic ‘5G’ that’s going to give an order of magnitude and spectral efficiency all of a sudden,” he said.
Users are demanding a seamless and high capacity connectivity experience. One way to achieve that is to “densify” networks to provide more capacity by adding small cell sites, a core focus of hetnets.
This can include the use of multiple picocells, that is, small cellular base stations that cover targeted areas, in a broader mobile coverage zone. Picocells are typically used in places like offices and shopping centres, which are closer to the users.
Evans suggests picocells should be installed discretely around a given mobile network zone where data demands are the highest.
“What you are trying to do is identify where the capacity is and build your network architecture with these small cells, ‘densifying’ the network around that,” Evans said.
Macrocells, which are powered by large base station and provides coverage across a wider area, should also be deployed in greater quantities within a mobile network. Picocells would be dotted within a macrocell site.
Ideally, macrocells and picocells should share the use of the same spectrum in order to provide a seamless experience for users without sacrificing the performance of data rates, Evans said.
While WiFi can play a part in heterogeneous networks, it is seen as a complementary technology within a mobile network and something that can provide significant coverage, he said.
“[WiFi] is difficult to control and manage – it is unlicenced spectrum,” Evans said. “However, it should be used and leveraged where possible.”
Another important aspect to consider when it comes to heterogeneous networks is consistent use of spectrum bands through one geographic region.
For Asia-Pacific, the 700MHz spectrum looks like a good bet and will be auctioned by ACMA later in the year.
RadComms 2012 continues.