Feature Topic: Heterogeneous and Small Cell Networks

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Natasha Simonovski

Feature Topic: Heterogeneous and Small Cell Networks

Thu, 04/18/2013 - 13:33 — Natasha Simonovski

Driven by a new generation of wireless user equipment and the proliferation of bandwidth-intensive applications, user data traffic and the corresponding network load are increasing in an exponential manner. Most of this new data traffic is being generated indoors, which requires increased link budget and coverage extension to provide satisfactory user experience. As a result, current cellular networks are reaching their breaking point, and conventional cellular architectures that are devised to cater to large coverage areas and optimized for homogeneous traffic are facing unprecedented challenges to meet these user demands.

In this context, there has been an increasing interest to deploy relays, distributed antennas, and small cellular access points (such as picocells and femtocells) in residential homes, subways, and offices. These network architectures, which may be either operator-deployed and/or consumer-deployed, and are comprised of a mix of lowpower cells underlying the macrocell network, are commonly referred to as heterogeneous networks (HetNets). By deploying additional network nodes within the local-area range and bringing the network closer to end-users, HetNets can potentially improve spatial reuse and coverage, thus allowing future cellular systems to achieve higher data rates, while retaining the seamless connectivity and mobility of cellular networks.

Inspired by the attractive features and potential advantages of HetNets, their development and deployment is gaining momentum in the wireless industry and research communities during the last few years. It has also attracted the attention of standardization bodies, such as 3GPP LTE-Advanced and IEEE 802.16 Wireless Metropolitan Area Networks. However, HetNets also come with their own challenges, and there are significant technical issues that still need to be addressed for successful rollout and operation of these networks.

 

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