Small-Cells-AH-2

Canadian Carriers Using Small Cells To Connect More Users

January 19, 2016 - Written By Cory McNutt

The wireless needs are rapidly growing as more and more people are turning to mobile wireless to satisfy their need to connect to the internet.  Almost everybody is carrying around a smartphone and a few carry a small tablet as well – we use these devices as a means to communicate with the outside world.  Even within crowded cities and buildings, the battle to hook up with a wireless signal can sometimes be frustrating.

For years, we have received our signals for large cell towers, first built out in vast wastelands or on high hills in hopes that the signal will reach their subscribers.  Failure in this practice brought the cell towers in closer to the users and many farms or rooftops became their new homes.  But even those towers did not reach people crowded into concrete buildings, like the kind used for offices or on college campuses. If you watch TV, you will also notice the growing number of vehicles that are coming with built-in WiFi/LTE – it will be difficult to connect all of these vehicles to the internet.

What carriers are using now is ‘small cells’ that can fit directly on a lamp or utility pole or even a traffic light post.  They can transmit a range of signal from a few meters up to several kilometers after receiving their initial signal from a large or macro tower and then redistributing it at a local level.  Most people do not care where their signal comes from as long as it is a strong and secure connection.  Dense cities such as Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal are already using the small cell technology and it will likely double in 2016.

SaskTel has already announced that it used Huawei’s Lampsite technology in two buildings at the University of Regina to help get signals into those thick concrete walls.  Lampsite is now in its second generation and will generate three signals – WiFi, 3G (HSPA+) and LTE – and can connect via an Ethernet cable or by picking up a weak wireless signal and amplifying it.  Scott Bradley, Huawei Canada’s VP of corporate and government affairs said, “Lampsite is part of the evolution towards 5G.”

In the US and Canada, locations such as sports and school stadiums are ideal for small cell offloading.  Cisco’s Visual Networking Index report released close to a year ago, claims that by the end of 2016 over half of all worldwide mobile traffic will be offloaded to a WiFi network or a similar cellular equivalent know as a femtocell.  Telus, who co-owns with BC Hydro a number of utility poles, has been able to reduce some of its deployment costs.  They have about 2,000 small cells in Vancouver and Calgary, which far out paces Bell’s 400 and Rogers’ 50.  With a combination of large cell towers and small cell deployment, carriers can easily fill in those ‘dead zones’ and better serve their subscribers.