John C. Tanner
Cellcos adopting LTE will have to deploy smaller cells than ever to have enough capacity for the coming mobile data exaflood, but industry players disagree on how much this will cost.
Small LTE cells are necessary not just because of the relatively shorter range of the 2.6 GHz band where it’s being initially deployed, but also because operators won’t have enough spectrum capacity to support LTE at the macro level, said Dr Shahram G Niri, director of global LTE/SAE strategy and solutions for NEC Europe.
“3G was designed as a macro network, but when you need the kind of capacity needed now, you can’t get it from having big cells,” he told telecomasia.net during the LTE Asia conference in Hong Kong Tuesday.
Joachim Hallwachs, marketing VP for DesignArt Networks, said that could potentially mean more capex will be required as cellcos deploy LTE.
“Operators will definitely need to increase cell density for LTE, around five to ten times more cells, which also means more related costs like site buildouts, power and maintenance,” he said during a panel session at the event. “So they’ll have to look at the cost more closely.”
Bjorn Amundsen, VP and director head of mobile network coverage for Telenor, agrees, saying the problem isn’t the cost of the base station, but the cost of acquiring a new site installing the equipment, which is “increasing enormously”.
“For LTE, in an urban environment, you’ll need a base station covering every building or every second building, otherwise you won’t have enough capacity,” he told telecomasia.net. “That’s why every base station we install has to have a business case for the area it covers.”