Welcome!

Agile Computing Authors: Dana Gardner, Elizabeth White, William Schmarzo, Janakiram MSV, Liz McMillan

Blog Feed Post

The Hype & Reality of Small Cells Performance

Heterogeneous networks (HetNets) consist of large (macro) cells with high transmit power (typically 5 W – 40 W) and small cells with low transmit power (typically 100 mW – 2 W). The small cells are distributed beneath the large cells and can run on the same frequency as the large cell (co-channel), or on a different frequency. As an evolution of the cellular architecture, HetNets and small cells have gained much attention as a technique to increase mobile network capacity and are today one of the hot topics in the wireless industry. Many of the initial deployments of small cells are of the co-channel type. Standards such as LTE have focused on incorporating techniques to improve the performance of co-channel deployments in earlier releases of the technology standard leaving the handling of multi-frequency deployment type to later releases. In all, operators today have multiple options of small cell deployment scenarios, operational techniques and technology roadmaps to choose from.

 

B1 - Figure 1 Heterogeneous Network Architecture.png

Figure 1 Simplified Heterogeneous Network Architecture.

 

To illustrate some of the deployment issues related to small cells, I will provide in this article a qualitative review of small cell performance and explore their impact on the operator's small cells deployment strategy. The focus is on co-channel deployments which aside from being common in this early stage of HetNet evolution, they provide for a complex radio frequency environment.

 

Throughput Performance: The overall throughput experienced by users on both downlink (base station to the mobile subscriber) and uplink (mobile to base station) paths will generally increase as small cells are deployed. This applies to both users camped on the macro cell and those on the small cells, but for different reasons:

 

  1. The users on the macro cell will benefit as more small cells are added because fewer users will share the common capacity resources. Therefore, the more small cells are added, the better likelihood a user on the macro cell will experience higher throughput; meanwhile,
  2. Users on the small cell will experience better throughput than those on macro cell because of higher probability of line-of-sight connection to the serving base station.

 

If the mobile subscribers are uniformly distributed over the coverage area, then the likelihood a user will experience a certain level of throughput is approximately similar as the number of small cells increases. But in reality, the distribution of users is not uniform as they tend to concentrate in certain "traffic hotspots." In this case, a small cell in a traffic hotspot is expected to provide lower throughput than a small cell in a uniform user distribution area. In the meantime, a user on the macrocell will experience a more pronounced increase in throughput because a higher proportion of users are offloaded from the macro cell. As even more small cells are added, interference will increase leading to successively diminishing marginal increase in throughput.

 

This last note is an important one: small cells are beneficial up to a point. The user experience will be affected by the density of small cells with a diminishing marginal return followed by actual degradation of service as the number of small cells exceeds a certain threshold. When this threshold is reached depends on a number of factors that include the type of technology, morphology, and cell density and distribution. Inter-small cell interference is one factor that limits small cell performance. Another factor is that as we add more small cells, we create more 'cell-edge' regions within the coverage area of macrocells that can also limit performance as I will expand upon below.

 

The throughput performance will depend on the location of the small cells and their proximity to macrocells. A small cells close to a macrocell is more likely to be affected by interference than one located at the cell-edge resulting in lower throughput performance. Correspondingly, the performance will depend on the size of the macrocell, or rather, the macrocell density. Small cells deployed close to the cell edge of a large macrocell will provide better performance than those deployed in high-density macrocell area where the average radius is relatively small.

 

Throughput performance will also depend on the output power of the small cell. Simulations show that for a certain macrocell radius, higher power small cells provide better throughput performance than lower power ones given the same small cell base station density.

 

Nevertheless, the key take away here is this: it pays to find out where the traffic hot spots are as otherwise, the gain achieved from small cells will be small. Small cell deployment would have to be 'surgical' in select areas to achieve the maximum return on investment.

 

Interference and Coverage Performance: While small cells improve performance in general, there are certain situations where they cause interference or even a coverage hole. One decisive factor is the large power imbalance between the small cell and the macrocell. The power imbalance is larger than simply the rated transmit power because macrocells implement high-gain sectored antennas (13-16 dBi) while small cells typically implement a much lower gain omni-directional antenna (3-6 dBi). The power imbalance results in asymmetric downlink and uplink coverage areas. Because the macrocell has much higher power than the small cell, the downlink coverage area of the small cell would be smaller than the uplink coverage area. This shifts the handover boundary closer to the small cell increasing the possibility of uplink interference to the small cell with which the interfering mobile might have a line-of-sight path. This type of interference is potentially very damaging since it affects all the users in a cell and forces the mobile units served by the small cell to transmit at higher power. The power imbalance also increases the risk of downlink interference although this type of interference is more limited because it affects a single user. The uplink-downlink imbalance is a leading reason why LTE Release 8 small cell gain is limited because cell selection is decided by downlink signal strength and the options for interference mitigation are limited.

 

B1 - Figure 2 Small Cell Interference Scenarios.png

Figure 2 Co-channel interference scenarios in small cell deployments.

 

To address the uplink-downlink coverage imbalance, the coverage area of the small cell base station is extended to allow the small cell to capture more traffic. This is accomplished by adding a bias to the small cell received signal during the cell selection process. But extending the small cell coverage also increases the chances of downlink interference to a mobile subscriber operating at the edge of the small cell.

 

Aside from co-channel interference, there's also a risk of adjacent channel interference in multicarrier networks where macrocells implement two or more frequency carriers. Consider for example a mobile attached to a macrocell on frequency A while it is very close to a small cell operating on adjacent frequency B. The mobile is susceptible to adjacent channel interference from the small cell which would likely have a line-of-sight path to the mobile in contrast to a non-line-of-sight connection with the macrocell.  Another example is that for the uplink: a mobile attached to a macrocell and operating from the edge of a small cell on an adjacent frequency could cause interference to the small cell.

 

There are other potential interference scenarios in addition to those described here. But the basic fact is that the actual performance and benefit of small cells will vary, and will do so more widely in the absence of interference mitigation/performance enhancing techniques. This is one reason why some requirements for small cell deployments have been hotly debated, without a firm resolution. For example, a basic requirement is that of small cell backhaul capacity: what should it be? Should the backhaul link be designed to handle the peak throughput rate, which is a function technology, or the average throughput rate which is much harder to ascertain and put a value on because it depends on many factors related to the deployment scenario?

 

Based on the above description, we know that throughput of small cells will depend largely on the load. The more clustered the subscribers, the lower the overall small cell throughput. On the other hand, if there's a light load (few users), then the capacity will be high. If you are an operator, you sure would need to think carefully about the required backhaul capacity! And while we're on the backhaul topic, let's not forget that we also need to make sure that backhaul on the macrocell is dimensioned properly to support higher traffic load which will certainly come as more small cells are deployed.

 

In this post, I went through some aspects of small cell performance.  These problems are well recognized and certain techniques are being developed and integrated into the standards to address them. This raises other important questions to the operator's strategic network planning process, such as: what interference management and performance enhancement features should be considered? And, what is the technology roadmap for these features? I will expand more on some of these techniques in a future blog post.

 

Follow Frank Rayal on Twitter @FrankRayal

Read the original blog entry...

More Stories By Deborah Strickland

The articles presented here are blog posts from members of our Service Provider Mobility community. Deborah Strickland is a Web and Social Media Program Manager at Cisco. Follow us on Twitter @CiscoSPMobility.

@ThingsExpo Stories
DevOps at Cloud Expo, taking place Nov 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with 19th Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. The widespread success of cloud computing is driving the DevOps revolution in enterprise IT. Now as never before, development teams must communicate and collaborate in a dynamic, 24/7/365 environment. There is no time to wait for long dev...
Amazon has gradually rolled out parts of its IoT offerings in the last year, but these are just the tip of the iceberg. In addition to optimizing their back-end AWS offerings, Amazon is laying the ground work to be a major force in IoT – especially in the connected home and office. Amazon is extending its reach by building on its dominant Cloud IoT platform, its Dash Button strategy, recently announced Replenishment Services, the Echo/Alexa voice recognition control platform, the 6-7 strategic...
19th Cloud Expo, taking place November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. Cloud computing is now being embraced by a majority of enterprises of all sizes. Yesterday's debate about public vs. private has transformed into the reality of hybrid cloud: a recent survey shows that 74% of enterprises have a hybrid cloud strategy. Meanwhile, 94% of enterpri...
Akana has announced the availability of version 8 of its API Management solution. The Akana Platform provides an end-to-end API Management solution for designing, implementing, securing, managing, monitoring, and publishing APIs. It is available as a SaaS platform, on-premises, and as a hybrid deployment. Version 8 introduces a lot of new functionality, all aimed at offering customers the richest API Management capabilities in a way that is easier than ever for API and app developers to use.
Personalization has long been the holy grail of marketing. Simply stated, communicate the most relevant offer to the right person and you will increase sales. To achieve this, you must understand the individual. Consequently, digital marketers developed many ways to gather and leverage customer information to deliver targeted experiences. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Lou Casal, Founder and Principal Consultant at Practicala, discussed how the Internet of Things (IoT) has accelerated our abil...
With so much going on in this space you could be forgiven for thinking you were always working with yesterday’s technologies. So much change, so quickly. What do you do if you have to build a solution from the ground up that is expected to live in the field for at least 5-10 years? This is the challenge we faced when we looked to refresh our existing 10-year-old custom hardware stack to measure the fullness of trash cans and compactors.
The emerging Internet of Everything creates tremendous new opportunities for customer engagement and business model innovation. However, enterprises must overcome a number of critical challenges to bring these new solutions to market. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Michael Martin, CTO/CIO at nfrastructure, outlined these key challenges and recommended approaches for overcoming them to achieve speed and agility in the design, development and implementation of Internet of Everything solutions wi...
Cloud computing is being adopted in one form or another by 94% of enterprises today. Tens of billions of new devices are being connected to The Internet of Things. And Big Data is driving this bus. An exponential increase is expected in the amount of information being processed, managed, analyzed, and acted upon by enterprise IT. This amazing is not part of some distant future - it is happening today. One report shows a 650% increase in enterprise data by 2020. Other estimates are even higher....
I wanted to gather all of my Internet of Things (IOT) blogs into a single blog (that I could later use with my University of San Francisco (USF) Big Data “MBA” course). However as I started to pull these blogs together, I realized that my IOT discussion lacked a vision; it lacked an end point towards which an organization could drive their IOT envisioning, proof of value, app dev, data engineering and data science efforts. And I think that the IOT end point is really quite simple…
Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with 19th Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the most profound change in personal and enterprise IT since the creation of the Worldwide Web more than 20 years ago. All major researchers estimate there will be tens of billions devices - comp...
"My role is working with customers, helping them go through this digital transformation. I spend a lot of time talking to banks, big industries, manufacturers working through how they are integrating and transforming their IT platforms and moving them forward," explained William Morrish, General Manager Product Sales at Interoute, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 18th Cloud Expo, held June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with the 19th International Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world and ThingsExpo Silicon Valley Call for Papers is now open.
Today we can collect lots and lots of performance data. We build beautiful dashboards and even have fancy query languages to access and transform the data. Still performance data is a secret language only a couple of people understand. The more business becomes digital the more stakeholders are interested in this data including how it relates to business. Some of these people have never used a monitoring tool before. They have a question on their mind like “How is my application doing” but no id...
The 19th International Cloud Expo has announced that its Call for Papers is open. Cloud Expo, to be held November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, brings together Cloud Computing, Big Data, Internet of Things, DevOps, Digital Transformation, Microservices and WebRTC to one location. With cloud computing driving a higher percentage of enterprise IT budgets every year, it becomes increasingly important to plant your flag in this fast-expanding business opportuni...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Venafi, the Immune System for the Internet™ and the leading provider of Next Generation Trust Protection, will exhibit at @DevOpsSummit at 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Venafi is the Immune System for the Internet™ that protects the foundation of all cybersecurity – cryptographic keys and digital certificates – so they can’t be misused by bad guys in attacks...
Smart Cities are here to stay, but for their promise to be delivered, the data they produce must not be put in new siloes. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Mathias Herberts, Co-founder and CTO of Cityzen Data, will deep dive into best practices that will ensure a successful smart city journey.
SYS-CON Events announced today that 910Telecom will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Housed in the classic Denver Gas & Electric Building, 910 15th St., 910Telecom is a carrier-neutral telecom hotel located in the heart of Denver. Adjacent to CenturyLink, AT&T, and Denver Main, 910Telecom offers connectivity to all major carriers, Internet service providers, Internet backbones and ...
In today's uber-connected, consumer-centric, cloud-enabled, insights-driven, multi-device, global world, the focus of solutions has shifted from the product that is sold to the person who is buying the product or service. Enterprises have rebranded their business around the consumers of their products. The buyer is the person and the focus is not on the offering. The person is connected through multiple devices, wearables, at home, on the road, and in multiple locations, sometimes simultaneously...
For basic one-to-one voice or video calling solutions, WebRTC has proven to be a very powerful technology. Although WebRTC’s core functionality is to provide secure, real-time p2p media streaming, leveraging native platform features and server-side components brings up new communication capabilities for web and native mobile applications, allowing for advanced multi-user use cases such as video broadcasting, conferencing, and media recording.
Data is the fuel that drives the machine learning algorithmic engines and ultimately provides the business value. In his session at Cloud Expo, Ed Featherston, a director and senior enterprise architect at Collaborative Consulting, will discuss the key considerations around quality, volume, timeliness, and pedigree that must be dealt with in order to properly fuel that engine.