Click here to close now.

Welcome!

Agile Computing Authors: Pat Romanski, Elizabeth White, Jnan Dash, Larry Dragich, Wayne Lam

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
The basic integration architecture, as defined by ESBs, hasn’t changed for more than a decade. Most cloud integration providers still rely on an ESB architecture and their proprietary connectors. As a result, enterprise integration projects suffer from constraints of availability and reliability of these connectors that are not re-usable across other integration vendors. However, the rapid adoption of APIs and almost ubiquitous availability of APIs amongst most SaaS and Cloud applications are rapidly redefining traditional integration approaches and their reliance on proprietary connectors. ...
The Internet of Things is not only adding billions of sensors and billions of terabytes to the Internet. It is also forcing a fundamental change in the way we envision Information Technology. For the first time, more data is being created by devices at the edge of the Internet rather than from centralized systems. What does this mean for today's IT professional? In this Power Panel at @ThingsExpo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, panelists addressed this very serious issue of profound change in the industry.
Internet of Things is moving from being a hype to a reality. Experts estimate that internet connected cars will grow to 152 million, while over 100 million internet connected wireless light bulbs and lamps will be operational by 2020. These and many other intriguing statistics highlight the importance of Internet powered devices and how market penetration is going to multiply many times over in the next few years.
Today air travel is a minefield of delays, hassles and customer disappointment. Airlines struggle to revitalize the experience. GE and M2Mi will demonstrate practical examples of how IoT solutions are helping airlines bring back personalization, reduce trip time and improve reliability. In their session at @ThingsExpo, Shyam Varan Nath, Principal Architect with GE, and Dr. Sarah Cooper, M2Mi’s VP Business Development and Engineering, will explore the IoT cloud-based platform technologies driving this change including privacy controls, data transparency and integration of real time context wi...
Internet of Things (IoT) will be a hybrid ecosystem of diverse devices and sensors collaborating with operational and enterprise systems to create the next big application. In their session at @ThingsExpo, Bramh Gupta, founder and CEO of robomq.io, and Fred Yatzeck, principal architect leading product development at robomq.io, discussed how choosing the right middleware and integration strategy from the get-go will enable IoT solution developers to adapt and grow with the industry, while at the same time reduce Time to Market (TTM) by using plug and play capabilities offered by a robust IoT ...
"We have a tagline - "Power in the API Economy." What that means is everything that is built in applications and connected applications is done through APIs," explained Roberto Medrano, Executive Vice President at Akana, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 16th Cloud Expo, held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City.
Explosive growth in connected devices. Enormous amounts of data for collection and analysis. Critical use of data for split-second decision making and actionable information. All three are factors in making the Internet of Things a reality. Yet, any one factor would have an IT organization pondering its infrastructure strategy. How should your organization enhance its IT framework to enable an Internet of Things implementation? In his session at @ThingsExpo, James Kirkland, Red Hat's Chief Architect for the Internet of Things and Intelligent Systems, described how to revolutionize your archit...
WebRTC converts the entire network into a ubiquitous communications cloud thereby connecting anytime, anywhere through any point. In his session at WebRTC Summit,, Mark Castleman, EIR at Bell Labs and Head of Future X Labs, will discuss how the transformational nature of communications is achieved through the democratizing force of WebRTC. WebRTC is doing for voice what HTML did for web content.
It is one thing to build single industrial IoT applications, but what will it take to build the Smart Cities and truly society-changing applications of the future? The technology won’t be the problem, it will be the number of parties that need to work together and be aligned in their motivation to succeed. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Jason Mondanaro, Director, Product Management at Metanga, discussed how you can plan to cooperate, partner, and form lasting all-star teams to change the world and it starts with business models and monetization strategies.
To many people, IoT is a buzzword whose value is not understood. Many people think IoT is all about wearables and home automation. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Mike Kavis, Vice President & Principal Cloud Architect at Cloud Technology Partners, discussed some incredible game-changing use cases and how they are transforming industries like agriculture, manufacturing, health care, and smart cities. He will discuss cool technologies like smart dust, robotics, smart labels, and much more. Prepare to be blown away with a glimpse of the future.
SYS-CON Events announced today that BMC will exhibit at SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. BMC delivers software solutions that help IT transform digital enterprises for the ultimate competitive business advantage. BMC has worked with thousands of leading companies to create and deliver powerful IT management services. From mainframe to cloud to mobile, BMC pairs high-speed digital innovation with robust IT industrialization – allowing customers to provide amazing user experiences with optimized IT per...
There will be 150 billion connected devices by 2020. New digital businesses have already disrupted value chains across every industry. APIs are at the center of the digital business. You need to understand what assets you have that can be exposed digitally, what their digital value chain is, and how to create an effective business model around that value chain to compete in this economy. No enterprise can be complacent and not engage in the digital economy. Learn how to be the disruptor and not the disruptee.
The Internet of Things is not only adding billions of sensors and billions of terabytes to the Internet. It is also forcing a fundamental change in the way we envision Information Technology. For the first time, more data is being created by devices at the edge of the Internet rather than from centralized systems. What does this mean for today's IT professional? In this Power Panel at @ThingsExpo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, panelists will addresses this very serious issue of profound change in the industry.
Business as usual for IT is evolving into a "Make or Buy" decision on a service-by-service conversation with input from the LOBs. How does your organization move forward with cloud? In his general session at 16th Cloud Expo, Paul Maravei, Regional Sales Manager, Hybrid Cloud and Managed Services at Cisco, discusses how Cisco and its partners offer a market-leading portfolio and ecosystem of cloud infrastructure and application services that allow you to uniquely and securely combine cloud business applications and services across multiple cloud delivery models.
In his General Session at 16th Cloud Expo, David Shacochis, host of The Hybrid IT Files podcast and Vice President at CenturyLink, investigated three key trends of the “gigabit economy" though the story of a Fortune 500 communications company in transformation. Narrating how multi-modal hybrid IT, service automation, and agile delivery all intersect, he will cover the role of storytelling and empathy in achieving strategic alignment between the enterprise and its information technology.
Buzzword alert: Microservices and IoT at a DevOps conference? What could possibly go wrong? In this Power Panel at DevOps Summit, moderated by Jason Bloomberg, the leading expert on architecting agility for the enterprise and president of Intellyx, panelists peeled away the buzz and discuss the important architectural principles behind implementing IoT solutions for the enterprise. As remote IoT devices and sensors become increasingly intelligent, they become part of our distributed cloud environment, and we must architect and code accordingly. At the very least, you'll have no problem fillin...
Growth hacking is common for startups to make unheard-of progress in building their business. Career Hacks can help Geek Girls and those who support them (yes, that's you too, Dad!) to excel in this typically male-dominated world. Get ready to learn the facts: Is there a bias against women in the tech / developer communities? Why are women 50% of the workforce, but hold only 24% of the STEM or IT positions? Some beginnings of what to do about it! In her Opening Keynote at 16th Cloud Expo, Sandy Carter, IBM General Manager Cloud Ecosystem and Developers, and a Social Business Evangelist, d...
Converging digital disruptions is creating a major sea change - Cisco calls this the Internet of Everything (IoE). IoE is the network connection of People, Process, Data and Things, fueled by Cloud, Mobile, Social, Analytics and Security, and it represents a $19Trillion value-at-stake over the next 10 years. In her keynote at @ThingsExpo, Manjula Talreja, VP of Cisco Consulting Services, discussed IoE and the enormous opportunities it provides to public and private firms alike. She will share what businesses must do to thrive in the IoE economy, citing examples from several industry sectors.
In his keynote at 16th Cloud Expo, Rodney Rogers, CEO of Virtustream, discussed the evolution of the company from inception to its recent acquisition by EMC – including personal insights, lessons learned (and some WTF moments) along the way. Learn how Virtustream’s unique approach of combining the economics and elasticity of the consumer cloud model with proper performance, application automation and security into a platform became a breakout success with enterprise customers and a natural fit for the EMC Federation.
SYS-CON Events announced today that the "Second Containers & Microservices Conference" will take place November 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center, Santa Clara, CA, and the “Third Containers & Microservices Conference” will take place June 7-9, 2016, at Javits Center in New York City. Containers and microservices have become topics of intense interest throughout the cloud developer and enterprise IT communities.