A New Deployment Mindset: Small Cells

The telecom industry believes that the worldwide volume of consumer internet traffic could be as much as 300 Exabytes (or 300 billion gigabytes) per month by 20221. As a result, network infrastructure and Communications Service Providers (CSPs) are faced with ever-accelerating deployment rates for network technology and equipment.

Network buildouts comprise different types of cells and technologies, one being small cell networks, for both 4G and 5G technologies. In this article we will give an introduction to the AWTI application for better managed deployments and cover some of the challenges present in small cell deployments.

Small Cell Deployment Challenges

A major component of the new network deployments are small cells. By 2025, small cell deployments and upgrades will reach 10.25 million radios globally2. The telecom industry’s capital investment of $11.5 billion on small cells in 2018, is forecasted to increase almost five times by 2025, to around $52 billion.

In the United States, a study commissioned by industry group CTIA has projected more than 800,000 small cells on air by 20263, up from 86,000 in 2018. It is estimated that Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile currently have between 30,000 and 50,000 small cells each. According to the projections, these numbers will more than double every three years for the next decade.

Small cell deployments face some of the same challenges as macro cells, and there are new challenges specific to small cells caused by the number and diversity of deployments. These challenges include:

  • Multiple Vendors: CSPs must manage multiple partners when deploying small cells. Most vendors do not have the in-house capabilities to solely execute the project, and end up subcontracting some work to other vendors. Additionally, there is a lack of synergy between multiple vendors and their subcontractors working on the project.

  • Deployment Cost: Due to the inherently high number of small cells, one major concern operators have in deploying small cells is the cost of deployment.

  • Deployment Timeline: Due to multiple constraints in dense urban areas as well as in-building areas, another concern for operators is the amount of time it takes to deploy the small cell.

  • Huge Scale of Densification: One of the biggest changes that operators will face as they move from 4G to 5G is the scale. Far more cells will be required, with a greater diversity of equipment form factors and site types. The average densification project will involve 100-350 cells per square-km.

A New Deployment Mindset

Increasing deployment speed and quality requires a substantially different approach than what is used for current network deployments. There needs to be a new methodology that completes as much work as possible in a central, controlled environment, and allows equipment to be deployed into the field that has already been installed and integrated into the network. In this new methodology, the mindset is to simply move the equipment to its permanent location.

This methodology is known as AWTI (Assemble, Wire, Test, and Integration) and increases speed-to-market, overall deployment quality, and reduces costs. The AWTI process as part of an end-to-end deployment management system is shown here:

The AWTI Solution

  • Performing validation of order versus Bill of Materials (BOM) and BOM versus design to ensure that exactly the right materials are sent to the field location the first time.
  • Central utilization of skilled and semi-skilled resources to provide production line assembly, testing, and integration of network equipment.
  • Reducing the volume of materials sent to the field and reducing waste produced on site.
  • Identifying damaged or defective equipment before it goes to the field.
  • Minimizing the scope of work of expensive highly skilled field installation teams.
  • Accelerating network deployments by reducing the time required to complete the in-the-field portion of the installation.
  • Improving overall network quality by reducing the field installation network down-time.

To learn more about the benefits of AWTI for your small cell deployments contact the KGPCo AWTI team. We are here to share how AWTI solutions can work for you.

1 “Edholm’s Law”: https://spectrum.ieee.org/telecom/wireless/edholms-law-of-bandwidth
2 “Tips and Trends: Small cell 5G Systems”, Qorvo, Jun 2019: https://www.qorvo.com/design-hub/blog/tips-and-trends-small-cell-5g-systems
3 “CTIA: Infrastructure-Key Facts: Towers and Small Cells”: https://www.ctia.org/infrastructure-channel

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