Small Cells: What Are They & Why Do We Need Them?

May 30, 2014

small cells


The massive consumption of data combined with the growing popularity of “anywhere access” is putting a strain on mobile network operators. How will technology respond to this change? How will operators offload enough data to meet the increasing demand for service in increasingly remote areas? The answer is small cell technology.

Getting Acquainted With Small Cells

SmallCoreCell_FemtoBefore we can dive deep, let’s get some introductory questions out of the way.

What are small cells all about? Small cell technology uses piocells and femtocells to solve speed and coverage demands for networks in everything from the home-office to the metropolitan area of a big city. Find more information about small cells here!

How does it all work? Thinking of data like a lone grocery store in a growing town might help as a visual. If this is the only grocery store in town, there’s going to be a huge demand for the products, especially at peak grocery shopping times, and increasingly as the town’s population continues to grow. Checkout lines get backed up, inventory runs out, and customers are left unsatisfied and frustrated. This is exactly what is happening to our data as we trend upward in an anytime, anywhere access environment. Small cells are the grocery stores that open up in this boom-town to provide quick support for eggs, milk, and bread when you need it in the corner store.

But don’t be fooled by the name, small cells are like additional franchise locations that take away some of the load from the original store. The challenge though, is figuring out how to make this growth happen in a way that is secure to the consumer and also more efficient.

Growth In Small Cells

The majority of the population has a pretty significant dependency on macro cellular data. And for a long time, macro cellular network coverage was the only option (remember the whole Can you hear me now? campaign…). But that’s all changing with advances in small cell technology. Think of situations like being in the shopping district of a large city. It would make sense here, especially on a weak cellular signal, to implement small cell technology to boost network availability for everyone in the area.


3d small people around cell towers.Small cell technology is advancing quickly to meet the needs of everyone from private businesses to large public spaces (both in huge metropolises and in the most remote rural areas). HSC is keeping up with fast pace of advancement in this area by internal innovations and supporting its customers in Research, Analysis, PoC and development

Don’t think the benefits of small cells are available to everyone, everywhere? Think again.

Companies are beginning to offer at-home services, on an individual level, with features like an automatic profile switching for personal devices that help you transition from business to home when you walk through your front door. This innovation uses unique identifiers to trigger responses and can segment between family members.

Work is being done to improve home networks so that they can automatically connect users who have been previously designated for access, while blocking unwanted users. Research and development in this space is focusing on how to identify friend or foe in terms of whitelisting.

On a larger scale, small cells can be used for security purposes, population monitoring and collecting valuable data in areas like traffic management, retail store flow, and overall crowd control. Innovation continues with companies working toward solutions that will power entire cities with WiFi by providing coverage in blackout areas, all while maintaining a seamless user experience. Focus areas for research and development for public use include coverage, speed, scalability, and cost savings.

HSC is working with major players in the industry, offering a wide range of experienced and innovative services. Visit our wireless engineering services page for detailed information on all of our offerings. Or check out our small cells page for more information our skills specific to this technology.

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