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The Decade of Densification

By Mike Collado
June 18th, 2014

Screen Shot 2014-06-18 at 10.54.48 AMWe recently had the privilege to present at the Small Cells World Summit.

For an overall trend recap, read our blog post as well as posts from our friends at ThinkSmallCell and Real Wireless.

At last year’s conference, Doug Alston from Sprint observed that the wireless industry transforms itself every 10 years and has unique characteristics:

  • 1980’s – 1st Generation mobile voice services
  • 1990’s – 2G voice capacity and text services
  • 2000’s – 3G rudimentary data services
  • 2010’s – 4G mobile Internet and small cells

While we agree with the first three periods, we take issue with the fourth.

Instead, we believe the 2010’s are based upon data capacity and enabling capacity where it is needed within the network.

Capacity Crunch

We are familiar with the “data tsunami” in which industry experts forecast that the consumption of mobile data will increase more than six times over the next 5 years.

But a more stunning observations gets overlooked.

Within any given geographic market, there will be super-dense urban locations where the mobile data network will be unable to meet the average level of data demand due to the congregation of large numbers of users. In these locations, the demand for mobile data will exceed the network’s capacity not by a factor of 6 but by a factor of 10, 15, or perhaps 20.

Decade of Densification

We believe the 2010’s will instead be characterized by new strategies and technologies to densify the network.

Meaning – filling the capacity holes.

In order to achieve this outcome, the wireless industry is going to rely upon a toolkit approach that consists of a heterogeneous network that includes small cells (pico, metro, micro), remote radio reads (RRH), femtocells, distributed antenna systems (DAS) and WiFi technology, along with a reengineered mobile backhaul network that is comprised of fiber and Ethernet.

In fact, we believe in certain markets we will see a change in paradigm in which the densification strategy begins with putting the cells as close to the user as possible and then working back out to the macro network.

And to solve for the challenge, the industry will deploy both evolutionary and revolutionary strategies.

We’ll discuss what this means and what those strategies may look like in our next post.


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