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Publié le 9 octobre 2014

RAN densification and its implications

One of my areas of interest is mobile technologies and services. As you know, the mobile network is experiencing a paradigm shift: instead of delivering services via a wide Radio Access Network (RAN), operators and the general mobile industry is now looking at another approach: densification.

The driving idea behind densification is to get closer to subscriber by delivering service to a smaller number of subscribers within a smaller region instead of a large area/high subscriber approach. This technically yields significant advantages most notably:

  1. Better reuse of the spectrum, which is one of the costliest component of operating a mobile network. Through densification, better reuse of the same frequency bands across multiple neighboring regions or cells becomes a reality.
  2. Addressing the bandwidth crunch more efficiently. The current macro deployment covers very well voice services but who has time for that? The mobile user today is a bandwidth hog, no time to talk but time to chat/skype/sms or update facebook, which translate into data. Densifying the mobile access alleviates congestion by managing a smaller area/subscriber instead of aggregating a large user base on the same point.

In the last few years, we have seen a number of technologies to densify the RAN, most notably Small Cells and Distributed Antenna Systems (DAS).

Obviously this does not come for free:

It will certainly take significant ressources to deploy as densification implies a much higher number of access points. This is going to cost significant money, time and ressource to ensure timely delivery (yesterday...) at acceptable costs (this is not Defense spending...).

There is obviously the challenge of maintaining a higher number of access point and the associated connectivity? How do you ensure that hundreds of thousands of access points are available and delivering quality services? After all subscribers expect more availability and better performance for their monthly service bill....