What is Small Cell Technology?

Have you ever heard of small cell technology in the telecommunications industry? If so, you may have wondered when it emerged and what it means, exactly.  Today we are going to break down the main aspects of small cell technology to help you better understand why everyone is talking about it.

What is small cell technology? Small cell technology consists of low-powered radio access nodes that operate in licensed and unlicensed spectrum with a range of 10 meters to 2 kilometers. This is in contrast to macrocells, which provide radio coverage served by a tower and have a range of over ten kilometers. If macrocells have such a wider range, you may wonder why small cells are coming into play. With the growth of mobile data traffic, carriers are offloading in order to improve capacity, coverage, and quality. These “mini cell towers” offer a more cost-effective way to meet the demands of the ever-growing wireless world.

Within small cell technology, there are several types of small cells with different range capabilities.  These include femtocells, picocells, and microcells:

A femtocell is a small, low-power cellular base station with a range of 10 meters.  The most common uses for femtocells are in homes and small businesses. A femtocell can typically support up to 4 active cell phones in a home and up to 16 in a business. They allow for the extension of service coverage indoors and other areas where access may be unavailable.  A femtocell is able to improve capacity, coverage, voice quality, and battery life.

A picocell is another small cellular base station that reaches a little further, approximately 200 meters.  It is most commonly used in a building like a mall, office or train station and provides coverage and capacity to areas difficult or expensive to reach.

Finally, a microcell is a cell in a mobile phone network served by a tower (similar to a macrocell) but it only covers a limited area up to 2 kilometers.  These areas would include hotels and large shopping centers.

Overall, small cell technology is relatively new but it is taking off.  We hope this blog helped to break down the basics!


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