Small cells. They were supposed to be fillers, little boosts of low-power spectrum to close gaps in the radio coverage of macro cells. The macro cells, it was assumed, would continue their role as the workhorses of the mobile network, and require all the support and exactitude of design worthy of their station and scale. However, as small cells proliferate and combine to create Hetnets, or heterogeneous networks, it becomes more obvious that their role in delivering mobile services extends far beyond that of filler. As a result, small cell networks are worthy of equal support.
Small cells have become integral to mobile operators’ ability to keep pace with market growth and customer demand; and they are the only cost-effective way known to do so. Small cells are not disposable technologies. They may be comparatively inexpensive in relation to macro cells; however, the numbers in which they are needed still make for a significant investment that requires serious operational planning and other support strategies.
The traffic that small cells can deliver and offload from the larger radios is an important factor in meeting customer growth and demand; but the data they can collect concerning customer usage and service assurance are equally important and beneficial. To leverage small cells to the fullest, it is important to bring all aspects of operations support to bear, in a coordinated fashion; and incorporate more automation into planning, deployment, support, analysis, and assurance.
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