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Tablet use drives need for small cells, says Weldon

Marcus Weldon, CTO, Alcatel-Lucent

Small cells are a vital part of the future broadband network, Alcatel Lucent corporate CTO Marcus Weldon told delegates at Broadband World Forum in his keynote address.

Weldon noted that mobile computing is now the dominant form of computing due to the success of tablets, which introduced just a few years ago, are now processing more data globally than desktop PCs and laptops.

“If you look at a tablet, it has no wires and no Ethernet port; if the dominant computing device is wireless that means we have to build capacity not just coverage into the network,” Weldon said. “These devices also have limited storage and rely predominantly on the cloud for storage, so we need high capacity networks. Furthermore, we use our tablets at home, at work and on the go, so we need to build ubiquitous networks that are always on.”

He commented on the expected rise in wearable devices and M2M connections and said: “To make it all happen we need to deploy small cell architecture and use the cloud, SDN and virtualisation.”

Although operators can enhance their wireless offerings by buying additional spectrum and improving the signal to noise ratio in their networks, Weldon believes this would result in relatively modest enhancements compared with deploying small cells, which can scale wireless networks by factors of up to 100, he said.

“This is the only answer for the capacity problems for the tablet use case,” he said. “We can tackle the issue purely by focusing on spectrum and spectral efficiency; that will enhance coverage but for capacity we need to reduce the distance from the device to the wireline network, which means deploying small cells. And it is affordable. If we assume we need to sustain today’s profitability but offer more capacity, we can use the price performance advantage of LTE and small cells to generate a tenfold increase in capacity.”


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