Joe Madden, Mobile Experts
Who needs small cells? Well, as it turns out, you do.
Recently, in major US cities, urban mobile traffic exceeded the total peak capacity of the macro network. Without small cells, this would have caused major heartburn with customers. But nobody noticed. There were no parades down the aisle at the Small Cell Forum. Hey gang, we should have a party! Small cells are no longer a nice feature to add to the network…they are absolutely necessary.
Mobile Experts has recently completed a modeling project, in which we have estimated the demand for mobile data is several key scenarios, and validated our results with some major operators. Our records indicate that in the dense urban core, running the macro network at full capacity can no longer keep up with demand.
Of course, mobile operators like to have capacity that is well beyond their peak demand, and today they have achieved that safety margin through the use of small cells. In a typical American LTE network, total peak capacity in the dense urban core is roughly 50% higher than peak demand.
As demand continues to grow, the operators will become even more dependent on small cells, because the density of their traffic is only increasing. When we factor in new frequency bands, massive MIMO, and 5G, it’s clear that the industry will need all hands on deck to keep up with demand. Three years from now, we believe that mm-wave sites will become critical to the story as well. So stop the parade, we still have work to do.