Last week, Huawei held its annual Global Mobile Broadband Forum in Tokyo. Small Cell Forum, and many of its members, were well represented at the event, alongside GSMA, GSA, ETSI and 5GAA. Unsurprisingly, there was a heavy focus on dense networks, small cells and the route to 5G.
Several of Huawei’s customers were sharing their experiences of densifying their networks and deploying small cells in indoor, enterprise, vertical and stadium scenarios – the areas which will drive new revenues and profits in the future. Local operators SoftBank and NTT Docomo were particularly prominent of course, as they gear to support 5G services at the Tokyo Olympics in 2020, which will require ultra-dense capacity in major venues.
Several of the interesting operator trials which Huawei described, and which were focused on high capacity and density, included one with EE in Wembley Stadium in London, which achieved speeds of 2.1Gbps using LTE; and one with Telefonica, focused on the ‘User Centric No-Cell’ architecture, which involves the network intelligently and dynamically allocating the best connection to a device as it moves around.
A number of operators – including Canadians Telus and Bell, plus Telefonica, BT/EE and others – took part in a 5G Summit, a workshop-style event which discussed business cases, applications and the results of early trials. Small cells and densification featured heavily, since many operators are currently testing platforms which will enable them to deliver very high capacity in targeted areas, harnessing high frequency spectrum and advanced SON (self-organizing networks).
Overall, it was clear that small cells lie at the heart of the agenda for mobile broadband in 4.5G and 5G, as operators drive towards ultra-density by deploying virtualized networks, new spectrum bands and SON.