Distributed Antenna Systems (DAS) for mobile telephony have been evolving for years, moving from a solution for simply providing coverage to underserved spaces to a solution that requires (both voice and data) capacity to be an equal factor in the design considerations. Historically DAS solutions have distributed mobile phone signaling provided either by an off-air Bi-Directional Amplifier (BDA; typically used for smaller DAS) or conventional base station hardware that is used for macro sites (for larger DAS). Neither of these are ideal solutions in most cases though: BDAs simply push the traffic from building onto the macro network straining capacity and increasing interference in the network; macro base stations are very expensive, relatively large, and use/produce far more power than typically necessary.
Enter “Small Cells”. The term Small Cell refers to a class of base stations that are much less costly and use much less power. Initially these were stand-alone items (e.g. femtocells, picocells) often used to provide service to a small targeted area, but today mobile operators are marrying them with DAS solutions to provide the best of both worlds – dedicated capacity at a relatively low cost of deployment. Tomorrow, small cells will compete with traditional DAS architecture to provide distributed mobility solutions to coverage and/or capacity starved spaces.
Like any wireless technology, small cells are not the right solution in every case, but they need to be a consideration in many cases. Small cells have limitations today – a single small cell can’t serve multiple operators, they must be provided by the operator but not every operator makes them available, distributed small cell architectures are nascent – but they fill a vital need in our design portfolio. We would be happy to share our expertise and help you determine if these would be a fit in your wireless solution.