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Friday, June 10, 2011

LTE: Network densification with Heterogeneous Networks

The continuous increase in traffic within mobile-broadband systems and an equally continuous increase in terms of the data rates requested by end-users will impact how cellular networks are deployed in the future. In general, providing very high system capacity (traffic per square meter) and very high per user data rates will require a densification of the radio-access network – that is, the deployment of additional network nodes. By increasing the number of cells, the traffic per square-meter can be increased without requiring a corresponding increase in the traffic that needs to be supported per network node. Also, by increasing the number of network nodes, the base-station-to-terminal distances will, in general, be shorter, implying a ink-budget improvement and a corresponding improvement in achievable data rates.

A general densification of the macro-cell layer – that is, reducing the coverage area of each cell and increasing the total number of macro-cell sites8 – as illustrated in the upper part of the illustration below, is a path that has already been taken by many operators. As an example, in many major cities the distance between macro-cell sites is often less than a few hundred meters in many cases.

An alternative or complement to a uniform densification of the macro-cell layer is to deploy additional lower-power nodes under the coverage area of a macro cell, as illustrated in the lower part of the illustration above. In such a heterogeneous or multi-layered network deployment, the under-laid picocell layer does not need to provide full-area coverage. Rather, pico sites can be deployed to increase capacity and achievable data rates where needed. Outside of the pico-layer coverage, terminals would access the network by means of the overlaid macro cell.

Another example of heterogeneous network deployment is the complementary use of so called home-eNodeBs, also often referred to as femto base stations. A home-eNodeB corresponds to a small low-power base station deployed by the end-user, typically within the home, and connecting to the operator network using the end-user’s wireline broadband connection.

A home-eNodeB is often associated with a so-called Closed Subscriber Group (CSG), with only users that are members of the CSG being allowed to access the home-eNodeB. Thus, users not being members of the CSG have to access the radio-access network via the overlaid macro-cell layer even when in close proximity to a home-eNodeB.

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