Alcatel-Lucent and the four step program for successful metro cell deployments
By Nicky Denovan
Visitors to the Alcatel-Lucent booth at Mobile World Congress 2013 in Barcelona were given an impressive demonstration and explanation of the company’s four-step program for metro cell network design, configuration, deployment and integration.
Simply told, and with powerful visual demonstrations of some of the key features of the installations, the booth presentation encapsulated the company’s unique whole-system approach to metro cell and Wi-Fi access point networks.
Alcatel-Lucent’s Director of Wireless Marketing Chris Kapuscinski explained to visitors that in designing and deploying metro cell networks, Alcatel-Lucent really did need to “think beyond the box”.
“It is very different from macro network deployment,” he explained, “because the scale is so very different. In a metro cell layer within a city center we will likely have hundreds more cell sites and carrier-grade Wi-Fi access points to cover the geography than would be the case for a macro network. The radio planning for that deployment requires almost constant calculations and re-calculations throughout the process.”
Alcatel-Lucent’s HetNet Ace planning tool therefore represents the first stage in the four-step design to integration process.
“The tool not only highlights locations to place metro cells for maximum performance and efficiency, it also calculates exactly how much traffic each cell or access point will offload from the macro network. As more metro cells get added, the tool recalculates the offload advantages and can highlight when an area has reached maximum efficiency,” Kapuscinski added.
The design part of the metro cell roll-out is only the first step. Each cell then needs to be configured to perform at maximum efficiency, especially when it comes to its backhaul component. The company’s Spider configuration tool uses scenario modeling based on the output from the HetNet Ace planning data to select the best backhaul solution for the likely traffic levels – wired or wireless, microwave or 60GHz millimeter wave. All the possible variants are considered and the optimum method chosen.
The third phase of the four-step process – deployment – also sees an impressive piece of industrial design innovation. Chris Kapuscinski was able to demonstrate on the booth how Alcatel-Lucent had succeeded, with its Metro Dock design, to enable different “radio-heads” to connect to the same backhaul mounting.
“With the Metro Dock design,” Kapuscinski explained, “we can roll-out the network of lamppost and other street-based mountings complete with backhaul connectors and simply clip-on the required radio-head.”
With a radiohead in his hand, Kapuscinski then showed how simple it was connect the radiohead to the backhaul mounting. “This makes it possible to simply swap the radio head if we need to upgrade the site – for example, to go from 3G to LTE or to add carrier Wi-Fi to an existing installation,” he said.
But the whole system approach to metro cell and Wi-Fi access point networks does not end with the deployment. The last phase in the four-step process is to manage the integration with the macro network and its managements systems.
“When you drop maybe thousands of carrier Wi-Fi access points and metro cells into a macro network in a HetNet configuration, you need to help the existing management systems to cope,” Kapuscinski explained.
“Our remote integration and testing process performs that function, helping the new metro cell layer to not only live alongside and within its macro big brother but also – importantly – to play nicely together,” he said.
In a world of ever-increasing smartphone use, and rapidly expanding data consumption, the accurate design, efficient configuration, rapid deployment and managed integration of metro cells and carrier Wi-Fi access points, are at the heart of a successful roll-out – and visitors to the Alcatel-Lucent booth at MWC certainly got shown the whole picture.
Nicky Denovan is a Director and Founder of EvokedSet Ltd.