Smart Small Cell Deployment Backhaul Efficiencies

smallcell1Launch 3 is always proud to share insight about the wireless industry. Wade Sarver, a professional in the industry for 25 years, writes blogs about issues surrounding cell towers and has graciously allowed us to share his knowledge with our readers.

Let’s compare DAS to Small Cell. One big difference between DAS and Small Cell is that the small cell usually standalone whereas the DAS may include a full BTS or small cell or repeater and even more. DAS systems are more complicated. However, when DAS is installed, there is a clear goal for coverage and loading. When small cell is installed you are usually alleviating a loading or coverage problem based off data you see or to make a customer happy. DAS is a specific solution to serve a specific audience. Small cell is going to be treated as a fill in most cases, for passing traffic. Small cells are usually strategically located to fill holes where DAS will fill one large hole and provide a large solution. DAS is big bucks and small cell is supposed to be cheaper, (which it is right up to the backhaul). They both are made to work together in on beautiful Heterogeneous Network. Het-Net rules!

So where can companies save in the small cell deployment? By sharing the indoor links with the outdoor small cells. If they would plan the deployment of both indoor and outdoor up front they could run the backhaul to the building then be sure to run a wired or fiber link to the roof, or a data room with a window, and shoot it outside to the outdoor links. The bulk of the price is the backhaul, and the wireless backhaul is a great solution, so take advantage of both. Plan ahead and see if you can work the locations together. From the rooftop you may be able to shoot the links to the poles. Find a solution that works best.

This all takes engineering and planning, but I see so many companies are not looking at the deployment holistically. This is where you, the deployment team, should be ready to offer a solution. If you win the bid in a region then show your value by offering them solutions. They may not listen but if you have a better solution, at least volunteer to improve what they have that will save them monthly cost. The upfront cost, (CapEx) may be more but if you can lower the monthly recurring costs, (OpEx), then it may have a reasonable return on investment, (ROI). Another advantage is that wireless links can speed up the deployment until the fiber “right of way” is ready. If that is the case make a point to offer to remove the wireless backhaul so they can use it in future deployments.

Think through the deployment from a high level, and then focus on the specific tasks. One thing that they are doing is adding the full spectrum up front. I don’t really understand the point unless they know it needs to be ready up front. Remember that bandwidth costs money, so let’s be efficient with the option to grow. Whether its fiber or wireless, plan for growth.

I will tell you from experience that small cells are placed for a need, but usually the need is a best guess. This is very different from DAS because there is a predetermined need usually for specific events like a football stadium where you will have heavy loading over a short period of time. Very specific designs for DAS, that is why they are more complicated. Small cells on the other hand usually are there to fill an “offload” need based on statistics, usually per call measurement data, (PCMD), provided from the carrier.

So if there is a need in a building and you can’t hit it from outside, then start inside and work your way out. It is not easy because you need to work site acquisition with the building owner (that is another story), but if you’re already installing equipment there, then take the time to secure roof rights. Use all your assets. Plan ahead to weigh out the costs so when it’s time to deploy you are ready to complete the system inside and out.

Launch 3 Telecom is a distributor of small cell and DAS equipment. To read more articles from Wade about cell site safety, you can visit his website: as well as follow him on Twitter. You can also visit Launch 3 Telecom to learn more about the products and services we deliver.