Thirty years ago, wireless infrastructure was fairly simple. A single large tower served the users within its area or cell. These cells were replicated in a honeycomb-like architecture to create a wireless network. As users moved around, their calls were handed off between these cells.
Since then, the demands on wireless networks have increased exponentially and have changed dramatically as consumers began to use their phones everywhere, not just outdoors. In addition, the growing appetite for access to data applications over wireless networks — not only by consumers but also by devices in the emerging Internet of Things — is causing wireless networks to evolve rapidly.
The macrocellular network that has served users since the beginning continues to be crucial, but additional wireless technologies, such as small cells and Distributed Antenna Systems, have become necessary to serve the growing number of users and devices, particularly indoors. The combination of a variety of technologies to serve users and devices in a variety of scenarios is called a heterogenous network — or HetNet.
CommScope’s Mike Wolfe, North American Director of Technical Sales, Wireless, described a HetNet using the analogy of a layer cake, consisting of separate dessert cakes that are frosted and placed on top of each other to form a single dessert. Wolfe noted the HetNet layer cake consists of two main layers — the macro network layer and the small cell layer, which consists of small cells, Distributed Antenna Systems, Wi-Fi, picocells and femtocells.
DAS and small-cell solutions are critical to the buildout of wireless services, including wireless broadband. Today, consumers demand consistent wireless broadband coverage and capacity across every setting. To meet this demand, the cellular network is moving closer to the consumer, using a variety of licensed and unlicensed technologies working in tandem. Today’s networks employ a variety of technologies from cellular towers, rooftop antennas, microcells, picocells, Wi-Fi and DAS. Together, these HetNet technologies knit together the nation’s wireless networks.
DAS and other small-cell solutions are deployment-ready technologies that are perfectly positioned to timely and efficiently meet the goals of ubiquitous, high-speed wireless broadband networks. Further, these technologies are highly adaptable and can be modified to service future spectrum allocations and communications standards with minimal impact on surrounding areas.
The HetNet Forum, a membership body within the Wireless Infrastructure Association, is dedicated to the development of the HetNet, a combination of DAS solutions, small cell technologies and Wi-Fi infrastructure working together to enable wireless broadband coverage and capacity.
For more information, visit the HetNet Forum website.