Understanding the Trends & Features of Microcells

10.20.2015, Written by Annie Wang

Microcell BlogThe popularity of mobile browsing as a way of accessing the Internet has been building in popularity over recent years. Since 2014, the number of people who prefer to access the online world through their smartphone has surpassed the number of individuals using a wired desktop, which has therefore increased the desire for reliable network capacity. One potential solution established by experts is “microcell technology” – a strategy that allows for coverage of smaller areas while providing better performance, increased accessed points, improved throughput, and reliability.

Cellphones now offer a wide range of data applications and technical solutions, prompting operators to search for opportunities to promote wide area coverage for high-rate data. What were once regarded as understandable gaps in coverage have become the focus of carriers attempting to expand their reach. Because of this, various carriers embrace femtocells and microcells as a way of helping individuals and businesses gain better access.


Why Use Microcells?

The traditional “macrocell” is the largest cell in a mobile phone network and provides the widest area of coverage. Often, the antennas for macrocells are located across existing structures like rooftops and antenna since they must be high enough to reduce obstruction from buildings or terrain.

In technology, the word “microcell” applies to any cell that is smaller in size than the traditional macrocell. Fundamentally, most cells that cover less than two kilometers are femtocells and picocells which offer coverage below 200m. Picocells, microcells, and femtocells are each versions of “small cells”, which use cable and DSL connections to broadcast cellular service across a small space.

Boosters for cellphone signals utilize an existing cellular signal and amplify it for broadcasting, requiring the use of an existing signal. Contrastingly, microcells can create their own signals, allowing for placement in areas with poor reception.

Macrocells often have some gap between areas of coverage – imagine pouring basketballs into a bathtub – there would be quite a few empty spaces. However, even if you could cover an entire area with macrocells, the throughputs at locations in in-between areas have low signal strength which leads to a poor connection. The installation of microcells throughout these areas could resolve such issues.


Concerns Surrounding Microcell Deployment

Despite the fact that a number of major carriers already use microcells, there are a few concerns that exist. For instance, in order to install microcells within a densely populated area, carriers will need access to locations such as civic centers, stadiums, and hospitals. Sometimes, this need leads to objections from government personnel, who question why private carriers should have access to public space as a way of deploying their technology.

Perhaps the most significant concern when deploying microcells in any location is whether an appropriate location will be available in which to install and utilize the data, allowing it to connect to the remaining network. Unfortunately for many carriers, it has become difficult to find a reasonable location in which to deploy a macrocell, due to the visual appearance of antenna towers that traditional large-area cell sites need to operate. With microcell positioning, the use of antenna towers isn’t typically required, however, decisions regarding the placement and size of cable conduits still exist.

Many carriers hit a significant hurdle when attempting to work with the city to manage pole, space, and power-related issues, as although plenty of citizens are happy to access more powerful coverage for their cellphones, they are not willing to risk the aesthetics of their town for that purpose. The electrical equipment used to support microcell technology is no bigger than a household appliance, and it can run off the standard residential or commercial power grids that run throughout a city or town.  However, in spite of this, the public prefer to keep their technology equipment and utilities underground and out of sight.


Managing Microcells

For carriers hoping to install microcells, it’s crucial to strategize regarding power, physical space, and access. Carriers may need to rely upon the willingness of the end-users and allow for the installation of microcells in their local area to boost their coverage and internet access. Utilizing on-demand service labor to install microcells will become increasingly popular as we continue to see a rise in the use of mobile browsing and need for data usage.


Find trusted, on-demand talent for your microcell projects through Field Nation.

Or, visit our website to learn more about Field Nation’s support of carriers and OEMs servicing the microcell and distributed antenna systems industry. Assets include:

  • Efficiency, Transparency, Performance & Speed: Meeting the Needs of Today’s Wireless Infrastructure Industry – Ebook
  • ”Wireless & Broadband Infrastructure Trends 2016” – Infographic