With festival season upon us, are mobile networks up to the challenge of providing a reliable service for large crowds? When thousands of revellers are trying to upload selfies all at the same time, it can put a major strain on a network. And to compound the problem, many summer events are held in urban parks or rural areas, where reception can be spotty to begin with. So how are networks dealing with it? Some are turning to the installation of small cells to temporarily boost coverage for special events this summer, as well as looking at them as a long term solution for high-trafficked areas of a city.
How small cells work
Small cell base stations have gone by many different names over the years, including compact, micro, and pico base stations. They are simply fully integrated base stations designed on a smaller scale and size, combining radio module and baseband processing into a single unit. Due to their small size, they have multiple benefits for network operators. They’re lightweight, easy to install, and easier to maintain. And because they are smaller, they can be placed in a number of areas where it would be difficult to install a full size base station. This allows a network to boost its signal with a higher number of small cells, placed on lampposts, on ceilings, or in other out-of-the-way areas. While macro base stations are usually placed at a certain height to cover a large area of reception, small cells are used to boost coverage in a more localized zone, such as a park or shopping centre.
Music festivals and more
One real-life example of putting small cells to work is with this year’s Lollapalooza music festival in Chicago’s Grant Park. To prepare for the upsurge in demand, Verizon has installed 12 small cells inside the park, which will add extra 4G LTE capacity to the park during the high traffic times. Chicago already has over 130 small cells scattered throughout the city, so this is part of a plan to increase capacity for special events like Lollapalooza. Over the past three years, data usage has sharply increased at Lollapalooza, with customers 124 TB of data last year in comparison to only 11 TB in 2012.
Singapore-based M1 is also looking at ways to boost surfing speeds in crowds with the assistance of base stations. They have a plan to roll out small cells not only at concert and event venues for the summer surge in traffic each year, but also in commercial buildings, shopping malls, and airports. This will start as part of HetNet trials in the Jurong Lake District of Singapore, to boost service in event and conference venues.
The bottom line
As the global demand for data skyrockets, it’s important for providers to come up with solutions. Small cells from Nokia Networks and providers like those mentioned above are a good way to boost coverage during events like Lollapalooza or Coachella. Summer festivals are now notorious for their tech integration – attendees want to be able to take and post videos or photos instantly. Boosting capacity for a smoother connection is one of the benefits of small cell technology.