As first published in the June 2016 edition of AGL Small Cell Magazine.
Heavy data use from the proliferation of smartphones and other mobile devices has shifted the focus of cellular network operators from coverage to overall Quality of Experience (QoE), defined primarily by data speeds. More recently, the overall shift in emphasis to in-building QoE is beginning to upend traditional models for delivering wireless service.
Most buildings currently depend on outdoor macro cells or Distributed Antenna Systems (DAS) for coverage, but each has significant downside in terms of quality. Macro cells often have poor penetration into buildings, resulting in sub-optimal performance. Distributed Antenna Systems (DAS) provide better performance, but are not always cost-effective. Small cells have emerged as a third choice to meet the in-building demand while balancing costs with QoE.
Small cell networks need to be designed, tested, and deployed carefully and efficiently. Each small cell provides additional capacity, but overlapping coverage areas result in interference that reduces QoE. Passive intermodulation (PIM) interference, generated by passive network components such as antennas and cables, may also reduce data speeds.
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