Sara Landström, Senior Researcher at Ericsson Research, explains why indoor small-cell solutions play an important role for users, operators, enterprises and shopping malls alike.

Small picos deployed indoors can be successfully integrated with the surrounding network deployments, enhancing the user experience and helping operators to get the most out of the network.

A majority of broadband traffic is generated indoors. In-building solutions such as small picos or larger systems are important when the requirements cannot be met using an outdoor solution. For instance, certain buildings have high penetration loss, in which case it can be more efficient to use an in-building solution. Furthermore, small cells may be added for superior voice and data coverage at key locations to complement macro indoor coverage when this is too weak. As data-rate requirements increase, in-building solutions also become more attractive.

There are a number of other factors that have to be considered when selecting and planning solutions: the concentration of users; their willingness to pay a premium; the indoor layout (large open areas, cell offices and so on); the building’s position with regard to the surrounding network; and backhaul availability to name a few.

Operators intending to address the needs of enterprise customers will be able to offer them a range of cloud-based products, for instance, bundled with connectivity. Offering good network connectivity in cafes, restaurants and shops will also attract users and encourage them to remain loyal and spend more.

In-building solutions that are well integrated with the surrounding network provide good performance throughout an entire building, and the cost of deployment is limited. Examples of how this integration may be achieved include: radio coordination being used to handle interference between outdoor and indoor deployments; and traffic management, which steers users to the most suitable means of access according to their current requirements. Other examples are transport coordination, one OSS to manage the complete network and get one view of the delivered service.

Existing distributed antenna systems (DASs) need to be modernized to provide for the latest technologies and ensure good data coverage; it is therefore the right time to revisit existing solutions and plan for future demand. Ericsson already has a strong DAS and carrier-grade Wi-Fi offering, and the first release of small picos for indoor use is planned for September 2013 (WCDMA).

We all want our connectivity, and our need for this is even greater when we are indoors. If we plan in the right way, we can ensure a very good user experience.