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Small cells becoming ‘integral part of wireless networks’

Turn-key solutions needed to provide site, power and backhaul to small cells

Fiber is the backhaul option of preference, but, as networks continuously grow more and more dense with deployment of small cells, getting access to fiber becomes increasingly tricky.

On this episode of HetNet Happenings, host Sean Kinney discusses the outlook for fiber optic deployments with Phil Olivero, CTO at Lightower Fiber Networks, with a particular emphasis on wireless backhaul needs associated with small cell deployment.

Lightower claims more than 30,000 route miles of fiber in the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic and Midwest, providing connectivity to more than 15,000 locations including around 250 data centers and more than 5,000 wireless towers.

Olivero discussed the fiber needs of carrier small cell rollouts: “Mobile data traffic is just exploding. You’ve got wireless carriers now who are challenged really to keep up with that growth … and provide a great customer experience. Really, with the surge in demand, there are certainly pockets of capacity that are needed to basically augment the network. They’re now starting to employ things like small cells and are specifically asking for things like fiber backhaul. They have coverage, now they need capacity.”

Olivero added small cells “are becoming an integral part of wireless networks. They’re really a number of challenges that must be overcome to ramp up deployment. You have to understand, at purpose built macro towers, you’ve got a specialized piece of real estate and specialized land owners that basically understand how to deal with these wireless operators.”

That makes space, power and backhaul easy. “In contrast, as much as small cells are needed, where they’re installed and where they’re needed is in places that aren’t typically set up for easy site acquisition,” Olivero said “These are going on utility poles, they’re going on sides of buildings, really non-traditional locations for cell sites. To speed deployment, really wireless carriers are looking for folks to help them solve some of those problems. They’re looking to us and others sometimes for turnkey solutions.”

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