EE has claimed successful rollout of 200 new 4G small cells spread across various cities in its UK network.
Using kit from Nokia’s Airscale portfolio, EE reckons customers can enjoy up to 300Mbit/s downlink speeds when in range of a small cell (although the higher speed no doubt assumes that one customer is hogging the entire capacity). EE told Light Reading that the signal range, on average, was between 150 and 200 meters.
EE’s street-level small cell rollout uses licensed 1800MHz and 2.6GHz airwaves coupled with unlicensed 5GHz spectrum. Licensed-assisted access (LAA) of this sort allows network operators to exploit additional 5GHz capacity on the downlink. Last July EE first introduced LAA to the UK (in a part of London) using Nokia FlexiZone Multiband small cells.
EE said “hundreds” more outdoor small cell deployments are planned in the next 18 months. Only Nokia kit, however, is currently used live for outdoor small cells. EE told Light Reading that it will be “trialing with additional vendors in the future.”
Analytics and discretion
Working in partnership with Nokia, EE said it used “advanced network analytics” to identify areas where small cells could deliver a boost to network performance.
The operator added that it worked with local authorities to minimize visual impact of the small cell tech. Most of the small cells it seems are tucked behind lamp posts and CCTV columns. BT’s red phone boxes EE is owned by the UK incumbent is apparently another discreet place for small-cell installation.
EE said it will roll out outdoor small cells to boost 5G capacity once trials are completed with Airscale equipment (which can be software-upgraded to 5G). The trials are expected to start “soon.”
When pressed by Light Reading on whether it was working on any open RAN deployments of small cells, EE said it was unable to share any plans publicly at the moment.
Ken Wieland, contributing editor, special to Light Reading