The business case for using metro femtocells to support or infill the mobile network is well proven. But how do you know where you should deploy metro femtos?
Firstly, look at your customer complaints. This will give you an idea of where the coverage problems are and at what times of day. For instance, are the worst problems along commuting routes (bus stops, train stations at 8am or 6pm). Second, in urban areas where customer density is the problem, look at how many failed calls there are. You can identify which cells are at capacity and at what times. When you know which macrocells are struggling you need to find out where in the macrocell that calls are being dropped or where devices are sapping most of the available power: for this you will need to drive test. And pay attention to indoor usage. Around 80% of mobile activity is indoors (including offices, shops, colleges, venues) so consider targeting these areas with indoor femtocells.
Looking to the future
The small cell architecture will be a fundamental part of LTE, so should operators wait for LTE femtocells? The problem with this is that operators are struggling with data growth now, not sometime in the future and so need immediate solutions. Operators need to tackle problems wherever they are, and with whatever tools at their disposal – metro femtocells, enterprise femtocells, home femtocells, macro cells and so on.
While many operators are investigating metro femtocells, the approach differs. Some are interested in indoors, some outdoors, some rural, some urban. We are only just at the beginning of what could be a complete change in the way the mobile network is constructed.