There is a massive surge in indoor voice and data consumption. While in-building solutions (IBS) are gaining traction in the Indian industry, there is still a long way to go. There is an urgent requirement for neutral hosts to step in to cater to the ever-increasing data demand. At a recent tele.net conference, Dr C.S. Rao, chairman, Quadgen Wireless, shared his views on the current status of small cell deployment in the country, emerging trends, challenges and the industry outlook. Edited excerpts…
What is your view on the overall small cell ecosystem in the country?
Small cell deployment currently is not up to the expected level despite the fact that India has a huge demand for indoor coverage. Operators need to work with local electricity and municipal authorities to have a proper right of way for the installation of small cells. For instance, they should look at utilising street poles for deploying a 250 mW small cell device to serve 300-600 metres of coverage with very high capacity. There is a need for products with higher-order modulation and capacity so that they are carrier-grade and not just consumer-grade access points. The products serving 4×4 multiple-input, multiple-output (MIMO) at 250 mW per path kind of transmission at 100 MHz are available in countries such as the US and must soon become a reality in India too. Further, these must be available at competitive price points. Small cells need robust backhaul support. Small cell deployment is a must in dense urban areas and large multitenant and apartment complexes. It is required to utilise the in-building fibre as the connectivity component for linking multiple small cells.
When do you see this market taking off?
I believe today one has to see in-building coverage as a digital utility. This is what consumers in residential units are also expecting. This would require much higher densification of small cells for which fiberisation has to happen. In my view, it may take about two to three more years for an ecosystem to develop. More importantly, the right kind of products, that too, carrier-grade products, need to be developed.
Is the small cell infrastructure currently being deployed shareable among operators?
It is not available yet. To make this happen, the operating support system would have to support multi-technology, multi-band and multifrequency operations and then the distribution has to happen across small cells in different floors. And I believe this is easier said than done.