To improve mobile coverage and capacity while preparing networks for 5G and the Internet of Things (IoT), Ericsson has launched three small cell products: a multi-operator Dot, a multi-Dot enclosure for indoor deployment and, for outdoor deployments, a strand-mounted enclosure to hold multiple small cell radios.

The multi-operator Dot and the multi-Dot enclosure are aesthetically pleasing, multi-operator small cell solutions, extending coverage and capacity indoors and offering LTE and 5G interworking. The strand-mount unit simplifies the siting for outdoor small cell deployments by using existing utility infrastructure.

Ericsson dual band DotEricsson introduced the initial Radio Dot product in September 2013, developing it to improve indoor coverage. The Dot was a single operator system, a disadvantage compared to a distributed antenna system (DAS).

Addressing that drawback, the multi-operator Dot comprises a set of Radio Dots that can be shared among operators, with one operator managing the system while others provide RF signals. This new architecture allows four operators to broadcast over a single Dot system, adding the multi-operator benefits of an active DAS.

The multi-Dot enclosure product combines multiple Dots in a single enclosure to minimize the impact on building aesthetics. It is also useful for multi-operator deployments and reduces the cost in buildings that charge for each box deployed.

The strand-mount unit for outdoor micro radios enables small cells to be installed on existing utilities. The “zero footprint” unit can be hung from coax, fiber or electricity cables, which should speed outdoor small cell deployment. The strand-mount unit holds up to four micro radios, which also can be shared by multiple operators.

Nishant Batra, who heads the network infrastructure business at Ericsson, said, “With the multi-operator Dot and the multi-Dot enclosure, our customers can enhance the in-building user experience with excellent connectivity for both smartphones and IoT devices. The strand-mount unit for outdoor micro radios, meanwhile, facilitates the dense deployments that will be required for 5G, enabling operators to deploy small cells in areas where they may not have been able to do so previously.”

According to Mark Lowenstein, the managing director of consulting firm Mobile Ecosystem, multi-operator solutions are key to widely deploying small cells.

Surveys conducted by Ericsson ConsumerLab found that 90 percent of mobile phone usage is indoors, and 60 percent of users are dissatisfied with their indoor cellular connectivity experience, emphasizing the need for better indoor coverage and capacity — a problem that small cells can solve.