China Mobile and Ericsson have joined forces to trial the City Site, a four meter tall panel that includes a base station and an antenna customized for hotspot coverage.
Operators are looking for ways to augment their cellular networks to make them better at handling growing data volumes and, in some parts of the world, growing subscriber numbers. An important part of that work is the addition of so-called small cells that can offload the existing network. For users, that should mean better coverage and higher mobile broadband speeds.
Equipment vendors are developing different form factors for operators to add small cells, and the City Site panel is Ericsson's latest contribution. It uses Ericsson's RBS6601 base station and an omnidirectional antenna, which radiates radio waves in all directions and is used to cover a limited area. Depending on the frequency band and coverage or capacity requirements, the company expects coverage radiuses of anywhere from 50 meters to a couple of 100 meters, Ericsson's Cecilia de Leeuw, vice president and head of site products, said via email.
The City Site panel is suitable for use in a variety of different places, such as railway stations, schools, parks, squares, and main avenues, according Ericsson. China Mobile is testing the panel as part of its GSM network, but it can also support 3G and LTE.
To make the product more useful, City Site also has an integrated display that can be used for advertising as well as a clock.
It remains to be seen whether Ericsson's City Site concept becomes successful or not, but there is a growing interest in small cells and competition among the vendors is heating up. Last month, Cisco Systems, for example, announced it is acquiring British small cell specialist Ubiquisys.
While the concept of using smaller base stations or cells to improve coverage and mobile data speeds is not new, this year will see it take a big step forward, propelled by 4G small cells deployed for capacity upgrades, according to Stéphane Téral, principal analyst at Infonetics Research.