As traffic over mobile towers becomes more congested, the role of small cells in connecting customers to their wireless devices grows in importance. The demand for mobile solutions or content-rich multimedia is not likely to wane, putting increased pressure on service providers to identify new solutions.

According to this Forward Thinking report, the problem with small cells' larger cousins, the macro cells, is that they can only handle so much traffic with the spectrum they have to offer, which makes connectivity an issue, especially in times of high-use. Interference in buildings can also pose a problem for the macro cells. This is where small cells come into play.

It is estimated that in 2012, around four million small cells will be installed. All the smaller cells, which include the pico and micro cells, will likely grow from 3.2 million currently in operation to around 62.4 million in 2016.

It wasn't that long ago that all the small cells, classified as “femto” cells, could only be found in residential areas. But those femtos are moving to the cities as well as into enterprises, with a small percentage also making their way into the rural areas where mobile coverage has historically lacked.

The small cell adoption wave is moving to major carriers who are putting a larger focus on public WiFi (News - Alert) to accommodate the data traffic on their cellular networks. The Wireless Broadband Alliance, which has major carriers under its wing, is working toward interoperability as well as negotiating roaming options to establish that public WiFi at the top of everyone’s list.

In areas that receive brief but massive amounts of use, such as convention centers, it is expected that nano cells could be deployed that will enable wireless gigabit connection. With each of the small cells covering a small amount of geography, there will be less strain on the cell and better connectivity.

It's possible that in the near future, we'll be seeing more small cells deployed inside buildings and on their exterior, covering a smaller area, but creating a better WiFi network to meet the current and growing demand.

Taqua, a leading provider of fixed and mobile converged switching, gateway, media processing, and backhaul solutions, is working toward better strategies for mobile operators with a focus on femto cell strategies.

With femto cell convergence, Taqua (News - Alert) is counting on DSL/cable connections to divert backhaul traffic in the home. Using this type of convergence, Taqua will enable mobile operators a convergence strategy that expands their coverage, perhaps quadrupling play bundling.

It will also bring down the network costs by utilizing IP networks. The focus on femto cells reduces the load on the mobile network core, and it is also provides security that is on par with that of the macro cells.

As demand is expected to continue to grow, moving toward small cells will ensure the service provider can leverage current assets, while making the necessary investments to meet consumer demand.

Edited by Stefanie Mosca