With the news that telecom giant Sprint (News - Alert) plans to deploy many thousands of small cells to support the growing demand for wireless communications, the projected growth of the deployment over the next few years by industry experts deserves more credence.

According to this Gigamon (News - Alert) report, Sprint’s plans include indoor and outdoor deployment of small cells next year and in 2014. For Sprint, the small cells will help launch HetNet, the company’s heterogeneous network. HetNet will create large capacity using small cells that macros wouldn’t be able to provide.

The larger capacity can be reached because Sprint’s HetNet pulls together a large number of computers and other technologies with a variety of operating systems – all working together.
Heterogeneous networks have also employed large as well as small cells to provide better coverage.

Establishing the HetNet requires a thorough understanding of traffic patterns, volumes and how those correlate to revenues. Understanding exactly where the small cells or large cells should be placed is also a factor in establishing a HetNet. Primary and backup power to these small cells is an issue that requires planning if consistent service is a priority.

Sprint’s plans for North America are likely the largest in the works for the deployment of small cells. The telecommunications giant will utilize small cells such as picocells and femtocells in its quest to boost coverage.

The picocells cover smaller areas, such as offices, aircraft, and train stations, providing a range of around 600 feet. Picocells are extremely small, about the size of a small notebook and are generally low cost. They are extremely useful in providing throughput for the increasingly mobile public, and work with cellular technologies, such as GSM, LTE, ZTE (News - Alert), CDMA, and UMTS.

The femtocell is also used in small businesses for the same reasons as picocells. The deployment of femtocells is directed mainly indoors where the range can provide coverage up to around 30-40 feet.

Sprint’s rollout of the small cells includes doubling its femtocells in homes and businesses beginning next year. Picocells will be mounted on poles or on the walls of buildings where mobile traffic is at its highest. Some locations, like stadiums or large office buildings, will see up to 200 picocells installed. Areas where foot traffic is heavy will also be targeted, but that’s not expected until late in the deployment plan.

Sprint will leverage its macro environment to branch out small cell deployment over the next two years into a HetNet that will rival any currently in operation. Given Sprint’s placement in the wireless market, an aggressive push toward differentiation could threaten Verizon and AT&T (News - Alert) in their leadership roles.

Edited by Stefanie Mosca