Bandwidth is a hot commodity, especially where mobility is concerned. This demand is pushing the development of small cells, including the small but popular femtocells, and others like metrocells, picocells, and microcells.

According to this IT World Canada report, telecommunications companies have begun to look to small cells to help them provide more stable networks, but small cells are not without their challenges. These cells utilize licensed spectrum, which is somewhat limited. Without proper planning and placement, the risk of interference is higher. One way around this compromised service is the use of WiFi.

WiFi is now being used by some telecoms to integrate HSPA and LTE (News - Alert) small cells such as picocells. Companies are developing WiFi gateways that offer better security for small cells, as well as integrated WiFi (News - Alert) options to support the current small cell development companies have put in place.

But why is WiFi such an appealing option for so many telecoms? First, it’s one of the most cost-efficient ways of adding more capacity. The WiFi radios built into small cells boost the coverage, especially those that are designated for use by the public.

The WiFi radio integration is also expected to be of great service in highly populated areas in the urban center where peak capacity provides service challenges on a daily basis.

WiFi integration also offers something referred to as “local breakout,” which gives the user the ability to use their mobile devices, be it smartphone or tablet computer, and connect to their area network without having to go through outside networks.

With an integrated WiFi setup, this takes very little effort as the WiFi, when it is integrated with small cells, links to the core network through the same backhaul link. This architecture allows telecoms to offer end-to-end quality of service guarantees.

Companies looking for areas to expand revenue opportunities – which describes just about all of them – can utilize the WiFi support in their small cells to provide service to non-cellular devices, such as tablet computers.

Telecoms can begin offering WiFi-only plans that bypass voice options and can save the user money, while adding another line of revenue for the telecom. Companies using small cells can access WiFi backhaul and offer this solution as a useful backhaul link for more coverage to cellular using during peak hours.

WiFi in small cells wouldn’t be making such a splash if it were cost prohibitive. Its integration represents a low cost of ownership and a new path for two technologies that were once working separately for the same user’s dollars. Given the growing demand for accessibility on the go, this integration is key to the provider’s competitive advantage.

Edited by Stefanie Mosca