Smartphones opened a new avenue of revenue for carriers, but the speed at which they took off in the hands of the consumer is overwhelming networks. Carriers have been forced to think of affordable ways to give their customers the bandwidth they need to surf and communicate, while still maintaining healthy margins and Quality of Service.

Small cells technology has been the go-to source of relief that many carriers have been looking for, according to this XO blog. And, it’s a perfect fit as wireless networks have relied on cell technology from the beginning.

Cells of all sizes work through radio waves that allow consumers to take and use their phones wherever the signal can reach. While a majority of the costly infrastructure that allows consumers to use their phones is based on macrocell technology, small cells like femto, pico, and microcells are stepping up to fill in the gaps where the costly macro isn’t practical.

The earliest wireless networks were built around large cells, the size of which was dictated by the topographical makeup of the area. As technology advanced, the old macros are still in place. But consumers are doing more with their phones than just talking and texting – they are streaming videos, communicating via live video conference calls, and accessing a host of other applications that require engineers to take a closer look at how the network is mapped out.

As cell networks become burdened by the habits of the consumer with smartphone in hand, more engineers are turning to the small cells to get them through the next wave of tech savvy consumers who demand more of their network. Why small cells? The technology built into these small cells allows them to maximize radio frequencies that are available.

Small cells come in handy when areas become suddenly flooded with users. As the data requests build, the network becomes strained and so too does the patience of the consumers who suddenly are without a connection, or learning patience with a slow-loading video. Small cells planted on light poles, sides of buildings and other areas known for high levels of foot traffic can ease the pressure on networks.

According to the Small Cell Forum, small cell deployments are expected to grow from 3.2 million in 2012 to 62.4 million in 2016. Femtocells are expected to make up the bulk of small cells deployed. Picocell (News - Alert) deployments are expected to grow by nearly 400 percent in the next four years. The microcells and metrocells that are of particular use in urban areas are expected to see a growth rate of nearly 500 percent in the next four years.

As the consumer continues to demand access to rich multimedia information and entertainment, and a growing number of professionals on the go access corporate networks to stream information, service providers must make the necessary investments to support that demand. Small cells offer a powerful solution at deployment costs lower than traditional methods, making them a viable option in a data-hungry world.

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