Industry Thought Leadership

5G Network Densification: Airspan, Cracking the Code on Small Cells

April, 2018
Damiano Coletti
Vice President Strategy and Marketing


Network densification remains one of the greatest challenges facing mobile operators as they look to implement 5G, add 4G capacity and increase user speeds. However, achieving massive densification requires a new approach to small cell deployments, from site acquisition to RF planning, integration with existing infrastructure, installation, network optimization, advanced interference mitigation and management. One goal for densification options needs to be zero or minimal zoning review, which includes pre-approved forms such as mono-poles and aerial mounting options.

With over a 300,000 small cells deployed worldwide, Airspan is the only vendor to have demonstrated that new approach. Airspan has the most cost-effective network densification portfolio using innovative form factors that include the award-winning Sprint Magic Box based on the AirUnity indoor small cell with integrated wireless backhaul and plug-and-play installation, as well as AirPole and AirStrand, which simplify site acquisition and installation for outdoor scenarios. AirSON integrated operational intelligence minimizes operational costs and automates configuration and optimization tasks. Airspan is removing barriers and leading the way toward 5G network densification.

Demand for Small Cell Gets Bigger with 5G
As the demand for coverage and capacity expands, mobile operators are stepping up small cell deployment roadmaps. The Small Cell Forum (SCF) recently released the results of a survey of more than 50 mobile operators who were asked about their deployment plans and business drivers for a dense heterogeneous network (HetNet) and the barriers they expect to have to overcome. Forty percent of the operators expect to deploy between 100 and 350 small cells per square kilometer in areas they densify by 2020. The SCF forecasts that “…between 2015 and 2025, new non-residential small cell deployments will grow at a compound annual rate of 36 percent, to reach almost 8.5 million, and by 2025 deployments will be 22 times higher than in 2015.”

Most critically, 58 percent of operators in the first two to three years of deploying 5G New Radio expect to focus primarily on small cells. While some operators are launching 5G as a mobile service, most early installations are expected to be indoors and in venues, shopping malls, factories and other commercial areas.

To meet the challenge of densifying their 4G networks and laying the groundwork for 5G, innovative operators are looking for vendors who can anticipate their needs and provide a wide range of small cell solutions that:

  • support multiple deployment options to eliminate issues of site acquisition and installation costs
  • provide wired and integrated wireless backhaul options
  • simplify complicated system configuration and operations
  • automatically integrate and optimize coordination with existing networks

Pure-play small cell solution provider Airspan is the only field-proven company that is laying the foundation for 5G today by leveraging its deployment experience of over 300,000 small cells worldwide. With our small cells, Airspan is taking site acquisition from§` hours to minutes, all without a regulatory review. Advanced feature support includes integrated Distributed SON, 4T8R MIMO and unique LTE UE Relay backhaul that not only improves the efficiency of macro networks, but also scales networks with an ultra-dense 4G architecture.

Indoor and Outdoor Customers Like Magic
Last year, India’s all-IP wireless broadband network operator Jio successfully deployed close to 100,000 Airspan small cells, carrying more than 350 TB of data, and terminating more than 5 million VoLTE calls daily.

Sprint’s partnership with Airspan has already allowed the company to deploy nearly 200,000, all-wireless small cells — dubbed “Magic Boxes” — in approximately 200 cities across the country. The self-optimizing and self-configuring small cell requires no customer premises backhaul. The unit requires no implementation, labor or rental costs that are a hurdle for many traditional small cell deployments. Sprint expects to have a million Magic Boxes in its network in the next few years.

Airspan and Sprint recently won the prestigious GSMA Global Mobile Awards’ Best Mobile Technology Breakthrough Award for the Magic Box, gaining recognition for the technology innovation and simplified installation that is driving the largest indoor small cell deployment in the US.

The 5G Reality Check
Today’s mobile operators are tackling densification challenges on several fronts on the road to 5G. Flexible and creative small cell solutions are needed that meet the challenges of zoning and site acquisition, minimize installation and operations costs, and increase the spectral efficiency of the macro network. Airspan is densifying 4G networks with 5G-ready small cells today to deliver on the promise of high-speed broadband, voice and digital services for business and homes.