Airvana, long-time provider of mobile technology, is using Cloud RAN (C-RAN) mobile technology for small cells to provide a higher bandwidth 4G connection and more reliable wireless coverage in large public spaces.
Today the company announced what it says is the first commercial deployment of C-RAN small cells, a technology that creates a pooled, cloud network tying together multiple small cells using two different frequency spectra to create a larger, more reliable coverage area that acts as one connection. Users get a mobile connection up to 66 Mbit/s.
Nex-Tech Wireless has deployed Airvana’s OneCell C-RAN system in the 7,600-seat Gross Coliseum at Fort Hays State University (FHSU) in Hays, Kansas.
Airvana’s OneCell combines several technologies, including a wireless Radio-Access Network, Ethernet, and two wireless carriers, to provide the solution. Two mobile connections, running at 1900 MHz and 700 MHz, are overlaid using OneCell small cells, ensuring coverage. The small cells are connected to a 100 Mbit/s fronthaul Ethernet link, and users get a 66 Mbit/s download speed throughout the coliseum. The cells are connected by the Ethernet network baseband controller, which controls the handovers between cells, enabling better coverage and fewer dropped connections.
Airvana says this cloud approach eliminates interference between small cells and enables broader, seamless coverage. The connection drop rate is 0.5% and the handover success rate is 100%, according to Airvana.
This is an interesting application that will be watched as small cells are increasingly deployed by carriers to cover concentrated areas, such as indoor arenas, that may not have traditional wireless coverage. It could be an alternative to Distributed Antenna System (DAS) technology, which is more common in stadium deployments. The small-cell market has been growing at a 65% annual rate that recently eclipsed $1 billion.
The C-RAN approach is also appealing because it could be used to aggregate many small cells to be used as a single network access point for mobile subscribers. Airvana believes that C-RAN small cells can take share from the DAS market, which is multiple billions of dollars.
Airvana has re-structured itself over the last few years to focus on small cells. It sold its CDMA EVDO macrosell business to Ericsson in 2013. The Chelmsford, Mass., company has about 200 employees.