What are Small Cells? A Basic Guide to Femtocells, Picocells, and Microcells

Femtocell basics, picocell coverage, microcell basics

A guide to femtocells, picocells, and microcells from HetNetWireless.com

What exactly is a small cell? On the most basic level, small cells are low-powered radio access nodes, with a range of a few meters to a mile in diameter. There are three types of small cells, and ranging from smallest to largest they are called femtocells, picocells, and microcells. As a class, they are considered “small” compared to a mobile macrocell, which can have a range of about 20 miles.

The various types of small cells have various applications. Femtocells are typically user-installed to improve coverage area within a small vicinity, such as home office or a dead zone within a building. Femtocells can be obtained through your mobile operator or purchased from a reseller. Unlike picocells and microcells, femtocells are designed to support only a handful of users and is only capable of handling a few simultaneous calls.

Picocells offer greater capacities and coverage areas, supporting up to 100 users over a range of less than 250 yards. Picocells are frequently deployed indoors to improve poor wireless and cellular coverage within a building, such as an office floor or retail space.

Microcells are difficult to precisely distinguish from picocells, but their coverage area is the prime delineator. Microcells can cover areas less than a mile in diameter and uses power control to limit this radius. Microcells can be deployed temporarily in anticipation of high-traffic within a limited area, such as a sporting event, but are also installed as a permanent feature of mobile cellular networks.

In a heterogeneous network, small cells work in conjunction to provide uninterrupted coverage for its end users. HetNet Wireless provides seamless wireless coverage solutions that are perfectly calibrated to the physical space and requirements of our clientele, which vary from commercial developers to public safety officials. With the astonishing growth of hetnets to reach 42 billion dollars by 2020, it’s important to invest in an infrastructure that can move apace with technology. If you’re interested in learning more about how small cells can improve your wireless and cellular coverage, reach out to HetNet Wireless.