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BelAir provides cable-delivered mobile picocell

Wireless technology specialist BelAir Networks has used the annual US CableLabs conference to launch the 100SP Strand Picocell, a device designed to enable mobile carriers to deploy picocells more economically by using cable operators’ HFC access networks to provide backhaul.

“Most mobile operators know they need smaller cells if they are to deal with growth in mobile data traffic,” said Stephen Rayment, chief technology officer at BelAir Networks. The strand picocell device is designed either to hang from cable operators’ aerial cable plant (more common in the US than in Europe) or to be mounted in standalone pedestals, street cabinets or even in custom-built underground vaults, making use of the cable operators’ networks to provide very small cells that enable the mobile carrier to better deal with contention for bandwidth.

The device makes use of the cable infrastructure to deliver mobile broadband services either using licensed (for mobile network-delivered services) or unlicensed spectrum (delivering services over WiFi), reducing the cost of deploying a very small cell-based mobile data network. “It tears down barriers to small cell deployments by leveraging the cable operator’s infrastructure,” said Rayment. “Mobile data is going exponentially and driving the need for smaller cells.” Technologies such as LTE may deliver two-to-four times the capacity of 3G networks depending on the amount of spectrum available to the operator, but only smaller cells can deliver the kind of exponential increase in capacity necessary to cope with the increased demand for data, he said.

Rayment said that for mobile operators, picocells would be “critical” to the success of LTE deployments, while, for cable operators, the strand picocell would enable to build on their existing business providing mobile backhaul services.