Small Cell Deployment Strategies for Cable Broadband (2021)

By Toby Peck & Greg Laughlin, EnerSys

Cable broadband and wireless operators are working together to create new revenue-generating partnerships and service offerings. While some cable operators are reselling wireless mobility as part of their bundled service offerings, others are selling mobile operators access to their infrastructure for cost effective small cell connectivity.

Many broadband operators also plan to deploy their own small cell networks, leveraging recent acquisitions of CBRS spectrum and their existing Hybrid Fiber-Coax (HFC) infrastructure. Regardless of the reason, introducing small cells to the HFC network presents many challenges, from making a workable business case, to product design and development as well as operational practices.

Reliable power and quality backhaul are essential for small cells, and radios must be strategically located across a wide geographical footprint. You must also maintain a tightly coordinated schedule while working with a limited budget. The HFC network is a smart choice for distributed connectivity—it alleviates the cost of building a small cell network from the ground up, providing reliable, cost-effective infrastructure through most populated areas.

When HFC is not available to support small cell devices, alternative powering approaches may be more cost-effective. Remote Line Power (RLP) uses high-voltage DC power to distribute longer distances using copper with fiber, often in a hybrid fiber/copper composite cable. Local utility power can also be used, but often requires expensive construction, permitting and metering for new service to cell site installations. All three powering options have advantages and disadvantages.

This paper will evaluate HFC for small cell power and backhaul capabilities and explore different methods of deployment. We’ll also look at local utility power as well as remote DC power solutions for small cell powering. Small cell deployment requirements and challenges will be explored with guidance on selecting connectivity solutions based on the situation and environment.

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