Posted on 06/07/2016

This blog post was originally published on 7/7/2014. We've yanked it from the archive and updated a few things for your reading pleasure!

Carriers’ revenues from data has surpassed those from voice services in the last few years, but those data revenues have not kept pace with traffic growth.  As a result, wireless carriers need a cost-effective way to expand capacity and enhance service quality. Small cells are the answer. By turning to small cells, carriers can boost network capacity, especially in densely populated areas where a macrosite isn’t enough. Small, relatively inexpensive, and deployable just about anywhere, small cells provide a flexible way to increase capacity and service areas while better managing traffic.

Yet these deployments are no easy task. Small cells present many complex deployment challenges that go far beyond those posed by macrosites; traditional deployment processes don’t account for all the site-based complexities of installing microcells. Small issues can quickly escalate and lead to installation errors, poor data quality, and disputes between carriers and service providers about what was deployed when. Each problem drives up costs and slows deployments.

Carriers, Tower Companies and their Service Providers must find a way to manage and accelerate small cell deployments. Otherwise, as the volume of projects rises, the complexities of deployments could threaten the timing and success of enterprise-wide small cell programs.

The Small Cell Challenge

Small cell sites present new layers of complexity as compared to traditional macrosite deployments. With all of the zoning, acquisition, and leasing documentation required to build a macrosite, the risk of building it in the wrong location is close to none. However, it’s all too easy to deploy a small cell on the incorrect node inside a building – all it takes is an error in the site plan or a misunderstanding from the installer.

For small cells to deliver on their promise, their deployments must be cost-effective. To ensure maximum value from small cells, carriers and their service providers must overcome the following deployment challenges:

  • Complex project deployments: A small cell deployment project, whether outside or within a building, consists of complex project requirements, with multiple microcells serving as antennas of a hub. Each project entails many of the design, leasing, feasibility, permitting, and zoning issues of a traditional macrosite. Threading in backhaul and power to each cell can be a nightmare. From rooftop femtocells to distributed antenna systems (DAS) inside an airport to picocells on utility poles, each type of small cell has its own set of challenges. Taking into account end-to-end documentation, a new small cell deployment can take up to 200 days or more. Without an efficient way to manage and accelerate complex deployments, carriers and service providers risk encountering costly delays at every step in the process.
  • Aggressive project volume: Carriers plan to deploy massive numbers of small cells, and they’ve barely gotten started. Only a highly efficient – and accurate – process driving deployment will allow carriers to meet their goals for the number of devices deployed.
  • Potentially expensive: Data entry errors and other seemingly minor issues at any step in a project can cause inefficiencies to consume valuable time and money. For instance, a technician installing a device on the wrong node in a shopping center could require reinstallation or make it difficult to even find the device for maintenance. Every step in the deployment process and every stage in the lifecycle of a small cell must be automated to the extent possible.

Though small, microcells present huge challenges to carriers and service providers. Deployment processes – and technologies – designed to support macrosites won’t deliver the efficiencies needed for microcells. Carriers and service providers must find a way to deploy tens of thousands of small cells without breaking the bank. To keep costs under control, they need a solution that lets them manage large numbers of complex deployments more easily. Ideally, this solution would further streamline the process by giving carriers and their service providers an integrated view into projects.

Siterra for Small Cells

Siterra offers the capabilities carriers and service providers need. Since 2001, wireless carriers and service providers have relied on Siterra from Accruent to help them manage assets, sites, leases, and projects. Recognizing the unique characteristics of small cell deployment, Accruent developed a new Small Cell Module that extends the power of the Siterra solution to accelerate and improve small cell deployment processes.

Siterra addresses the challenges of small cell deployment by:

  • Managing complex deployments. Use project templates that group small cells as antennas on a hub to manage deployments at complex sites more easily as an integrated project.
  • Increasing deployment rates. Small Cell Location Analytics helps field technicians work faster and more accurately. Task dependencies boost productivity by ensuring technicians perform the right task at the right time.
  • Scaling to match the influx of small cells.Track multiple projects by site locations and attributes to get a big-picture view of your small cell assets.

Start to finish – Siterra makes it easier to install small cells efficiently while avoiding the issues that lead to delays and increased costs. You can find out more about Siterra and our other products here.

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