Verizon brings small cells indoors using these cute little dots

Verizon has had a big change of heart when it comes to small cells, which it once said wouldn’t have a big impact on its network. Not only is it using the tiny base stations to blanket San Francisco’s tech corridors with LTE capacity, it has begun experimenting with indoor small architectures, specifically Ericsson’s new Radio Dot system.

So far [company]Verizon[/company] only has the Dot system up in its regional HQ in Southfield, Michigan, but it’s the first use in the U.S. of [company]Ericsson[/company]’s new small cell architecture, which allows to building owners or carriers to install an indoor mobile network as easily as a Wi-Fi system.

enterprise small cells

Ericsson’s Radio Dot

There’s no word from Verizon on when and if it plans to install Dots in other buildings, but it definitely seems to have gotten small cell religion in the last year. The technology allows it to surgically insert capacity into its networks without building new towers or acquiring new spectrum. The end result for consumers is more LTE capacity and speeds in high-trafficked areas where you’d usually expect to find congested networks. In addition to San Francisco, it’s installing outdoor small cells in New York City, Chicago and Phoenix.

Ericsson seeks US iPad, iPhone ban as it sues Apple over patents

Last month Apple and Ericsson went to war over the fees Ericsson is trying to charge Apple for the use of its mobile broadband patents. Apple sued Ericsson in an attempt to have the patents declared non-standard-essential (meaning they don’t automatically command royalties) or, if they are found standard-essential, to have Ericsson’s fees declared unreasonably high.

At the time, Ericsson merely went to the Eastern District of Texas district court in search of a judgement saying the patents are indeed essential to 4G standards. Now, however, it’s stepped up its campaign in a big way.

On Thursday Ericsson filed two complaints with the International Trade Commission, asking the ITC to hit Apple’s iPhone and iPads with an exclusion order for “infringing Ericsson patents that are essential to the 2G and 4G/LTE standards.” It also filed multiple complaints with the Eastern District of Texas court, looking for damages and injunctions over the infringement of 41 patents.

These patents cover many things, according to an Ericsson statement:

The patents include standard essential patents related to the 2G and 4G/LTE standards as well as other patents that are critical to features and functionality of Apple devices such as the design of semiconductor components, user interface software, location services and applications, as well as the iOS operating system.

According to Ericsson intellectual property chief Kasim Alfahali, the networking technology firm has “acted in good faith to find a fair solution [but] Apple currently uses our technology without a license and therefore we are seeking help from the court and the ITC.”

Apple has previously said it had “always been willing to pay a fair price to secure the rights to standards essential patents covering technology in our products [but had] not been able to agree with Ericsson on a fair rate for their patents” and was therefore asking the courts for help. I’ve sought fresh Apple comment on Ericsson’s suits and will add it in as and when I receive it.

As 4G demand balloons, here come the “super” base stations

Mobile World Congress kicks off in a little more than a week, and while most of the tech world might be anticipating the Barcelona show for the launch of Samsung Galaxy S6, MWC is actually the place where the newest network gear makes its debut. This year network equipment makers seem particularly focused on building bigger, badder base stations — the processing workhorses of any cellular network — as demand for more LTE speed and capacity hits new highs around the world.

Ahead of MWC, [company]Ericsson[/company] announced its newest base station, simply called the Radio System, which can support 24 individual cells, 80,000 total subscribers (with 8,000 simultaneous connections) and 960 MHz of total bandwidth on a single baseband unit. What does that mean exactly? Well, lets take one of Ericsson’s customers [company]Verizon[/company] as a hypothetical example.

cell phone tower / cellphone tower / antenna

Verizon is launching LTE all over the spectral map. Its main LTE network uses 20 MHz of spectrum in the 700 MHz band. Its new XLTE network uses 40 MHz of spectrum in the 1.7/2.1 GHz band, and it’s launching supplemental LTE capacity in the 1900 MHz PCS band in places like San Francisco and New York. Furthermore, Verizon is reusing the same spectrum at its cell sites by splitting them into three or more sectors, each of which have the capacity a full-fledged 4G cell. And by virtue of LTE’s dual antenna, or MIMO, capabilities, it’s sending two data streams to every 4G device. If Verizon were to deploy the Radio System, it could host that entire multi-faceted network on a single base station and still only use up a little more than half of its overall capacity.

[company]Alcatel-Lucent[/company] is also showing off a new souped-up base station at MWC, and though it has a more arcane name (the 9926 eNodeB) than the Radio System and it doesn’t have quite the horsepower or Ericsson’s big unit. Alcatel-Lucent’s base station can also support up 24 individual cells or sectors, but only 16,000 simultaneous users. The baseband processor is designed to support some crazy upgrades to future LTE networks such as eight-antenna MIMO schemes and other LTE-Advanced technologies.

This might seem like overkill to you or I, but it’s an important trend because operators globally are starting to add more and more capacity to their 4G networks at an increasingly faster pace. All four of the nationwide carriers have already started cannibalizing their 2G and 3G networks to get at more 4G airwaves. Verizon and [company]AT&T[/company] just bid big in the last federal spectrum auction. And next year’s 600 MHz spectrum incentive auction will likely get even more attention from mobile carriers.

To keep up with all of that new spectrum, carriers need base stations that they can grow into, otherwise they’ll be forced to start from square one every few years by building new networks. Despite its new monster-sized baseband, Ericsson is anticipating carriers will still need to double or triple up on base stations at every cell site. So it has redesigned its network housing, creating what is essentially a track lighting system for mobile gear. Carriers mount rails on their towers and every time the need to add a new piece of gear, they just stick it on the tracks.

Ericsson's new radio-on-rails architecture

Ericsson’s new radio-on-rails architecture

But the mobile industry has started to question whether this constant cycle of cell site upgrades is really the best way to build a network. Instead mobile infrastructure vendors have started looking to the data center as a model for future network design. Instead of building a huge amount of processing power into every cell site, they can put all of that baseband capacity in the cloud and divvy it out to cells as demand dictates. The concept is called Cloud-RAN (RAN standing for Radio Access Network) and carriers like [company]China Mobile[/company], [company]SK Telecom[/company] and [company]Telefónica[/company] are already testing it out with the help of [company]Intel[/company] and many of many telecom equipment makers.

[company]Nokia[/company] Networks plans to talk up a new centralized network architecture at MWC called Radio Cloud, which takes many of cues from the IT world. It uses Ethernet to connect cells to an IP network, it runs its baseband functions on off-the-shelf servers and Xeon processors, and it adopts open-source software to manage the whole shebang, Nokia said. Cloud-RAN is still a year or more away from arriving in a commercial network, but we’re going to hear at lot more about it at MWC.

MWC-2015-ticker

Devicescape offers a Wi-Fi fallback service to mobile carriers

Devicescape has long offered a crowdsourced network of hotspots to carriers that have adopted a “Wi-Fi first” attitude, which aims to move as much traffic as possible of the expensive cellular network onto cheap public Wi-Fi. But Devicescape is now going after a different kind of carrier — one that wants to keep its customers on its 3G and 4G networks as much as possible and use Wi-Fi only as a last resort.

You can think of it as a “Wi-Fi second” attitude, and Devicescape is supporting that strategy with a new service called Coverage Continuity that acts as kind of traffic cop on a customer’s mobile phone. It detects when mobile coverage is poor or the network is overloaded and only then shifts customers over to nearby Wi-Fi hotspots if they’re available.

Coverage Continuity will work anywhere Wi-Fi and cellular are both present, but it’s an ideal indoor solution. The mobile network often has trouble punching through multiple walls, while Wi-Fi is readily available indoors. Once a strong cellular signal is detected, Devicescape then moves the device back onto the 3G or 4G network.

So why not just keep customers on the Wi-Fi network as often as possible, like the Wi-Fi–first guys? Well, Wi-Fi can be a fickle technology, as anyone who has tried to connect to a crowded coffee shop or airport hotspot can attest.

Devicescape’s network isn’t a private network where it can guarantee capacity to a carrier partner. Instead, Devicescape has aggregated millions of free amenity hotspots at stores, offices, restaurants and government networks in its global database and provides a device client that automatically connects to them. There’s a chance that any given hotspot might be more congested than the actual cellular network, so Coverage Continuity gives carriers much more control over when and how their customers connect to public Wi-Fi.

Artemis is building a 4G network in SF to prove its pCell tech works

For the last year WebTV creator Steve Perlman has been trying to convince a skeptical wireless industry that his most recent startup Artemis Networks has developed an LTE technology that solves the mobile data capacity crunch, and now he aims to prove it. Artemis is building a network using its pCell LTE technology that will cover most of San Francisco using Dish Network’s spectrum.

Steve Perlman

Steve Perlman

[company]Dish[/company] is leasing the PCS spectrum it acquired at auction last year to Artemis so it can install its transmitters on San Francisco rooftops by wireless ISP Webpass. Once it’s complete, which according to Perlman could be as soon as this fall, it will sell unlimited 4G data and voice-over-LTE plans to consumers via SIM cards that they can plug into any iPhone 6 and 6 Plus as well as select Android handsets.

Artemis’s ultimate goal, though, isn’t to become a full-fledged mobile carrier competing with the likes of [company]AT&T[/company] and [company]Verizon[/company], Perlman told me in an interview. Instead, Perlman is building this network as a kind of grand experiment to prove to the world that his pCell technology really works. “I’ll be honest,” he said. “We have a credibility problem.”

It sounds plain crazy

pCell flies in the face of a decade of cellular networking wisdom, which states that mobile data networking technologies improve only incrementally. The progression from 2G to 3G to 4G has been about squeezing more bits per second into a hertz of spectrum, but even crossing the single bit-per-hertz threshold was a hard-fought gain. Now Artemis claims it can improve that spectral efficiency by a factor of 35 by replacing big tower-mounted macrocells with a dense layer of pCells distributed throughout a city.

Artemis pCell

While devices normally have to share the available capacity of the network, Artemis claims its technology will deliver the theoretical maximum speed to every device it connects to, no matter how many smartphones or tablets are competing for attention. Artemis has demonstrated this by placing dozens of iPhones side by side all streaming different videos over the same spectrum, something that would be nearly impossible on standard LTE networks.

pCell accomplishes this by turning the topology of cellular networks inside out. Typically, cells are deployed in a manner that avoids interference. A transmitter sits in the center of a cell and neighboring cells are spaced far enough apart that their signals don’t interfere with one another. We, the users, move throughout these generally interference-free zones and expect to always find a clear signal.

Artemis, however, isn’t creating a grid of non-interfering cells. It’s throwing its signals straight at one another, creating a network where the vast majority of physical space contains a miasma of cross-interfering airwaves. But according to Perlman, there is order in that chaos. Artemis is really shaping the radio airwaves to create tiny oases of pristine signal reception — the pCells themselves — which just happen to be centered on wherever our devices are in the network.

It’s a hard concept to wrap your mind around, but it helps if you think of the network like a pond and each transmitter like a pebble. A pebble dropped into the pond creates ripples, or waves, that radiate outward, much like a cell tower transmits today. If you throw a bunch of pebbles into the pond, the crossing ripples create new, more complex patterns. If you were to drop thousands of pebbles at precise intervals and at specific places into that pond, you could shape those patterns into very intricate shapes. That’s what Perlman claims his pCells can do: paint the Mona Lisa in the airwaves with crisscrossing transmissions. Instead of the perfect smile, though, pCells are really crafting three-dimensional cells that can follow any device through the network.

pCell versus a regular cellular topology

pCell versus a regular cellular topology

If that sounds far-fetched to you, then trust me — you’re not alone. I’ve talked to several mobile networking veterans who — while acknowledging that Perlman’s claims are theoretically possible — are very skeptical that Artemis can pull off such a feat with today’s technology. The limited technical explanations Artemis has so far provided just haven’t been good enough to convince them otherwise. As one CTO of a major global mobile carrier put it, “Artemis needs to show its math.”

In the pudding

Perlman said he’s taken those criticisms to heart, and Artemis is now taking a series of steps to quell that skepticism. Artemis is releasing a detailed technical white paper this week that Perlman said will answer many of the remaining questions about pCell technology, but most importantly, Artemis will show by doing, Perlman said.

The San Francisco network will let anyone willing to slot an Artemis SIM card into their phone test the technology for themselves, Perlman said. Furthermore, Artemis is performing a more intimate pCell trial in Santa Clara’s Levi’s Stadium with VentureNext to test out the technology in heavily trafficked indoor areas. Finally, it’s releasing its first commercial product, called the Artemis I Hub, to carriers to test pCells in their own networks.

Perlman said he believes all of these efforts will provide both the science and the empirical data to convince pCell’s doubters of the technology’s merits.

Photo from Shutterstock/Gang Liu

As for the San Francisco network, Artemis still has to jump through some hoops to bring it online. Perlman said he wants to offer a full-fledged mobile service that SF residents can use to replace their regular carriers. That means Artemis will have to build a network comprised of thousands of pWaves (its pCell transmitters) on Webpass’s 600 rooftops scattered throughout the city.

Artemis also has to build the core infrastructure to support a VoLTE service so its customers can make phone calls and send text messages. And it needs to strike a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) deal with a nationwide mobile carrier so its customers can roam outside of the city limits. Finally, Artemis needs to get Federal Communications Commission approval for the project.

If all goes according to plan, Artemis could start selling SIM cards this fall, though delays might push it to the end of the year or into next year, Perlman said. I am looking forward to trying out this network for myself.

Verizon is laying down 400 tiny cells in SF to boost LTE capacity

In the coming months, workers and visitors along San Francisco’s major tech corridors may notice some very big improvement in Verizon’s 4G network speeds in some very specific places. The carrier plans to blanket the city’s SOMA, Financial District, Market Street and North Beach neighborhoods with 400 pint-sized transmitters called small cells.

You can think of small cells as a big tower-mounted macro cell shrunken down to size of your dorm-room space heater. They’re mounted on utility and light poles, and while they carry the exact same amount of capacity as a big macro cell, that capacity is concentrated in a much smaller area — in [company]Verizon[/company]’s case, a 250 to 500-foot radius.

Small cells are intended to be surgical tools in the network: Carriers use them to layer significant amounts of capacity in high-traffic and high-demand places. And in the case of San Francisco, there’s probably no more high-demand area than downtown, where the city’s tech industry is concentrated and everyone always seems to be surfing on smartphone or tablet, said Eric Reed, VP of entertainment and tech policy at Verizon.

A rendering of what two small cells (on different frequencies) would look like on an SF light pole.

A rendering of what two small cells (on different frequencies) would look like on an SF light pole.

Verizon is using small cells in other cities — New York, Chicago and Phoenix to name a few — but the San Francisco network in particular is an apt proving-ground for the technology because Verizon’s customers scarf down mobile data there like few other places in the country, Reed said. Specifically, Verizon anticipates a three-fold boost in capacity in the areas covered by these [company]Ericsson[/company]-designed transmitters, and customers should also notice some big increases in average speed as tinier cells split their capacity among fewer users.

There have been other small cell deployments in the U.S. — [company]AT&T[/company] is in the middle of a big one — but Verizon’s is particularly notable because of its extent. It’s packing a lot of cells into a limited area to create a very dense network, rather than just plopping cells down here or there to fill a coverage or capacity hole. While these cells won’t be in a massive single cluster, they’ll be spaced near enough that Verizon has to be careful they aren’t too close, otherwise their signals might interfere with one another, Verizon’s director of network engineering and operations Jake Hamilton told me.

What Verizon is building is what is known as a heterogeneous network, or HetNet, a kind of multi-layered system, which reuses the same spectrum over multiple radio technologies. Both the small and large cells will transmit over the same frequencies, which normally would result in a murky soup of cross-interference, but Verizon and Ericsson are taking a lot of steps to make sure that doesn’t happen. According to Hamilton, they’re shaping the radio patterns from Verizon’s towers so they wrap around the small cells where possible, and they’re also using an LTE-Advanced technique called enhanced Inter-Cell Interference Coordination (eICIC) to make the two networks behave as one.

Verizon is working with the city of San Francisco to use its utility infrastructure, and it’s currently getting all of its paperwork in order so its installation crews can get to work in the second quarter, Hamilton said. Verizon expects to have all 400 cells up and running by the end of the year.

Qualcomm to pay $975M to China in antitrust settlement

Qualcomm chips and intellectual property are increasingly found in smartphones around the world, but there’s been a cloud of uncertainty hanging over the San Diego silicon firm for the past 14 months: Namely, the chance that China would boot the company out of the country or severely hamper it because of issues with a 2008 Chinese anti-trust law.

Qualcomm announced Monday that it had reached an agreement with China’s National Development and Reform Commission. As Reuters reported earlier, citing China’s state-run securities trade paper, the deal includes a 6 billion RMB fine (approximately $975 million) and Qualcomm has agreed to change its licensing practices, including a promise that it will license its “essential” 3G and 4G patents separately from its other intellectual property, at what looks like a lower rate than before. Qualcomm’s summary of the key terms is below:

  • Qualcomm will offer licenses to its current 3G and 4G essential Chinese patents separately from licenses to its other patents and it will provide patent lists during the negotiation process. If Qualcomm seeks a cross license from a Chinese licensee as part of such offer, it will negotiate with the licensee in good faith and provide fair consideration for such rights.

  • For licenses of Qualcomm’s 3G and 4G essential Chinese patents for branded devices sold for use in China, Qualcomm will charge royalties of 5% for 3G devices (including multimode 3G/4G devices) and 3.5% for 4G devices (including 3-mode LTE-TDD devices) that do not implement CDMA or WCDMA, in each case using a royalty base of 65% of the net selling price of the device.

  • Qualcomm will give its existing licensees an opportunity to elect to take the new terms for sales of branded devices for use in China as of January 1, 2015.

  • Qualcomm will not condition the sale of baseband chips on the chip customer signing a license agreement with terms that the NDRC found to be unreasonable or on the chip customer not challenging unreasonable terms in its license agreement. However, this does not require Qualcomm to sell chips to any entity that is not a Qualcomm licensee, and does not apply to a chip customer that refuses to report its sales of licensed devices as required by its patent license agreement.

China is a key market for Qualcomm — nearly half of its profits come from the country, thanks to its large smartphone manufacturing industry as well as its huge smartphone market. Given that Qualcomm’s revenue last year was nearly $27 billion, the fine won’t cripple the company, but CEO Steve Mollenkopf has warned that the settlement would have a tempering effect on the company’s fiscal 2015 outlook.

The NDRC’s main allegation was that Qualcomm had a “monopoly” on modems for cell phones, particularly those using the CDMA standard, and had “abused its dominant position,” presumably by overcharging on licensing fees. Qualcomm, in defense, has alleged that Chinese licensees selling devices with Qualcomm chips have not accurately reported sales figures — meaning that it’s hard to accurately collect licensing fees.

It’s important for Qualcomm to continue to strengthen its business ties with Shenzen’s smartphone industry, or manufacturers could turn to improving 3G and 4G chips from companies like MediaTek and Samsung.

In December, President Barack Obama discussed the 2008 anti-trust law with his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping. A national security spokesman said that Obama had “concerns” about China’s use of its anti-trust policy to limit royalty fees from foreign countries, turning this business issue into a matter of foreign policy.

The big 4 carriers will bring LTE to Chicago’s subways

4G services are finally coming to Chicago’s subways. Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile are collectively installing a $32.5 million LTE upgrade in the Chicago Transit Authority’s 22 miles of subway tunnels, allowing commuters to continue chatting, streaming and gaming when they go underground.

As a Chicagoan I know the frustration of losing your smartphone connection when your train car dips below ground level, but you non-Chicagoans may be asking yourselves “Chicago has subways?” Yes: While the name of the Chicago metro train system is the “L”, which is short for “elevated,” Chicago’s two main lines go underground for about 20 stops when they approach downtown.

That means for many L riders, the last 10 or 15 minutes of the commute becomes a wireless dead zone, forcing you to deal with the reality that you’re in a train packed wall-to-wall with other people. When the carriers complete the upgrade – targeted for the end of 2015 — we should be able to continue surfing to our hearts’ content.

[company]T-Mobile[/company], which is taking the lead on the project, will coordinate the construction of a distributed antenna system (DAS) throughout Chicago’s tunnels. Then all four of the operators will connect their networks to it. You can think of a DAS as a cell tower broken into its component parts. Instead of putting a cluster of antennas at the top of a mast, T-Mobile will install individual transmitters throughout the tunnels, which will connect back to a central location called a base station hotel somewhere in the depths of the city. The carriers will all install their network gear in that hotel.

This isn’t the first DAS to appear in Chicago’s subway. Allgon Telecom built a 2G network in Chicago’s subway a decade ago, but the voice-centric system barely worked then and it’s next to useless now. Hopefully, this long-needed upgrade will finally fix Chicago’s underground dead zone problem so we can return to the warm embrace of our smartphones at the end of our commutes. What else are we going to do? Talk to each other?

4G spectrum auction ends, raising a record $45B

It took a grueling two and half months, but the Federal Communications Commission auction of new 4G airwaves is finally over. The provisional winning bids totaled $44.9 billion for 65 MHz of airwaves, the most the FCC has ever raised at an auction, but we won’t know that actual winners for a few days when the commission releases the official results.

The contest came to a close Thursday morning at the end of 341st round when no new bids were submitted. As you might expect the heftiest prices accrued to the big cities: A single 20 MHz license in New York City metro region went for $2.8 billion, while the same license in Los Angeles went for $2.1 billion. Once you got past the third largest metro area, Chicago, winning bids fell under $1 billion. The cheapest license? That would be a 5 MHz block in the territory of American Somoa, which cost just $2,800.

Unlike previous auctions, which opened up new spectrum bands for 3G and 4G services, Auction 97 centered on a band already widely used for LTE: the Advanced Wireless Service (AWS) band. It’s where [company]T-Mobile[/company]’s main LTE network lies as well as the new LTE overlays built by [company]Verizon[/company] and [company]AT&T[/company]. All three of those carriers participated in the auction, as they can easily add capacity to their networks with these new licenses.

The big question mobile industry wonks are debating, though, is just how heavily [company]Dish Network[/company] bid in the auction. These AWS airwaves complement the satellite spectrum it recently repurposed for 4G use, but the wily satellite TV operator may have had other goals in the auction. Analysts have suggested that Dish might be driving up bid prices for its competitors or gathering a stockpile of spectrum it can use for future leverage over the carriers.

The auction more than quadupled the $10 billion reserve price the FCC set, producing far more interest than anyone in the industry predicted. There are a lot of different opinions on what the record-busting conclusion of the auction means, though. My colleague Jeff John Roberts recently pointed out it’s a victory for net neutrality, as the high prices paid show that the carriers were bluffing when they claimed that Obama’s net neutrality plan would stifle investment.

Gigaom contributor Peter Rysavy said that the participation in the auction shows that the “spectrum crisis” is very real. If carriers could add more capacity and speed to their networks through technology upgrades and more cell towers, then they wouldn’t be paying such ridiculous prices for new airwaves, he wrote in a recent Gigaom post.

The mobile industry’s lobbying group CTIA tends to agree with Rysavy’s conclusion. CTIA’s new President Meredith Atwell Baker issued this statement:

The AWS-3 auction is the highest-revenue generating auction in the 20 year history of FCC spectrum auctions, and with the last major auction six years ago, this reflects wireless companies’ demand for this finite resource to meet Americans’ growing mobile broadband usage. With nearly $45 billion in bids – and billions more in capex – this auction is yet another illustration of the significant economic impact that exclusive, licensed use spectrum provides taxpayers and the U.S. economy. ?

SK Telecom and Nokia make big cells and small cells play nice

SK Telecom has just incorporated a tongue-twister of a technology into its Nokia-built LTE network in Gwangju, South Korea. It’s called Enchanced Inter-Cell Interference Coordination, or eICIC for short, and its aim to make networks packed with all different sizes and shapes of cells work in harmony.

What [company]SK Telecom[/company] and [company]Nokia[/company] Networks claim to have done is produce the first commercial cellular heterogeneous network, or hetnet, in which a bunch of tiny little cells mounted on utility poles or on building walls transmit under the umbrella of a big tower-mounted macro-cell. Normally in that type of situation you’d get a murky soup of cross-interference, as the big cell’s signals would overwhelm the signals of the smaller cells or vice versa.

With eICIC, though, the network can coordinate how and when those cells transmit in order to prevent much of that interference from occurring. eICIC is a key component of that grab bag of technologies we’ve come to know as LTE-Advanced and it will be critical in building super-dense networks of the future with loads of broadband capacity.

A diagram from Qualcomm showing small cells under the umbrella of a macro-cell

A diagram from Qualcomm showing small cells under the umbrella of a macro-cell

SK has actually been tinkering with the technology for some time – I first spoke to the carrier’s engineers about their lab eICIC lab test back in 2011 – but it’s proven a very difficult LTE-Advanced technology to master. Interference has always been the bane of RF engineers’ existence because the more transmission points you put in the network, the more places you create overlap between those transmissions. And everywhere you get that overlap you get interference, bad signals and crappy data connections.

Instead of trying to avoid that overlap, the hetnet takes the problem head on, depending on technologies like eICIC to get them out of its interference bind. SK says it’s now ready to start spreading its hetnet across South Korea with the help of eICIC. Hopefully that means the rest of the mobile industry is ready to follow in its footsteps. If carriers can eliminate – or at least mitigate – the interference problem of small cells, we could start seeing networks that don’t get overloaded in crowded places and pack tremendous amounts of capacity.