5 of 5Image
This is a reference design for one of Qualcomm's small cells, or femtocells.
They may be a fringe effort right now, but femtocells will be very important when it comes to LTE-Advanced, or proper 4G (LTE is allowed to be marketed as 4G, but it falls slightly short of conforming to the specification).
The reason for this is that LTE is, according to Qualcomm R&D's Prashanth Sharma, no more spectrally efficient at this stage than the latest iterations of HSPA. So the general industry plan for its successor is to complement standard macro cells with small cells, to increase efficiency.
The femtocells used these days tend to be very low-powered, to stop them from reaching far enough to interfere with the macro cells. Part of the LTE-Advanced idea is to reserve small parts of the LTE spectrum for the small cells — it takes resources away from the macro cells, but the resulting efficiency boost sees overall capacity increase significantly.
Sharma said operational trials had seen network capacity increase by 180 percent through optimised deployment, as opposed to the 40 percent boost gained by simply throwing a few small cells into the mix.
(Image credit: David Meyer)