Nokia demos wireless small cells installed by drone
Nokia demos wireless cell installation

Nokia has found a way to solve small cell backhaul and power challenges for operators by using drones.

The solution will use drones to deposit solar-powered units called F-Cells on rooftops, and these will connect wirelessly to 64-antenna massive multiple-input, multiple-output systems. Each antenna system will support eight F-Cells.

In a recent test in Silicon Valley, an F-Cell was installed by a drone and then the unit self-powered, self-configured, and automatically connected to the network. No fiber or power cables were used.

“F-Cell is a key breakthrough in massively scalable and massively deployable technology that will allow networks to deliver seemingly infinite capacity, imperceptible latency and connectivity to trillions of things,” said Marcus Weldon, president of Nokia Bell Labs and Nokia CTO.

Small cells are seen as a way to get more bandwidth out of existing spectrum, but the process of permitting each cell and connecting it to power and backhaul is a challenge. Carriers know how to pinpoint the area in which the network needs a small cell, but often they do not know whether they will have access to power and backhaul in that spot until they investigate and negotiate.

Wireless, solar-powered small cells would solve some of these problems. Sprint and T-Mobile US have already started experimenting with wireless backhaul, and these are typically most reliable in unobstructed environments, often described as line-of-sight deployments.

This is a very cool idea. Use a drone to drop (place if you prefer) an autonomous cell in a previously determined position. Drone leaves and the unit launches. No doubt this will be engineered to work in reverse as well – cell fails to perform, drone flies in, drops a new one in position and hauls the faulty one off for repairs. Imagine this as a fully autonomous operation with constant monitoring and immediate deployment. Would reduce costs and increase customer satisfaction. Win. Win.



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