LTE Advanced Heterogeneous Networks, HetNet

- LTE heterogeneous network, HetNet technology, how LTE HetNets work and details about their operation and deployment..

LTE heterogeneous networks, HetNet are fast becoming a reality.

Within LTE and LTE Advanced, operators see the need to very significantly increase the data capacity of all areas of the network while also reducing the costs as cost per bit rates are falling.

Whilst LTE HetNet technology is starting to be defined, many operators are seeking to utilise the concepts to ensure that the delivery of service to the users meets expectations under the very varying conditions and scenarios that users are placing on the networks.

LTE heterogeneous network basics

To achieve this LTE and LTE Advanced operators need to adopt a variety of approaches to meet the needs of a host of scenarios that will occur within the network.

Different types of user will need use the network in different places and for different applications. Coupled to this operators introducing LTE and LTE Advanced networks will have many legacy systems available. In any LTE heterogeneous network it will be necessary to accommodate other radio access technologies including HSPA, UMTS and even EDGE and GPRS. In addition to this other technologies including Wi-Fi also need to be accommodated.

These solutions for LTE heterogeneous networks need to incorporate not only the radio access network solutions, but also the core network as well. In this way a truly heterogeneous network can become functional.

To ensure the best use is made of the available capabilities, all the various elements need to be operated in a manner that is truly seamless to the user. The user should be given the best experience using the best available technology at any given time. The performance and hence the user experience should also be very much the same whatever the location and whatever the application.

Note on Heterogeneous Networks, HetNet:

The concept of the Heterogeneous Network or HetNet has arisen out of the need for cellular telecommunications operators to be able to operate networks consisting of a variety of radio access technologies, formats of cells and many other aspects, and combining them to operate in a seamless fashion.

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LTE HetNet features

There are a number of features for LTE that can be incorporated into an LTE heterogeneous network above and beyond some of what may be termed the basic wireless heterogeneous network techniques..Although they could conceivably be used with other forms of wireless heterogeneous network, they are currently found in LTE.

  • Carrier aggregation:   With spectrum allocated for 4G networks, operators often find they have a variety of small bands that they have to piece together to provide the required overall bandwidth needed for 4G LTE. Making these bands work seamlessly is a key element of the LTE heterogeneous network operation.
  • Coordinated multipoint:   In order to provide the proper coverage at the cell edges, signal from two or more base stations may be needed. Again, providing the same level of service regardless of network technology and areas within the cell can prove to be challenging. Adopting a heterogeneous network approach can assist in providing he same service quality regardless of the position within the cell, and the possibly differing cell and backhaul technologies used for the different base stations.

Heterogeneous networks are now an established concept within LTE networks. The requirement to provide a better level of coverage and performance in a greater variety of situations means that a greater variety of techniques is required. Making all the different technologies from radio access networks to base station technologies and backhaul paths all come together needs careful planning. Early cellular systems had a far more standard approach, where base stations were characterised by the mast and antennas. Now a much greater variety of approaches is needed.

By Ian Poole

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