Why Picocells Won’t Take Off As Planned

cellular antenna in Ein Iron, Israel

So apparently the new fangled thing for cellular is going towards picocells. These are the small cellular cells that allow backhauls from home broadband. It really isn’t that new in cellular but its becoming a hot topic with the tech journalists.

And let me tell you why it won’t take off.

To get good coverage, you still have to put picocells on higher physical footprints. So they would still exist on higher towers, buildings, etc. albeit not as noticeable although when was the last time a person noticed cellular antennas within a city? This still doesn’t help commutable ground such as highways into rural areas and so forth since the traffic follows freeways and thus you need multiple targets instead of towers to handoff traffic. That becomes a space nightmare.

The technology is very sound. It takes traffic off of the precious spectrum and uses broadband instead of packet backhaul. But in doing this, the carriers are not giving back to the consumers. Like solar panels, if you generate more than you use, some states allow credit for energy provision. Given that picocells allow more use of the spectrum for “mobile” applications instead of stationary use, this would be the obvious choice to take. On top of all of this, you won’t hear about a carrier reducing rates. Not for that. Last I checked, AT&T even had you pay for it even though your benefit didn’t outweigh theirs. And they want to push this to all their consumers? Ick.

On top of this, there is the entire security aspect of this. If your backhaul is becoming multiple points in the network where it’s public, it becomes a major concern on someone actually taking over the network, or snooping on the network. Currently, your cellular traffic runs through a private network that is tied into switches that route the calls elsewhere. The moment you start dividing up traffic so that that it can be accessed elsewhere for backhaul, there also creates a middle-man area where a vulnerable point exists. This makes it difficult to convert a current network into one that supports both private and public backhauls without allowing infiltration points.

It’s a huge hassle in re-designing current infrastructure as an overall network design and would only be good in either developing markets or as a supplementary market. Having worked in telecommunications infrastructure for the last decade, I have to say that it would be a great shift in thinking to actually have anyone plan this far ahead with this type of technology. And if we did roll it out? There would be hell to pay without addressing the issues mentioned.

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