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Communications United Kingdom Wireless Networking

London Needs 70,000 Cells For 4G 124

Posted by samzenpus
from the add-a-few-more dept.
judgecorp writes "How many cells does it take to cover a city? In London's case, it will take 70,000 cells by 2015 for the next-generation LTE network needed for 4G mobile broadband, according to a calculation from PicoChip. A shame that's too late for 2012, when Mayor Boris Johnson warns that mobile data demands during the Olympics may overload the current 3G network"
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London Needs 70,000 Cells For 4G

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    A shame that 70000 cells are not rolled out by 2012?

    I would call that wise money management, given how many 4G terminals there will be available (i.e. few) sompared to the number of 3G devices.

    Better to build WiFi / 3G picocells for the Olympic' hotspots.

    • by mrbester (200927)
      Agreed. Sort out the crap HSDPA data provision I get in central London before adding another underperforming network.
    • by Suferick (2438038)
      Plus the fact that the frequencies won't be allocated until 2013, after a long and elaborate auction process
    • by Joce640k (829181)

      London is MASSIVE. Seriously, look at it on a satellite photo.

      I suspect the area where the Olympics are going to be could be covered with a lot less than 70,000 cells. Anything else is just whining.

      • Yep, the area where the Olympics is going to be held is actually much greater than the area of Greater London, where most of the games will be played, and those that are within Greater London will be spread out across the city...

        The football games will be played at various stadia [wikipedia.org] up and down the country. Glasgow, Cardiff, Coventry, Newcastle and Manchester. And of course, the sailing will be down in Dorset, slalom canoeing in the Lee Valley in Herts., sprint canoeing and rowing at Dorney Lake nr. Windsor,
        • by slim (1652)

          The various stadia will be used to hosting a capacity crowd, and phone networks will have provided for them.

          Presumably the phone networks will have provided adequate cover for the newly built Olympic facilities.

          They'll probably be putting in temporary cells for the rural events too.

          I doubt this is going to be a problem; and if it is, it's negligence on the part of the networks, not the result of a fundamentally difficult problem.

      • by digitig (1056110)

        London is MASSIVE. Seriously, look at it on a satellite photo.

        Or just try to get from where I am in London to the Olympic area. I can get to France quicker. Yes, Greater London is over 600 square miles, about twice the area of New York City.

        I suspect the area where the Olympics are going to be could be covered with a lot less than 70,000 cells. Anything else is just whining.

        There's likely to be a lot of extra cellphone traffic in the centre of London and at the usual tourist hotspots too. But still, I'd guess that boosting the coverage over about 10% of London would probably be more than enough. Olympics visitors who spread as far as Cricklewood or Croydon are likely to be sufficiently thin on the gro

        • by rockout (1039072)

          Or just try to get from where I am in London to the Olympic area. I can get to France quicker. Yes, Greater London is over 600 square miles, about twice the area of New York City.

          Greater London may be 600 square miles (New York is actually 482 sq miles, if you include the water, which you should, since you have to go over it to get from one part of the city to another) but Greater New York is 11,842 sq miles.

          • by digitig (1056110)

            Or just try to get from where I am in London to the Olympic area. I can get to France quicker. Yes, Greater London is over 600 square miles, about twice the area of New York City.

            Greater London may be 600 square miles (New York is actually 482 sq miles, if you include the water, which you should, since you have to go over it to get from one part of the city to another) but Greater New York is 11,842 sq miles.

            The UK equivalent to Greater New York would either be "London and the Home Counties" or "The Thames Valley" (more likely the former), not "Greater London". Greater London is used for disambiguation from the "City of London" which is just over one square mile and is the financial district of Greater London. The City of London is to Greater London as Wall Street is to New York City. It's a (typically British?) quirk that we have to call what everybody thinks of as the city of London by another name because w

            • by rockout (1039072)
              So you're saying that both metro areas are huge. Yeah, we know. Anyway, 600 sq miles is not double 482 sq miles. In fact, when you take into consideration the fact that you have to go over and thru a half-dozen bridges and tunnels to get from one end of New York City to the other (try it sometime during rush hour, it's fun), those choke points make it much more of a pain in the ass to do than driving thru London.
              • by digitig (1056110)
                I didn't include the water areas because most of the water areas don't need cellphone coverage. London has a few bridges and tunnels that act as choke points, especially on the eastern side. And I never drive into Central London because it takes too long and it costs a fortune to park. I don't know about New York, but the only sane way to get into Central London is public transport.
          • by jonbryce (703250)

            And for an apples to apples comparison, the City of London is 1 square mile.

    • by jonbryce (703250)

      Also, we can't even begin the 4G roll-out until the analogue TV signals are switched off, and that happens in London in April 2012.

  • by Nkwe (604125) on Thursday September 29, 2011 @03:24AM (#37550752)
    FTA: "Femtocell maker Picochip says London needs large numbers of micro cell towers by 2015" and "Dr Pulley’s report also stated that there needs to be in excess of ten million small cells worldwide by end of 2015". Now why would a maker of small cells say that?
    • by Zuriel (1760072)

      Small cell maker says there is need for small cells.

      Yes, obviously self serving, but that doesn't mean they're *wrong*.

    • This is the LTE network for 4G ... which will give mobile users faster broadband speed than their home broadband!

      The current fastest home broadband on copper is 24Mb/s - and cable runs at 50Mb/s ... LTE will give 100Mb/s on the move and more if stationary ...why exactly do we need this and who is paying ?

      • by jimicus (737525)

        LTE will give 100Mb/s on the move and more if stationary ...why exactly do we need this and who is paying ?

        How?

        Every cell will need backhaul which is going to be either copper or (more likely) fibre, yes? An ADSL line's no good here. And you need 70,000 such cells in London alone.

        The majority of telephone exchanges in the UK haven't got FTTC yet, so where is all the fibre they're going to connect these cells to?

        • by evilandi (2800)

          >where is all the fibre they're going to connect these cells to?

          www.virginmedia.com

          BT don't have a monopoly in larger towns, and especially not in London. Virgin have cable - proper fibre - throughout most of London (admittedly not all of it, but enough to base the intial phase of a 4G/LTE roll-out on it).

          • Virgin don't have the monopoly on Fibre - all the BT backbone is Fibre to the Exchange which is where these will be connected to not the Local Loop copper

            There are also several companies who do LLU and can do you a Fire connection the a BT exchange, and get 50Mb/s with no problems .... the infrastructure is there

            But my point was if no-one can be bothered to but fast fibre to each house (Virgin only do upto 50Mb/s ... well below the possible limit) who is going to pay to do this...?

      • by thasmudyan (460603) * <udo DOT schroeter AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday September 29, 2011 @05:28AM (#37551440) Homepage

        LTE will give 100Mb/s on the move and more if stationary ...why exactly do we need this and who is paying ?

        Don't worry, if the 3G precedent holds up in 4G, the actual data rates will be MUCH lower and latency will be atrocious.

        • by MrZilla (682337)

          While data speeds will of course depend a lot on how large cells the network operator is using, the number of users in that cell, the usage pattern of each user etc etc, latency should be overall noticeably lower in an LTE network compared to 3G networks of today.

          A lot of the latency that is felt by the user is caused by the Radio Access Network (RAN) infrastructure, and the way that the core network operates. In LTE, a lot of design decisions have been made that aim to reduce latency, in part by simplifyin

      • Actually, cable now runs at 100Mb/s
    • by jimicus (737525)

      I've heard something similar from elsewhere - the thing that isn't very widely known about 4G is it requires at least ten times the number of cells in order to work. Which means the likelihood of seeing a rollout beyond the biggest cities is slim initially, to say the least.

    • by dintech (998802)

      I have lived in London for 8 years and I have to say that London is not and never could be ready for the Olympics. It's already way too over-crowded. There's no chance any of the infrastructure can handle another million people. In particular, transport, telecoms and services such as shops and restaurants.

      • Give Londoners not essential to the Olympics two weeks off during the Olympics, I'm sure they'll appreciate a chance to escape the madness... :)

        • Give Londoners not essential to the Olympics two weeks off during the Olympics, I'm sure they'll appreciate a chance to escape the madness... :)

          Here in Hannover, Germany, we just take a couple of weeks off when CeBIT rolls around and rent our apartments out to visitors for about 5 to 10 times what we pay in rent ourselves. We then use that money to take a nice holiday somewhere.
          Well, that's the theory... being a geek, I tend to just go to CeBIT, much to the dismay of my wife who'd prefer a free holiday.

          Londoners that aren't interested in hanging around for the Olympics should definitely consider the same.

    • by elrous0 (869638) *

      Dr Pulley’s report also stated that there needs to be in excess of ten million small cells worldwide by end of 2015

      They can have some of mine. I shed way more than that each year just from my skin.

    • by timeOday (582209)
      I appreciate your cynicism, but are you claiming London will have plenty of wireless bandwidth ready for the Olympics next year? Cowboys Stadium alone has 1000 cells.
  • by spectrokid (660550) on Thursday September 29, 2011 @03:27AM (#37550772) Homepage
    The gear exists to create a femto-cell in your home where you reroute your phone over your ADSL/cable. I often wondered, why don't they allow strangers to jump on the unused bandwith? Say I have a 10 MBit subscription, but my modem can handle 20. Why doesn't the telco open the remaining 10 for anybody comming by? Specially in downtown Londo where a lot of buildings must have direct fiber... Anybody can answer this?
    • Re:Offload to ADSL? (Score:5, Informative)

      by neokushan (932374) on Thursday September 29, 2011 @03:55AM (#37550932)

      Because in London a lot of buildings don't have direct fibre. There is the odd spot, but the majority simply don't. Most people are connected via ADSL, syncing at the maximum possible speed (the average is something like 6mbit on an "up-to" 24mbit ADSL2+ connection) so there is no left over bandwidth.
      However, BT do offer a service whereby their own home routers create a separate wireless network in which they allow other BT customers to use when they're not at home, so the idea isn't completely lost.

    • Are you suggesting they do this for free? They may actually lose existing customers if those customers find out they can piggy back on their neighbors connection for free.

      In any case, they're already over-selling more bandwidth than they currently have. And this system works relatively well when only a fraction of subscribers are using their service at a time, but that idea quickly falls apart when everybody starts using their paid-for service at the very exact same time.

      • No, I am thinking telco ABC sells you a mobile phone and your neighbour an ADSL. The neighbour broadcasts 2 SSIDs, one for personal use, the other "ABC_FEMTO_12345". Your phone contacts an ABC server over 3G and sais:"Hey, I can see this Wifi here, can I use it?". ABC replies: "Sure, Logon with password XXX and do an SSL with certificate 123". You pay the same datarate whichever way it is channeled and your neighbour doesn't give a damn except maybe he is using a little extra electricity. Man in the mid
    • Another poster already said security. Most people, when they make phonecalls, expect them to be secure. They aren't, but they're vaguely secure because your call is encrypted (by weak, broken, encryption in most cellphone standards) to the tower and is then kept on a private network (or, in a few cases, a VPN) until it gets to the person you call. The intermediate hops are all in the hands of various telephone companies.

      Now, it would make good engineering sense if I could set up my own cell and advert

      • Only you don't require that kind of bandwith for talking. You require it for uploading to youtube. And the telco can send encryption keys over the "safe" 3G / 4G network, so you can build an end-to end tunnel over a "non-safe" Wifi connection.
        • Only you don't require that kind of bandwith for talking. You require it for uploading to youtube.

          You require heavy bandwidth for talking if you speak a sign language.

    • by xaxa (988988)

      Contrary to the nay-sayers who've already replied to you, BT already offer this service (BT FON) through residential connections, but only to other BT customers, and Virgin are rolling out a similar service (but with an access point in their box in the street). Some mobile phone companies offer free subscriptions to various WiFi networks (generally in pubs/restaurants) to reduce load on their 3G cells. One company offers 3G femtocells which use a home broadband connection, I don't recall any details.

      Also,

      • by Doug Neal (195160)

        Correct, BT has an extensive metro ethernet network in central London, as do half a dozen other companies.

    • How about change cellular networks to be about data, and voice just one app that runs on our smart devices. The app (lets call it VoIP) then chooses the best network to make the voice connection - the wireless network provided by the telco or the wireless network provided by my wireless modem router connected to ADSL (or NBN in Australia's case - yeah right).
  • First it was microcells, then nanocells, now femtocells. What's next, QuantumCells? PlanckCells? Eesshh.

  • The calculation is probably correct assuming the whole city needs to be covered by small (femto/pico) cells, which is of course something that small cell vendor would like very much. In reality, many areas with relatively low population/phone density can probably be covered by a macro network and high density areas - shopping malls, apartment buildings, university campuses will need to be covered by femto or pico cells.

    • In reality, many areas with relatively low population/phone density can probably be covered by a macro network and high density areas - shopping malls, apartment buildings, university campuses will need to be covered by femto or pico cells.

      Sure - there'll always be a mix of small and large cells. But most of London is "high density areas". And it can be very difficult/expensive to find good sites to put full sized cell towers. If you can put many smaller cells inside buildings etc, just like WiFi stations, then it'll probably save the carriers a lot of money.

  • The current deployment of BTSs for cell coverage needs a different approach.
    Especially because in a crowded city like London, most of the BTSs would be femtocells [wikipedia.org] or picocells [wikipedia.org].
    If only a BTS [wikipedia.org] would cost, say UKP 1,000 each, that coverage would cost UKP 70M, without counting the yearly maintenance costs.
    For each non-virtual operator.
    Unless we also start pushing for telecom infrastructure sharing [wikipedia.org].

  • by znerk (1162519)

    A shame that's too late for 2012, when Mayor Boris Johnson warns that mobile data demands during the Olympics may overload the current 3G network.

    Gee, ya think?

    Although, to be quite honest, there's no such thing as enough preparation/bandwidth/security/anything for an Olympics.

    • by Chrisq (894406)

      A shame that's too late for 2012, when Mayor Boris Johnson warns that mobile data demands during the Olympics may overload the current 3G network.

      Gee, ya think?

      Although, to be quite honest, there's no such thing as enough preparation/bandwidth/security/anything for an Olympics.

      It will all come to a standstill when the muzzies let off another bomb.

  • by dkleinsc (563838) on Thursday September 29, 2011 @09:38AM (#37552986) Homepage

    London calling to the faraway towns
    Now there's too much traffic and network goes down
    London calling to old CGI Perl,
    Come texting the shortcodes, all you boys and girls
    London calling, now don't look at us
    But that silly iPhone mania has bitten the dust
    London calling, see we ain't got no bling
    'Cept for the ringtone that sounds like swing.

    The tech age is coming, the screen is zooming in
    Engines stop running and the bandwidth growing thin
    A critical error, but I have no fear
    London is lagging and I've spilled all my beer.

  • by saterdaies (842986) on Thursday September 29, 2011 @12:52PM (#37555630)

    In the United States, national carriers tend to have between 30,000 and 54,000 cell sites. While this document (http://www.sprint.com/whitepapers/dbdownload/HeavyReading_Assessment_of_Sprint_s_Network_Vision_Initiative_Dec2010.pdf?table=whp_item_file&blob=item_file&keyname=item_id&keyvalue='25625ay') is mostly about Sprint's network vision, but it also has estimates (page 13) of cell sites for all the national carriers ranging from 30,000 on the low end for Sprint's iDEN network to 54,000 on the high end for AT&T's network. Given that all of the national carriers tend to cover many major cities, it seems unlikely that London would need 70,000 cell sites for 4G.

    This is an article from the point of view of a company that sells small cell sites. Putting 70,000 cells in London would mean putting 115.3 cells in every sq mi. That's one cell every 5.5 acres.

    • In Kansas City (US), I am one of the few people who actually get 4G at home with Sprint. If I'm in a moving car and I need to use the internet, I just turn off the 4G and use 3G because that's the only way to avoid apps saying "data connection lost". So I don't know if we need 70,000 cell towers but I do think what we have now is inadequate.

      Oddly enough, Sprint still seems to be the best option because dropping down to 3G is better than being cut off altogether by a bandwidth cap. And keep in mind, this is

  • If we assume that there are about 7 million people in london then that means that each cell serves about 100 people IF they all have 4g cellphones. For some reason this seems a bit off. Lets assume that adoption rates are 50% so that gives us 50 people per cell. 50*100Mb/s = 5Gb/s (assuming all users are mobile otherwise we are looking at 50Gb/s which is quite a load for a single cell but assumes that all the users are pulling the max data all the time). I'm not going to do the math for antenna space and ba

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