Fiber U Free Self Study Programs

Fiber Optics For Wireless Networks

Lesson Plan 4: Small Cells
Level: Intermediate

Small Cells - For Metro Cellular and 5G Networks

Objectives: From this self-study program you should learn:

  • What is a "small cell"?
  • How small cells affect telco network architectures
  • How small cells are integrated into city infrastructure
  • What kind of fiber network is needed to support small cells
  • Issues


Wireless traffic is growing at a phenomenal rate. AT&T says their cellular data traffic grew more than 80,000% (that's 800 times) between 2007 (the introduction of the iPhone) and 2017. The landscape is covered with cellular towers but the capacity of these systems is inadequate for planned traffic levels, especially as cellular service providers move to 5G. The plan for increasing capacity involves several technical advances, but the key is moving toward "small cells" in metropolitan areas. 

Small cells go by other names including micro-cells. They are small, low-power, integrated radios and antennas intended for small geographic areas.
Small cells are basically outdoor versions of DAS active antennas used indoors. They cover very small areas, typically a few blocks in a city instead of miles typical of regular cellular antennas. Because small cells cover smaller areas than regular cellular antennas, they have fewer users connecting to them to increase the bandwidth available per user.

Small Cell LA

Small cells are intended to be be mounted on typical urban fixtures – walls, street lights, traffic lights, bus stops, whatever gets them slightly up off the ground. They only need a single fiber and power to operate. The electronics to control them is in a CO or head end, connected to them by fiber. The photo above is a small cell and street light in Los Angeles, CA, with the LED street light by Philips and the hidden small cell antennas in the wider part of the pole near the top provided by Ericsson.

You will be instructed to read the references or watch videos and take the quiz (Test Your Knowledge) to complete the "classroom" part of the course.

Get Started

Read The Online FOA Reference
FOA Reference Guide, Small Cells  

Test Your Knowledge - Small Cell Cabling - Quiz    

Lesson Plans
Read the materials or watch the videos linked on each lesson plan and take the quiz.

Lesson 1: Overview - How Wireless Networks Use Fiber Optics
Lesson 2: Fiber To The Cell Site And
Fiber To The Antenna
Lesson 3: Distributed Antenna Systems (DAS)
Lesson 4: Small Cells
Lesson 5: WiFi - Enterprise, Urban and Rural


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