Without Small Cells, Video Conferencing and Streaming Do Not Work in Office Buildings

Without use of indoor mobile network cells and outdoor small cells, Internet apps such as video conferencing on smart phones might work only two percent of the time, while video streaming does not work at all.

That illustrates the dramatic impact support for Internet access on mobile devices now has on the design of mobile networks. Traditional networks were designed to support adequate voice app coverage. That doesn’t work for mobile Internet access.

Indoor application coverage is a bigger issue than voice coverage. In a high-rise office building, serviced strictly by traditional macrocells, voice service might work about 85 percent of the time, according to the Ericsson Mobility Report.

But video streaming rarely works, and video conferencing might only work about two percent of the time. Outdoor small cells will help. Adding public small cells improves video conferencing app availability to about 41 percent of locations inside a high-rise building.

Ability to use video streaming might improve to perhaps 21 percent. But coverage can, in principle, be increased to 100 percent, for all apps, when indoor pico cells also are added.

While median speeds in cities studied by Ericsson can be 10 Mbps and higher in a given cell, throughput is generally much lower at cell edge (only a few hundred kilobits per second). That is a function of signal strength, network load and device capability.

Of the cities Ericsson studied, only Copenhagen and Oslo have a 90 percent probability of getting a 1 Mbps downlink throughput or higher. In Shanghai, Jakarta, Beijing, Moscow, São Paulo, Cairo and Delhi, the corresponding speed is less than 100 Kbps.

In all of the cities studied, there is a large difference between the 10 percent (peak), 50 percent (median) and 90 percent probability downlink speeds, Ericsson notes.

In all areas of the city, except for in the home, where Wi-Fi access often is available, Internet satisfaction is falling behind voice satisfaction.

In some cities, such as Istanbul, the difference between voice and Internet access satisfaction is extensive, varying by up to 20 percentage points in some places.

For shopping malls and restaurants, satisfaction with Internet connections is at just over
50 percent on average. In these locations there is a difference in satisfaction levels of almost 10 percentage points for voice, compared to Internet use.

In Tokyo, London and New York as many as 50 percent to 60 percent of surveyed users are dissatisfied with voice and internet on the subway, for example.

That illustrates why indoor and urban coverage is so important for mobile service providers. Internet access performance now is a clear “pain point” for consumers.

A clear majority of mobile Internet access occurs indoors. In many countries, as much as 80 percent of total mobile device Internet access occurs indoors.

The other driver of traffic is cities, where most people live and work.

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