Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The Rise Of The HetNet

I’m starting to see the term HetNet used in my reading and even had a student ask me for details this morning. That said – I figured it would make a good blog post.

HetNet is short for Heterogeneous Network and is a term currently being used in the wireless world. Most of us are carrying around smartphones with a number of different antennas built in for access via different network technologies. The neat thing about HetNets is they are able to maintain mobile connectivity (no dropped connections) when switching between different wireless connection technologies. 

The three different connection technologies getting all the HetNet buzz right now are LTE, Carrier WiFi, and enterprise femtocells. LTE is 4G cellular service and Carrier WiFi is just WiFi service provided by a wireless carrier. Femtocells are small cell devices that are connected to an Internet broadband connection. 

So HetNets allow a user device to seamlessly switch from network type to network type– LTE to WiFi to femtocell and vice-versa back and forth without dropping a connection. Pretty neat.

Now, not too long ago, it was believed LTE would be the dominant mobile technology and there would not be a need to alternative type technologies like Carrier WiFi and femotocells. But think about it…… there is only a limited amount of spectrum and bandwidth so providers are looking for ways to lower the number of devices per cell. There are also advantages to having users as close as possible to the different types of base stations. 

As a result, we’re seeing providers like Verizon Wireless and AT&T use HetNets to improve the coverage of their network, increase network capacity to match user demand. enhance the user experience, and lower the cost of delivering mobile broadband services.

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