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The Shadowing Effect of Femtocells

What are Femtocells?

By Definition: A Femtocell is the smallest as well as a minimum type of cell which is used to enlarge cellular network connectivity within a targeted geographical area (typically a small, undersized, single location). 

Femtocells are used as a wireless access point that improves cellular reception inside home data traffic or office building. This device communicates with the mobile phone and converts your voice calls into voice over IP (VoIP) packets. The packets are then transmitted over a broadband connection to the mobile operator's servers.

While it is the smallest although smartest in the family of small cell technologies, Femtocells uses the smallest quantity of power; as such, they don’t offer as much of an impact when attempting to expand network connectivity. Matter of a fact is that, by differentiating other varieties of small cells, such as picocells and microcells; femtocell presents the slightest amount of additional bandwidth, so that it could be only deployed in specific circumstances.

Note: Femtocells are compatible with CDMA2000, WiMAX or UMTS mobile telephony technologies, using the provider's own licensed spectrum to operate. Typically, consumer-based femtocells will support only four active users, while enterprise-grade femtocells can support up to 16 active users.

femtocell, femtocell technology
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The Shadowing Effect

Even though Femtocell network range and capacity are relatively limited, it’s their low powered nature that often makes them the small cell geographic choice. Before deployment of a small cell network begins, the targeted space must be analyzed for certain limiting factors that might cause interference to the network signals, and the result of the analysis often provide restrictions for the use of larger small cell technologies due to the probable signal interference.

Firstly of all, for all small cell systems, there is a “shadowing effect” with the signal that must be taken into consideration when designing the small cell network. For some small cells, such as microcells, the broadcasted signal is strong enough that if placed too close to another transmitting microcell, the two signals can interfere with one another and cause signal degradation.
This shadowing effect can cause serious problems for the targeted location if it just so happens to be filled with signal interfering obstacles. For example, let’s say your office space is arranged in such a manner that there is a combination of cubicles and smaller enclosed spaces used for meetings. These areas are separated by glass, concrete, and other building materials that can disrupt the traveling signal of the microcell.

But what’s even bad, is that sometimes adding extra microcells to the office will only cause the signals to corrupt further, but here’s where Femtocells truly outclass others. Because of its tiny footprints, Femtocell designs allows for the placement of multiple antennas around the space, providing the necessary network connectivity without distracting the Femtocell network signal and simultaneously negating the effects of interfering obstacles.

In this situation, Femtocells can be tactically positioned close to and around the workspaces, as well as each indoor meeting room in order to provide a steady cellular connectivity, and avoiding the shadowing effect.

femtocell technology, shadowing effect of femtocell

For Future Generations

For smaller locations, or locations that attribute many signal blockages, Femtocell technology will maintain the popularity to be a stable network solution. The low budget, low power-driven nature makes them a smart alternative even to the larger, and costlier small cell solutions, especially when the need for network connectivity only covers a few individual users at any given time.

However for casual customer at home, the future of Femtocells is quite lacking confidence. Even though Femtocell networks are undersized, low power-driven, and easy to deploy, cellular providers are fluently taking up the facility by offering Wi-Fi calling, which directly competes with Femtocell potentiality. Also, as popular messaging applications move more users away from traditional SMS text messaging, the need for a reliable cellular connection in the home is likely to continue to decrease in priority.


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