The Small Cell Forum on Tuesday began tackling the tricky issue of small cell deployment in urban areas.

The industry group has published a new body of work called 'Release Three: Urban Foundations' that aims to establish the business case and market drivers – and address operator concerns – about rolling out public access small cells in densely-populated environments. The documents follow releases one and two, which focused on residential and enterprise small cells respectively.

Small Cell Forum chairman Gordon Mansfield presented the new release at Mobile World Congress alongside the results of two studies into urban small cells.

One of them, carried out by Real Wireless, claims that deploying urban small cells in an urban area of approximately 40 square kilometres yields a $48.6 million benefit to the operator when it comes to lowering the cost of carrying an increasing amount of LTE data traffic compared to using just the macro network. Real Wireless put the total cost of ownership of this small cell network at $29.8 million, leaving the operator $28 million better off.

A second piece of research this time carried out by Maravedis-Rethink on behalf of the Small Cell Forum, identified the most commonly cited market drivers and barriers to urban small cell deployment.

The answers are fairly straightforward.

Operators want to deploy urban small cells to improve capacity, offer value-added services and integrate WiFi into their networks. However, their primary concerns are backhaul, optimal site acquisition, monetisation and network management.

While operators are all too aware of the hurdles they need to overcome, there is a general feeling that local governments need to acquaint themselves with these issues so they can do their part to remove some of the pain.

"We need to formulate best practices…and present it to municipalities," said Mansfield.

The amount of work that operators need to put in to deploying urban small cells also perhaps explains why, unlike its previous two releases, the Small Cell Forum has elected to divide urban small cells into two releases. Tuesday's, as the name suggests, aims to lay the foundations for deployment.

"The next release will report on the progress of urban small cells," Mansfield said.

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