Summary:

Alcatel-Lucent says it’s begun deploying its tiny capacity-boosting base stations in Verizon’s network, and Ericsson is probably is doing the same. Don’t expect the big small cell deployment we’re seeing from AT&T, though.

Alcatel-Lucent revealed on Thursday that it has started peppering Verizon Wireless with tiny little cells in both indoor and outdoor locations. As opposed to the “big” cells transmitting from towers and rooftops, these small cells are designed to surgically implant capacity into densely populated areas of Verizon’s 3G and 4G network, where demand for voice and mobile data is greatest and congestion most severe.

As I wrote a few months back, 2014 is going to be the kick-off year for small cells in the U.S., though Verizon doesn’t have quite the ambitious rollout plans of AT&T and Sprint. While AT&T has committed to deploying 40,000 little base stations in its network over the next two years (with special attention to Disney theme parks), Verizon has tended to downplay the technology, claiming it won’t deliver the big capacity gains the industry claims.

small-cell-diagram

Instead Verizon seems to be focusing on expanding capacity its existing macro-cellular network by piling on new bandwidth in new frequencies. Last year, Verizon began upgrading its LTE network in big dense cities, doubling or tripling its 4G capacity in major markets.

Still, Verizon’s network engineering chief Nicola Palmer has said small cells have their uses, along with other coverage and capacity boosting technologies like distributed antenna systems, which are used to beam signals into hard-to-reach areas like subway stations and stadium grandstands. But I get the impression Verizon is going to use those technologies sparingly.

While Alcatel-Lucent announced its small cell contribution today, Verizon’s other major network vendor Ericsson won’t likely be far behind. Verizon tapped both equipment makers to shrink down cells in its network last year.

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