Please hold while we process the request.

Macrocell Validation – What to validate?
  • 5G
  • August 21, 2023

Macrocell Validation – What to validate?

5G rollout plans for cellular network operators typically involve a combination of small cells and macrocells to ensure comprehensive coverage, high capacity, and efficient network performance. The specific strategies and deployment approaches can vary based on factors such as urban density, user demand, available infrastructure, and regulatory considerations.

The exact deployment mix of small cells and macrocells varies based on the operator’s business strategy, available resources, technological advancements, and the specific requirements of each deployment area. The goal is to create a seamless and high-quality 5G network experience for users across various environments and usage scenarios.

Macrocell vs Small cell

A macrocell base station and a small cell base station are two cell towers used in wireless communication networks, particularly in cellular networks like 4G LTE and 5G. They differ in coverage area, deployment scenarios, capacity, and range. Here are the key differences between the two:

Coverage Area:

  • Macrocell Base Station: Macrocells are large, powerful base stations that provide coverage over a wide area, typically several kilometers in radius. They are used to cover large geographic regions like cities, suburbs, and rural areas.
  • Small Cell Base Station: Small cells are low-powered base stations designed to cover smaller areas, such as buildings, streets, stadiums, or indoor spaces. They have a much smaller coverage radius, usually ranging from a few meters to a few hundred meters.

Deployment Scenarios:

  • Macrocell Base Station: These base stations are commonly deployed in outdoor environments, such as mounted on tall towers or rooftops, to cover large areas with high user density.
  • Small Cell Base Station: Small cells are deployed in various scenarios, including indoor locations like shopping malls, airports, and office buildings, as well as outdoor locations where the macrocell coverage might be insufficient, or there is a need for a targeted capacity boost.

Capacity and Range:

  • Macrocell Base Station: Macrocells can handle many simultaneous connections and offer higher data rates over their wide coverage area. They provide a broad coverage footprint but might have reduced capacity in highly populated areas.
  • Small Cell Base Station: Small cells are designed to provide high capacity and data rates over their small coverage areas. They are used to offload traffic from macrocells and enhance network performance in busy urban areas.

Signal Strength:

  • Macrocell Base Station: Due to their higher transmission power and elevated positions, macrocells can provide strong and stable signals over long distances.
  • Small Cell Base Station: Small cells have lower transmission power, but they are closer to users, resulting in stronger signals and better network performance within their coverage area.

Backhaul Requirements:

  • Macrocell Base Station: Macrocells usually require high-capacity backhaul connections (e.g., fiber optic cables) to handle the large volume of data traffic they serve.
  • Small Cell Base Station: Small cells can operate with lower backhaul capacity since they handle smaller traffic volumes.

Validation of a macrocell

A macrocell needs to be validated on several grounds. For example, its RF Performance to check the transmit power and receive sensitivity, efficiency of baseband processing and signal processing, verify that the base station can correctly modulate outgoing data and demodulate incoming data from user devices, and error correction capabilities to ensure data integrity during transmission.

While ensuring that the base station adheres to relevant cellular network protocols (e.g., 4G LTE, 5G NR) as specified by 3GPP, it is critical also to evaluate the base station’s maximum throughput capabilities and capacity to handle a certain number of concurrent users and data traffic.

Let’s consider an example of a macrocell base station with multiple cell support using the concept of sectorization. Sectorization is a common technique used in macrocells to divide the coverage area into multiple smaller cells or sectors, each serving a different portion of the overall coverage area. Each sector operates on a different set of frequencies and has its antennas pointing in different directions to optimize coverage and capacity. 

Let’s take an example of a macrocell base station with three sectors:

Macrocell Base Station

Location: Urban area with a high population density.

Coverage Area: Several square kilometers covering the city and its surrounding areas.

Frequency Bands: Supports multiple frequency bands for different cellular technologies (e.g., 4G LTE and 5G).

Backhaul Connectivity: High-speed fiber optic connections to the core network for data transmission.

Capacity: Designed to handle many simultaneous users and data traffic.

Sector 1:

Coverage Area: Covers the northern part of the city.

Antenna Configuration: Directional antennas pointing towards the north to focus coverage in that direction.

Frequency Band: Operates on 4G LTE Band 3 (1800 MHz).

Capacity: Supports many users in densely populated residential and commercial areas.

Sector 2:

Coverage Area: Covers the eastern part of the city.

Antenna Configuration: Directional antennas pointing towards the east.

Frequency Band: Operates on 4G LTE Band 7 (2600 MHz).

Capacity: Provides high data rates and capacity in areas with high user demand, such as busy shopping centers and business districts.

Sector 3:

Coverage Area: Covers the southern part of the city.

Antenna Configuration: Directional antennas pointing towards the south.

Frequency Band: Operates on 5G NR Band n78 (3500 MHz).

Capacity: Offers ultra-fast data speeds and low latency for users in areas where 5G coverage is available.

By dividing the macrocell into three sectors, the base station can efficiently use available radio resources and optimize coverage and capacity for different parts of the city.

Each sector can handle a specific amount of traffic and cater to the varying user density and demand in its coverage area. Sectorization helps avoid interference between adjacent sectors and enhances overall network performance and user experience in the urban environment.

Such use cases must be validated with various traffic mixes where the UEs do different data patterns, mobility between the NR cells, and inter-RAT mobility. In the next blog, we will see how the Simnovus UE Simulator can help validate macrocells.