This bolt-on approach will make it easier to build "neutral host" setups, where the network owner rolls out all the small cells for a given area, Hratko said. Some governments require this because they don't want lampposts cluttered with multiple carriers' cells. With the 8800, carriers could either share the Wi-Fi radio or each put their own cells in alternating 8800s, taking advantage of the fact that cellular has a longer range than Wi-Fi, Hratko said. The 8800 is due out this quarter.
Ruckus is also introducing the ZoneFlex 7782, its latest outdoor AP, which uses multiple data streams to deliver as much as 900M bps (bits per second) of theoretical shared speed. A version of the 7782 can be set up to serve crowded stadiums by directing coverage beams at individual users when they need them, Hratko said.
Targeting yet another use of Wi-Fi, Ruckus is equipping its smallest APs for backhaul via cellular. Service providers will be able to attach cellular modules to Ruckus ZoneFlex 7321 APs via USB, a configuration aimed at feeding public Wi-Fi services on trains, buses and ferries.
Communications chip maker Broadcom will also have its eye on diversity at MWC as it unveils its latest silicon for small cells. The rollouts include processors for a wide range of small cell types, including ones for homes, small businesses, enterprises and outdoor public access.
For home femtocells, Broadcom has combined RF (radio frequency) and baseband processing in a single chip for reduced size, cost and power consumption. It's designed for 3G WCDMA femtocells that serve eight or fewer users. Another version of the same chip is designed to support 16 users in small enterprises. Those chips are expected to ship in volume in this quarter. For the high end of the residential market, Broadcom is introducing its first chip for LTE femtocells.
Broadcom is also introducing a small-cell chip that can run on 3G WCDMA and be upgraded to 4G LTE, as well as one that can operate on WCDMA and LTE simultaneously. Those chips will support up to 32 users on WCDMA and 128 users on an LTE service where the carrier has 20MHz of spectrum for LTE.
Small cells with both 3G and LTE capability can help carriers deliver better performance for both voice and data, as most LTE operators still carry voice calls over 3G, and improve the experience of all their customers as they upgrade from 3G to 4G phones, Broadcom said.