Even though the number of cells in a cluster in a cellular system can help govern the number of users that can be accommodated, by making all the cells smaller it is possible to increase the overall capacity of the cellular system.
Accordingly in areas where there are more users, small low power base stations are installed.
The different types of cells are given different names according to their size and function:
- Macro cells: Macro cells are large cells that are usually used for remote or sparsely populated areas. These may be 10 km or possibly more in diameter.
- Micro cells: Micro cells are those that are normally found in densely populated areas which may have a diameter of around 1 km.
- Pico cells: Picocells are generally used for covering very small areas such as particular areas of buildings, or possibly tunnels where coverage from a larger cell in the cellular system is not possible.
- Obviously for the small cells, the power levels used by the base stations are much lower and the antennas are not position to cover wide areas. In this way the coverage is minimized and the interference to adjacent cells is reduced.
- Femtocells : Femtocells are small, low-powered cellular base stations that are used predominantly within home and small businesses. A femtocell is able to connect to a service providers network via broadband to deliver connectivity to mobile devices.
- Selective cells: Sometimes cells termed selective cells may be used where full 360 degree coverage is not required. They may be used to fill in a hole in the coverage in the cellular system, or to address a problem such as the entrance to a tunnel etc.
- Umbrella cells: Another type of cells known as an umbrella cell is sometimes used in instances such as those where a heavily used road crosses an area where there are microcells.
- Under normal circumstances this would result in a large number of handovers as people driving along the road would quickly cross the microcells.
- An umbrella cell would take in the coverage of the microcells (but use different channels to those allocated to the microcells).
- However it would enable those people moving along the road to be handled by the umbrella cell and experience fewer handovers than if they had to pass from one microcell to the next.