Business productivity with an inside-out mobility system

August 12, 2013

Mobility drives improved efficiency and productivity.  Having the ability to work anywhere in a building is only as good as the reliability of the network. Poor indoor coverage and capacity is a growing headache.  IT managers are now turning to their mobile operator to fix the problem. In fact, 61% of IT decision makers from businesses with 250+ employees say that their businesses have struggled with indoor coverage and capacity, and of these, 73% of people had taken steps to address the issue by contacting their mobile operator.

The challenges operators faced when deploying an indoor mobile network can be broadly summarized with: time, cost and complexities.  Speed is of the essence to satisfy the business needs of customers, yet traditional methods of improving indoor coverage take too long to deploy and are too expensive.  For example, installing a Distributed Antenna System (DAS) can take months, if not years, due to local city and building approval cycles, Radio Frequency Planning, etc. It is very costly and involves high complexity, so the solution is not viable for many enterprises. Over the next 5-8 years, DAS will become less relevant for broadband connectivity inside buildings. It is an old technology approach that extends a signal inside a building with unnecessary complexity that adds excessive cost and time to network project plans.

Small cells are an increasingly attractive option for operators, as shown by recent statement partnerships like Qualcomm’s $100 million investment in Alcatel Lucent and Cisco’s even more dramatic $2 billion acquisitions spree.  However, coordinating networks and applying self-optimising network (SON) technology in a small cell environment is very different than dealing with a macro cellular environment. Nokia Siemens Networks, Alcatel-Lucent and Ericsson all experienced this when they tried to convert their macro experience into an indoor environment. The experience has to be seamless, accounting for real-time factors such as network congestion and device preferences. In addition it has to be interoperable with other gateways, certified on carrier networks and highly scalable beyond a “mesh” of just 3-5 small cells.

Furthermore, dense indoor networks present several technological challenges. Experience shows the indoor Radio Frequency (RF) environment becomes increasingly complex and challenging as the density of the deployment increases. This is particularly true in multi-story buildings where mobile devices experience a three-dimensional RF environment. A single handset is able to see a very large number of small cells, some on its own floor and others from floors above and below it in buildings with open atriums and in campus areas. A device may experience as many as 3-5 handover events per minute and the radio signal inside buildings experiences flat fading, which means that even a stationary handset sees signal from individual and uncoordinated small cells fluctuate.  Without a central coordination point, or support for soft handoff, such network deployments will experience unacceptable call drop rates.

A scalable small cell system overcomes these obstacles while simplifying the installation process with self-optimizing and self-organizing software, and has the ability to scale to support 100 Multi-access small cells (up to 10,000 devices) with just one services node connection to the operator’s core network. Our very own scalable multi-access 3G, Wi-Fi and 4G/LTE small cell system allows mobile operators to deliver unprecedented cellular coverage, capacity and smart applications to enterprises. The scalable system architecture simplifies deployment and overall network configuration for mobile operators.  Overall, the system provides uninterrupted, trouble-free mobile data and voice services.

Beyond reliable indoor coverage and capacity, a scalable system also gives operators the capability to deliver hosted and managed services over its SCSN for mobility, unified communications (UC), secure access to applications, device management and integration of cloud and telephony (PBX), as well as new context-aware and location-based services.  Exact Ventures recently found that the managed mobility services market presents a $100 billion opportunity to operators, and that enterprises can save 35% a year by adopting such operator-delivered managed and hosted services.

Much as Wi-Fi exploded on the scene 10 years ago and over time segmented into residential and commercial markets in response to differing demands, small cells look set to follow the same trajectory.  Stand-alone small cells are made for homes and small businesses, whereas a system like SpiderCloud’s Enterprise RAN (E-RAN) is made to scale and designed to achieve high-performance mobility so vital to business productivity.

Ronny Haraldsvik SVP/CMO
Twitter: haraldsvik

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