The Sober Reality of Small Cells

March 22, 2013

Mobile operators and vendors alike are awakening to the sober reality of the complexity involved in deploying 10s and 100s of hundreds of small cells in a very dense indoor and outdoor area. One cannot simply forget about 3G and “skip” to 4G – nor forget about Wi-Fi as an integral access technology.

Beyond the marketing hype, not all “small cells” are the same. This is no different than the Wi-Fi market 10 years ago. You simply do not deploy a Linksys where you need an Aruba system, or an Airespace system where Netgear does the job. The same market segmentation that took place with Wi-Fi over a decade ago, is now taking place in the emerging market of small cells.

A mobile operator cannot afford to deploy several access points where one solution can do the job, especially when competing for the lucrative medium to large enterprise market. Enterprises show a strong willingness to switch mobile operators for better coverage. The Market Opportunity for mobile operators in US and Europe is $100 billion for enterprise services. The business case for various small cell approaches was also covered during the panel Network Offloading during MWC. The pragmatic solution for operators and medium to large enterprises is a multi-access small cell system of 3G+4G+Wi-Fi that is an integral part of a larger network that can be deployed rapidly, and easily, and guarantee reliability.

Leveraging mobile operators for services beyond basic coverage and capacity, enterprises can save 35% a year by adopting such managed and hosted services, totaling $60 Billion in cumulative IT savings between 2014-2020. Why the importance of in-building coverage? Spectrum – it is like oil, and today this valuable licensed spectrum is a largely under-utilized asset indoors. Small Cell systems can help an operator re-use up to 50% of spectrum already owned.

Our five-year+ strategic focus on small cells as a system powered by the Enterprise LAN, interference mitigation, soft-handoff, multi-mode 3G/4G+Wi-Fi, and enabling services beyond coverage and capacity – to make deployments inside medium to large enterprises possible – is now being validated as big and small players are starting to come into our market.

Making and scaling a multi-access small cell system that is an integrated part of a mobile operator’s network – is not easy. A SpiderCloud system is deployable by a mobile operator in just days using SON, and is proven to handle over 100,000 data sessions and handoffs on a daily basis while providing reliable voice and data coverage for hundreds to thousands of employees with just one connection to the mobile core network.

It’s clear that there is tremendous interest and traction for multi-mode access using a scalable small cell system (>100 small cells with soft handoff and central coordination) to deliver reliable mobile services indoors for enterprise customers of any size.  In addition to performance metrics of the SpiderCloud scalable small cell system, operators and partners are now engaging us in “beyond coverage and capacity” planning with enterprise services focused on PBX and Cloud-based PBX integration, context-aware and location applications, security and compliance, and Wi-Fi as a service. We know the enterprise concerns, challenges and requirements. “Enterprise Insider” highlights Enterprise CIO and IT’s priorities and requests for Mobility Applications and Cloud Services (MACS) from mobile operators – as business customers transition from a wireless to a mobile enterprise.

What we do know is that multi-access Small Cells (3G+4G+Wi-Fi – as a market) is fast becoming a reality. Not all small cells are the same.

– Ronny Haraldsvik SVP/CMO
Twitter: haraldsvik

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