Our Very Own “Solsbury Hill”?

June 6, 2014

“Climbing up on Solsbury Hill, I could see the city light, Wind was blowing, time stood still. Eagle flew out of the night.”

Last weekend I enjoyed watching the 2014 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction of some great rock bands like Kiss, E-Street Band and one of my all-time favorites, Peter Gabriel. Interestingly enough, our (soon-to-be) 12 year-old son and daughter were mesmerized by the old folks on stage and the cool music. My son loves Kiss, and both of them have heard me work out to Peter Gabriel’s “Solsbury Hill” more than a few times.

Besides the spiritual meaning of the song, climbing any hill is an accomplishment for a person, a team or a company. This week, we have done exactly that. We climbed a major hill together, our very own “Solsbury Hill” you may say. On June 4, we announced findings from our LTE trials using our award-winning SCRN-310 dual-band 3G/LTE Radio Node. One year ago, on the same day (June 4, 2013), we announced our 3G KPI. The findings of the new LTE trials show performance reliability results consistent with similar 3G small cell test results released 12 months ago.

  • Average Call Setup Success Rate of 99.5%
  • Call Drop Rate 0.4%
  • Intra-E-RAN Hand-over Success Rate 99.9%

With our dual-band Radio Node, operators enable better access capacity for its enterprise subscribers, and therefore create an overall better user experience in the small cell network. Since each Radio Node has its own dedicated capacity for fast user access, the E-RAN system with dual-band Radio Nodes will need fewer Radio Nodes to connect more devices more often, as say compared to a shared antenna system.

We have already started to ship commercial orders of the multi-band 310 Radio Node to select customers. And, later this summer we’ll kick off trials of the dual-band LTE version.

Maybe we did not climb a hill, but a big mountain with this announcement?

Next week we’ll be at the Small Cell Summit & Small Cell Forum for four days of meetings in London. We’re looking forward to the June 11 award night. We’re honored by the industry and peer recognition bestowed upon SpiderCloud Wireless, HP, Intel and Vodafone. SpiderCloud is nominated for 3 awards:

  • “Small cell innovation leadership”: SpiderCloud & Intel. Intel’s Edge Cloud Processing with SpiderCloud’s E-RAN
  • “Small cell access point design and technology innovation”: SpiderCloud Wireless Enterprise Dual-Band 3G/LTE Radio Node
  • “Small cell network element design and technology innovation”: Vodafone, HP and SpiderCloud – Enabling Context Aware Applications for People and Internet of Things

Earlier this year, SpiderCloud and Vodafone UK won the “2014 Global Telecoms Business Innovation Award” for “Wireless Network Infrastructure Innovation” for Vodafone’s Sure Signal Premium, a reliable indoor mobile coverage and capacity service using SpiderCloud Wireless’ scalable small cell system connected to NEC’s security gateways in Vodafone’s network.

After London, SpiderCloud is off to Singapore for CommunicAsia and to Chicago for LightReading’s The Big Telecom Event to speak about Enterprise Small Cells.

In Chicago, SpiderCloud is nominated for 2 awards in LightReading 10th annual “Leading Lights” Awards taking place on June 17.

  • “Private Company of the Year” Awarded to the privately held firm that stands out from it competitors, innovates constantly, makes investors proud, and makes employees happy” SpiderCloud Wireless is one of eight companies nominated.
  • “Best New Product for Mobile” Awarded to the company that has developed a potentially market-leading product that, through engineering and technical excellence, enables the deployment of profitable next-generation mobile services. SpiderCloud’s award-winning dual-band Radio Node (SCRN-310) is one of eight products nominated.

After Chicago, we’re off to Amsterdam on June 23-24 for Informa’s LTE World Summit where we are also nominated for Telecoms.com’s “Most Innovative LTE Application/Service” award for our E-RAN Estimator Application.

This summer, find your own hill or mountain to climb. And, if you need a highly motivating song to help you, fire up Rock’n Roll Hall of Fame Peter Gabriel’s “Solsbury Hill.”

A big thank you to our investors: Charles River Ventures, Matrix Partners, Opus Capital and Shasta Ventures.  Have a safe and sound summer.

Ronny Haraldsvik

Twitter: haraldsvik

Can a Small Cell System Handle All Enterprise Voice and Broadband Needs?

June 3, 2013

We think this is possible. We have been collecting 18-months of system performance data from the network deployments, and the data shows a 99.5% reliability. Performance metrics are collected by our SpiderNet system, a centralized configuration, fault, and performance management system that allows our customers to rapidly provision, deploy and monitor E-RAN deployments. Keep in mind two key metrics (KPI) for how macro cellular and Small Cell networks are measured by mobile operators:

  • Voice call set-up success rate (CCSR) must be at 98% or better
  • Voice call drop rate (CDR) to be less than 0.8%

The average performance data for voice call set-up success rate, voice and data sessions and handoffs events, were collected from scalable network deployments ranging from 7 to 65 radio nodes and supporting 500 to 3,000 people, each powered by one Services Node.

SpiderCloud’s E-RAN networks, with soft handoff, today show average voice call set-up success rates of 99.5% and an average call drop rate less than 0.8%, where the best network deployment shows a call setup success rate of 99.8% and call drop rates below 0.4%.

Each deployment handles thousands of voice calls every day, ranging from 300 in enterprises where mobile devices complement desk phones to over 3,100 in enterprises where only mobile devices are used, and the Small Cell system handles all broadband communications needs. Each of the networks manage hundreds of thousands of data and handoff sessions every day, with the largest deployment experiencing over 500,000 daily sessions.

With these performance metrics, we have shown scalable Small Cell systems installed to support small to large enterprises, can indeed handle all of the voice and data needs of an enterprise.

In comparison, individual or “mesh” Small Cells using hard-handoff, experience voice call drop rates upward or 5% or more. Why is that?

Dense indoor networks present several challenging technology obstacles. 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 (3D) 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 by 6-8 dB. Without a central coordination point or support for soft handoff, such network deployments will experience an unacceptable call drop rate of 5%.

In brief, different solutions fit in different places. See what I mean in Art King’s recent blog – Small Cells Repeats the Enterprise Evolution Cycle.

So how do you achieve 99.5% reliability?
One Services Node can control up to 100 multi-access 3G/Wi-Fi/LTE Radio Nodes. Our E-RAN system overcomes these obstacles while simplifying the installation process greatly compared to traditional methods. One E-RAN can deliver unprecedented capacity and coverage to over 10,000 connected smartphones and tablets, with just one connection to the mobile operator’s core network. The scalable system architecture simplifies deployment and overall network configuration for mobile operators as they address pent-up demand for reliable mobile services from enterprise and large venue customers.

Can a Small Cell System Handle All Enterprise Voice and Broadband Needs?
If the system can scale and support soft-handoff and SON – You betcha! More importantly, Enterprise customers already 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.

SpiderCloud Wireless will be at the Small Cell World Summit in London this week.

Ronny Haraldsvik SVP/CMO
Twitter: haraldsvik

Infrastructure Intersections and Quality of Experience: The New Role of the Mobile Operator (Part 3)

November 19, 2012

This post was inspired by an article in AGL Magazine covering Cisco’s Keynote at the PCIA Wireless Infrastructure Conference and 4G World tweet @4GWorld: “Coverage, capacity & services need to be re-considered”. At 4G World, the Wi-Fi panels really talked to the evolving conversation that includes both licensed (Mobile Operator) and unlicensed (Wi-Fi) Wireless Services as part of delivering great services to mobile device owners. We, at SpiderCloud, see that there is a wave of services innovation on the horizon that has the capacity to make life better for both the mobile operators and the device owners.

The innovations will occur primarily in two areas:

  • “The plumbing” at the intersection of the three radio planes (3G, Wi-Fi, and LTE), plus the Enterprise, Internet, and the Mobile Operator core.
  • Increasing the quality of the client side experience for Mobile device owners.

SpiderCloud’s architecture exposes the plumbing intersection inside the enterprise premise because our Services Node, along with the heavy lifting it does delivering the three radio interfaces, is a common transit point at this intersection. The architectural air-gap between the mobile operator and the enterprise is available at this intersection to create a family of invisible services that add value to customer experiences. By “invisible”, we mean the device owner should not have to do any configuration, and the services should work like magic.

We envision invisible services such as:

  • Clientless Unified Communications
  • Multiple Layers of Wi-Fi Services (for various purposes)
  • Hotspot 2.0 (connected to operators planet wide roaming backend)
  • Location Based Services
  • Web Security/Content Filtering
  • Private 3G Data into Enterprise

On the quality of the client side experience, this is a long-term journey for the industry as a whole. The term “Quality of Experience” as used in conferences and publications tends to focus on network performance, throughput, dropped calls, and other KPI’s. However, it is useful to expand the term to include improvements to user experience of the mobile device owner, at the device’s human interface.

Example 1: Hotspot 2.0 solves the friction problem with authentication. At Informa’s Wi-Fi World Summit (September 2012 – Barcelona), one of the presenting Operators had a 5x increase in hotspot use by simply enabling automatic EAP authentication. This was a direct illustration that if process barriers are removed, people will consume.

Example 2: There are missing mechanisms in Wi-Fi management that need improvement. Many airports offer Wi-Fi that is not usable at peak hours (too slow or unable to connect). The problem can be solved in the infrastructure by preventing new connections during peaks, or the Wi-Fi clients need a common approach to deciding on what network to use for data. An intelligent network select algorithm in clients could make a decision to fallback to 3G/LTE data when the mobile device’s Wi-Fi client accesses a congested Wi-Fi. For non-technical device owners, switching Wi-Fi on and off, depending on the perceived performance, is something that could be addressed in the software and mask the complexity.

In summary, lots of innovation to come, from embracing 3G/LTE and Wi-Fi together, that will ultimately result in increasing both the magical (hard to measure) and service (easy to measure) KPI components of our Quality of Experience thinking in the industry.

Thanks for checking in.

Your Author’s Point of View: As a former Enterprise Infrastructure Architect (Mobility/Collaboration at Nike, Inc), the opportunities for mobile operators to help address enterprise Unified Communications, COPE/BYOD, and mobility challenges for enterprise IT departments are there. Opportunities to cultivate value-added services beyond coverage and capacity in the Enterprise space are built upon strong customer relationships and a proven technical foundation. Positive mindshare and perceptions in the eyes of the Enterprise buyers will create invitations to future opportunities.

A new and more important role is emerging for Mobile Operators where enterprise mobility and value-added IP services are part of the ‘package.’ Mobile is the heartbeat of any organization and wireless is the Digital Oxygen that our devices breathe at home and on the road.

For information on the SpiderCloud Architecture: read more and watch movie.
Webinar: What services do CIO’s really want from their mobile network operator?

Want to talk? Please contact me.

– Art King, SpiderCloud Wireless, Director of Enterprise Services & Technologies

Part 4 of 5: Soft handover – a mobility “must”

July 21, 2011

Soft handover is a key feature of any mobile network and a “must have” for any sort of deployment – outside as well as inside. SpiderCloud Wireless’ centralized E-RAN architecture makes it possible to support soft handover between radio nodes inside an enterprise. Indeed – E-RAN system handover algorithms have been designed and optimized to improve coverage and system capacity and reduce interference effects.

Soft handover (SHO) as a concept is commonly referred to as “make-before-break”. When a UE (device) is in a session, i.e. when it is connected to one of the cells in the network (the serving cell) and moves to the coverage area of another cell, radio links first get setup on the cell that the UE is moving towards and then deleted from the cell that the UE is moving away from. This helps improve the stability of the session serving the UE. When a UE is in session, but in the coverage area of two adjacent cells, the UE may be concurrently connected to both cells. In this case both cells are said to be in the active set of the UE. The spatial separation of two radio links results in a higher reliability of the connection to the UE with a lower level of interference to the system.

Hard handover (HHO) on the other hand follows the concept of “break-before-make”. A system using hard handover forces a UE to move to a new cell whenever it determines the new cell to be better than the serving cell. To do this the UE has to tear down any active connections and then start a session on the new cell. Due to the fact that session continuity cannot be maintained, most systems implement a HHO hysteresis threshold in order to avoid frequent handovers of UEs located near the cell edge (ping pong effect). As a result, most of the times HHO causes the UE to drag the cell longer which can cause interference and capacity issues to the system. Moreover, lack of soft handover requires a greater degree of cell overlap which for an enterprise deployment implies additional cells or higher capital expenditures. SpiderCloud Wireless’ E-RAN system supports both soft and hard handover. SHO is used when a UE is moving between the coverage areas of the enterprise cells. HHO is used only between enterprise cells and the macro network. With macro handover, cell dragging is not as big of an issue as the macro nodes transmit much higher energy compared to the indoor nodes. On the other hand, in the enterprise network all cells are roughly equally powerful and cell dragging can rapidly cause massive issues as few users can consume most of the Rise-over-Thermal (RoT) budget of a cell.

Soft handover improves cell coverage and boosts network capacity

In multi-cell deployments users expect to get the same level of performance most of the time, regardless of location and distance from the nearest cell. Due to the nature of the wireless channel, shadowing and fading effects result in signal fluctuation which can cause loss of connectivity if the system is not designed with sufficient fade margins. This scenario is aggravated near the cell edges as the propagation loss increases. In order to overcome this, most systems are designed with sufficient fade margin so they can achieve at least the performance of “un-shadowed” propagation all but a fraction of the time, known as the outage probability. In addition to coverage improvements, SHO helps reduce interference and increase capacity of the network. UEs in soft handover operate at the lowest possible transmitted power as the uplink is always power controlled from that cell in the active set with the lowest path loss. Due to the high user density, medium to large enterprise deployments can greatly benefit from SHO as the number of users expected to be in SHO at any time can be anywhere between 20% to 50% at any given time.

As data usage in 3G cellular networks grows rapidly, the lack of SHO quickly becomes a system bottleneck within an enterprise indoor wireless system. A system without SHO support would have to force these users to back off their power to prevent interference overload and this would have a direct effect on their HSUPA throughput performance. In fact, a 3 dB back off in power will cause a 50% reduction in throughput for a system without SHO. In a system with SHO support, interference management techniques can be applied directly to the user causing the largest interference in the system. This will result in more balanced throughputs across all the users in the system as well as a higher aggregate system throughput.

In an enterprise network where the performance requirements entail a very high rate of handover success and less than 1% call blocking probability, a deployment of stand-alone femtocells without SHO will not scale to support hundreds of subscribers within a building or a floor that consume 3Gb per month or more. It is impractical to manage and troubleshoot any deployment of more than 4 to 5 Femto Access Points even if SHO for stand-alone femtocell were technically feasible, in the absence of a premises based controller architecture.

Soft handover improves voice traffic performance

Last but not least, soft handover helps improve voice call quality. As a large fraction of users in the enterprise may be in soft handover at any time, call robustness increases without the need to increase cell overlap and interference into the macro network. On the contrary, in an enterprise deployment of stand-alone femtocells with HHO only, the average voice break per handover can be as much as 100ms (due to signaling and transfer of context requirements).

In the next blog we’ll address why the importance of true ‘local switching’ and the trending towards centralized on-premises control of small cells.

Tassos Michail
Director of Product Management

IM, Twitter, Facebook and the Signaling Impact on 3G Networks and Capacity

July 21, 2011

As the industry prepares for the annual Mobile World Congress in Barcelona February 15-18, we are seeing an uptick in press announcements and articles with regard to the issues of network capacity crunch how to solve these challenges. As some industry insider are (accurately) predicting, “data offload” will be a hot topic at this event, CTIA, and other events later this year.

Though the issues of network capacity are related to many facets of a network (backhaul, core, number of active “heavy bandwidth” 3G devices, software upgrades, etc) – the impact of low-bandwidth applications have gone relatively unnoticed until now. We may think that a small number of subscribers are taking up all the bandwidth in small metro area with the latest and greatest 3G devices, but as one long-time industry expert points out, application “signaling” traffic may be taking up more capacity than earlier anticipated.

Have you really considered the impact of signaling (and thus capacity impact) of active/passive subscribers’ use of Twitter®, Facebook®, and Instant messaging (IM over Yahoo, MSN, Skype) on network resources? Just think about that for a second. How many applications do you have on your Blackberry, iPhone or Android-powered device? How many of them pull down scores (Sports), weather, peer-to-peer IM and other “thin app” data? If you add it all up, the impact on capacity far outweighs the impact of some heavy data download/upload by 3 to 5% of subscribers.

Connection attempts may take up as much as 60% on the RNC processing power whereas 40% is dedicated for actual throughput. This data suggest that backhaul alone may not solve the capacity crunch.

In his latest report (“The Trouble with Twitters”*), Michael Thelander, founder and ceo of Signals Research Group, states: “Without question we have demonstrated that smartphones generate a disproportionate amount of signaling traffic, even when the smartphones are not being used. The question then becomes what can be done to combat this problem – a problem that will only intensify with the increasing popularity of smartphones and social networking websites and services.”

SRG Quote Feb '10

He goes on to say that there are many ways to solve the problem (You have to buy or subscribe to SRG to see his proposed solutions). As it relates to indoor wireless system, he reflects that… “Interestingly, picocells wouldn’t do much to address the issue of smartphone signaling, since, unlike femtocells, they connect directly to the RNC via the Iub interface. Picocells would, however, help offload data traffic from the network.” Though we did not partake in the research study, Signals Research Group notes that SpiderCloud Wireless and our E-RAN approach may play a role in the solution.

“The impact of smartphone data and signaling traffic on macro network capacity has strong ties to enterprise usage or usage from other large indoor locations where people congregate. In this case, a “mini-RAN” approach may be a more appropriate solution since additional intelligence would be needed for cell handovers and to minimize the interference from a large number of access points. Further, to the extent that voice calls or IMs are remaining within the enterprise, a “mini-RAN” solution, such as what is being promoted by SpiderCloud Wireless, would be able to keep the traffic within the “mini-RAN” and completely removed from the operator’s core network. The same can also be said for social networking services.”

As noted in our previous blog from 2 weeks ago, “3G does not have a coverage problem (….it’s a capacity issue!) ” – we conclude that “The net impact of the success of smartphones means that network operators must find ways to handle data offload with and without licensed spectrum and leverage Ethernet LAN where it’s feasible.”

See you in Barcelona.

Ronny A. Haraldsvik
Vice President of Marketing

*Report mention and quotes reprinted with permission from Signals Research Group.

3G does not have a coverage problem (….it’s a capacity issue!)

July 21, 2011

In recent weeks there’s been much publicity surrounding the impact that smartphones are having on operators’ networks, and subscribers’ frustration with coverage (“But, I have 5 bars– why isn’t my phone working?” or “Why can’t I access Facebook?”). The issue is less about coverage and more about network capacity. With the recently announced “unlimited” pricing bundles (US price wars), the issue of network capacity and data “offload” will continue to be hot topics throughout 2010 and beyond.

With the proliferation of 3G enabled smartphones (iPhone, Blackberry, Nokia, Google, HTC, etc.), network capacity and RAN coverage in metropolitan areas is fast becoming an issue. Mobile networks were built to handle the capacity needed for voice “busy hour”, not for “always on” bandwidth-heavy data sessions– anywhere subscribers go. “Busy hour” is no longer about voice. As much as 50% of all voice and data sessions are initiated at the work place– creating constant strain on the RAN and signals trying to penetrate high rises and dense business parks. Constant data consumption, throughout the day, is straining networks to its maximum capacity. “Busy hour” now stretches over many hours at different times of the day, from the early morning commute, through the work day and well into evening when people commute home or go out for a business dinner or a movie. Subscribers are constantly on the network, using applications such as Skype®, Twitter®, uploading photos to Facebook or accessing video on YouTube® or live TV via Slingbox®. There may be coverage but capacity is strained.

Adding to the capacity strain is a brewing price war, and “unlimited data and voice” plans are being discounted 25-30% from last month’s pricing. That’s great for subscribers and smartphone suppliers, but more challenges for operators. A recent Deutsche Bank Securities report (1/19/10) on the issue provides context worth noting:

“First, lower prices mean more phones. That is good for companies with exposure to handset volumes. Qualcomm is at the top of that list, as they supply basebands for all of Verizon’s phones and probably the majority of AT&T’s as well.” And – “All of this should be good for smartphone vendors and their suppliers.”

An increase in subscribers as a result of more smartphones and pricing bundles means that networks must improve to handle even more data. Data usage over cellular networks has increased between 4,000 to 6,700 percent over the last 3 years and the trend continues (AT&T experienced 6,732% growth over the last 13 quarters). The good news is that subscribers love their 3G and 4G capable devices—which is great for short term revenue but may impact year-over-year churn. See a very good blog post by Rory Cellan-Jones from BBC and note the many reader comments (“The 3G Traffic Jam – Where Next?”).

The bad news is that the networks were built for voice “busy hour” where 90 percent network capacity utilization meant effective use of the network. Context for consideration: data traffic over an office LAN rarely confronts ‘max’ capacity because the rule of thumb for Ethernet LANs states that “average bandwidth usage level should not exceed 30 percent for an Ethernet network to be considered running optimally, with peak usage at 50-60 percent.”

Mobile operators want happy subscribers and are working hard to augment the existing macro RAN with software upgrades and other solutions to improve the experience. This is a network capacity problem that can only be solved by adding more effective means of transporting several hundreds of millions of terabytes (soon a zettabyte) of data to and from the cell sites and deploying “hotspot” radio networks where data consumption takes place (indoor, office/campus, dense metro areas, etc.).

The net impact of the success of smartphones means that network operators must find ways to handle data offload with and without licensed spectrum and leverage Ethernet LAN where it’s feasible. Both Wi-Fi and HSPA will play a role as inside-out deployments of networks emerge, finding ways to keep Opex and Capex under control as millions of new subscribers rush to the stores to get the latest smartphone and low-cost “all you can eat” consumer pricing plans.

Follow us on twitter at Spidercloud_Inc.

Ronny A. Haraldsvik
Vice President of Marketing