Interview with Andy Odgers, CEO of Quortus, talking about Enterprise Small Cells

Andy Odgers QuortusAndy Odgers founded Quortus in 2009 and has since organically grown the company to over 20 staff. Their software product provides core network functionality at the edge of the network, such as controlling voice traffic offloaded to an office network. His insights into how Enterprise and rural small cells might evolve have allowed him to architect and develop a software solution which bridges the gap between the network and Enterprise/local fixed networks. The need for this critical software component is now becoming more visible as the market begins to adopt these small cell applications.

 

What's happening with Enterprise Small Cells in the Small Cell Forum?

"I'm one of the five steering group members co-ordinating Release Two, the Forum's next major release due out in December. The committee, chaired by Nick Johnson of ip.access and also including Julius Robson (CBNL) and Mark Grayson (Cisco) provide the overall guidance to "shepherd" the working groups. The primary theme of this release is Enterprise, although it will include some updates for Residential and other use cases.

"We all want to ensure a high standard of quality not only to match Release One but also to address a wider audience. Enterprise is a substantial step up in complexity from residential, involving many more stakeholders and a wider range of content.

"All the working groups have been very busy, producing a large number of documents. The output has been nothing short of remarkable. These documents have been drafted and approved by each working group and are now in a review cycle to ensure consistency with the overall story – complete and without gaps. Many aspects, from the business case to deployment have come together including Wi-Fi interaction, SON, interworking with onsite IP-PBXs and system management.

"What has been particularly impressive is how the Release Programme has changed the attitude and working style of the Forum itself, sparking the imagination of participants. The approach has helped the working groups to align themselves, cementing the new way of working and ensuring that we all stand behind the Release Programme as a whole rather than risk individuals each following their own agenda."

How is Quortus playing a part in this development?

"We have a lot of experience with Enterprise oriented cellular systems, and have a software product designed for use at the logical edge of the network. That doesn't necessarily mean it has to be physically installed on-site in an Enterprise, it could be hosted elsewhere in the Cloud just as long as it is beyond the 'edge' of the operators own traditional core. Different deployment models would suit different operators and use cases. There is no right or wrong choice here, and much of the same Quortus software can be used for either – it makes little difference to us.

"This edge control allows us to route voice and data traffic off-net, such as to an Enterprise voice switch or data centre. Short code dialling and other Enterprise voice features can be added; data can be routed within the Enterprise VPN, improving security and latency.

"Many of these features are also useful with rural small cells, such as those deployed in a remote village or off-shore complex (oil rig, cruise liner etc.), where handling traffic locally is extremely cost effective."

Won't handling traffic locally conflict with the network operator?

"We wouldn't contemplate trying to do something that isn't aligned with the operator's interests. We don't want to affect billing integrity, handling of sensitive signaling traffic or IPSec security. We tackle those things within our product and are not trying to break the secure pipes. We see operators as significant stakeholders – it is after all their users and their security – so it is significant how we position our solution so as to be a benefit to operators, not a thorn in their side.

"There have been various 3GPP standards designed to breakout local traffic, such as LIPA and SIPTO. On the whole, rollouts of these technologies have been limited to date because of some regulatory rules and billing issues relating to the offload of data. Local breakout is more important for Enterprise, such as access to on-site data centres and switchboards using short code dialling. We believe we already have a solution for that, and have demonstrated that with customers in the Netherlands."

How important is voice within the Enterprise and how will this evolve?

"Voice is still the Killer App for Enterprise use today.

"In the long term, VoLTE should meet that need. Before then, a major issue with being inside a building is that fallback from LTE to 3G is often limited unless there is an in-building 3G network. So either the Enterprise has to install their own Enterprise 3G to provide good voice service or the operator must ensure that VoLTE can be provided from outside. That would require all users to have VoLTE capable devices, so will take some time to make the transition.

"LTE does have good QoS mechanisms to handle voice services and so is much better than simply running Skype over a data session.

"Within the 3GPP standards, a project called VINE has been looking at controlling the VoLTE service locally inside an Enterprise. At the end of the day, we are trying to become more community oriented. We believe we can provide something that evolves more closely from 2G/3G voice experience, specifically designed for Enterprise use.

"The Small Cell Forum Release Two, with it's main theme of Enterprise, is due out in December, coinciding with the Small Cells Americas conference in Dallas."

Quortus is a sponsor of ThinkSmallCell. For more information, visit their website.

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