We’ve heard of some installers/system integrators combining small cells with simpler DAS systems to achieve full multi-operator service. I spoke with Sina Khanifar of RSRF, a US company that’s been doing exactly that. He shared some insights and real-world experience that you might not get from operators or product vendors.
The term Enterprise addresses any non-residential in-building including hotels, convention centres, transport hubs, offices, hospitals and retail outlets. It's not just intended for businesses to serve their own office staff.
This can be a more lucrative opportuntiy for small cell vendors than residential, because price points are higher. Equipment is sized larger, both RF power for wider coverage and increased processing for higher capacity. Third party systems integrators are often involved with the installation. Being indoor, products don't have to be mechanically as robust or weatherproof, and are often connected by a single Ethernet cable providing both power and backhaul.
Enterprise Small Cells make it economically viable
Smaller businesses and home workers have not been able to justify additional cellular equipment investments up to now - the additional call traffic they generate would not qualify for additional cellsites to be installed. This traffic is aggregated up with all other traffic in their area and cellsites are planned and installed based on total capacity and coverage demands. Enterprise small cells offer the opportunity to address these enterprise markets through low cost, self installed units which capitalise on the existing broadband connections available to most businesses.
Addressing the different size and scale of businesses
When looking at the enterprise market, the size of each segment grows tenfold. For example, in the UK, there are approximately:
- 5,000 large enterprises
- 50,000 small/medium enterprises (SMEs)
- 500,000 small office/home office (SOHOs)
This excludes those working from home for large enterprises. SOHOs and SMEs would be the initial market entry. They tend to adopt new technology more quickly, and the low cost price puts this in reach of everyone. Their product, shown on the right hand side, is typical of the format available.
Larger business premises may benefit from a local controller which directly manages the cluster of enterprise femtocells, dealing with the local handoff and consolidating the signalling traffic. Spidercloud Wireless have developed a solution specifically targetted at this market, which is described in this interview with Ronny Haraldsvik, their CMO.
Often businesses have a mix of different sizes of building, ranging from remote workers operating independently through to large scale office blocks housing thousands of staff. Businesses seek to offer the same range of facilities to all their staff, regardless of location and this requires a mix of different products.If additional business services are combined with the enterprise femtocell offer, such as IT services for data backup, email to mobile etc. this could provide a package with additional benefits that is cheaper to deliver and has upside of additional revenue opportunities.
Outsourcing and other commercial models appearing
Some innovative network operators have specifically targetted the enterprise sector using small cells. Network Norway deployed femtocells for their enterprise customers both in the office and at their homes, capturing anything up to 80% of their mobile traffic. The remainder is handled either through their own macrocell network or via national roaming with the encumbent Telenor. This approach makes it quite cost effective to provide excellent coverage closely targetted at paying customers, while still offering good outdoor service. In principle, there is no reason why an MVNO may not also operate this way, providing it obtained the permission of its host network operator. Several MVNOs are believed to be trialling or offering this solution.
Outsourcing enterprise femtocell deployment is another option for network operators. A number of organisations and consortia are proposing and/or trialling solutions, including Cloudberry Norway (interview), NEC/COLT and NEC/Virgin (NEC interview).
If I’m honest, Mobile Edge Computing has seemed to me up to now to be a somewhat academic exercise. But this month sees a full commercial launch by Vodafone Netherlands of a comprehensive and tightly integrated solution. I spoke with NEC’s Yogarajah Gopikrishna, Head of Engineering and Strategy at NEC Europe, who developed and integrated the system based on SpiderCloud E-RAN small cells and their Service Node MEC server.
Cellular service isn’t purely about ubiquitous connectivity. Network operators strive to find additional revenue streams which capitalize on their communication services. They’ve lost the battle to keep the Internet to themselves – almost every service today apart from voice is provided by someone else, over the top. Nick Johnson of ip.access shares his views on how they might fight and win greater value through IoT, presence and location – combined with Small Cells.
An important, yet often overlooked, aspect of any in-building wireless system is the cost of designing and documenting the installation. Larger buildings have usually required multiple site visits to consider RF coverage, cabling distribution and central equipment. In this article, we look at how iBwave has streamlined this process and illustrate a project where 70% time savings was achieved on survey and design. This paves the way for rapid, cost-effective deployment, while ensuring accurate records for subsequent changes throughout the lifetime of the installation.
Automation is a growing theme for many aspects of life today. Many of the manual and even highly skilled processes of the past are being superseded by alternative, innovative methods. Recently, I visited CommScope’s R&D lab at Chelmsford, near Boston, and saw for myself how they’ve pioneered using an autonomous robot to walk their building and conduct extensive wireless performance testing.