Ericsson’s Radio Dot has been the company’s primary medium-sized in-building solution for some years, competing with Enterprise Small Cells and DAS systems. Last week saw four significant additional features being announced, which some would see as catching up with Huawei’s Lampsite 3.0 launch announced some months ago.
The press release highlights three new formats for Radio Dot:
There’s also a available to view on SlideShare
1. Multi-Operator Radio Dot
This isn’t entirely new – Ericsson have previously touted that their system could be configured to support two independent operators. The announcement increases this to four. Each operator would only have a single frequency band or technology (3G/4G) but could choose which one.
The question is whether all operators in a country would integrate Ericsson equipment into their networks. Some have distinct geographical areas allocated to each vendor and it would be confusing to restrict equipment choices like this to a region
2. Multi-Dot enclosure.
This is simply a box into which several Radio Dots can be fitted. In buildings where the equipment is visible on the ceiling or walls, then perhaps arguably this will make it less obtrusive. In many cases, small cells or radio heads are hidden in the plenum area above false ceilings, so this would make little difference. My understanding is that each Radio Dot in this configuration would still require its own dedicated Cat 6 cable to provide both signal and power.
So perhaps not a radical breakthrough compared to simply installing multiple units as we’ve seen from other installations.
3. Strand mounted outdoor enclosure
This encloses the equipment in weatherproof box that can be hung from street wiring and deployed by cable operators or other utilities with access to street wiring.
The low RF power of the Radio Dot translates to a relatively short range, being originally designed for in-building use. It could certainly cover outdoor streets but there would be limited in-building penetration.
Driving Radio Dot from other vendor’s basestations
The fourth feature not highlighted in the press release is that the system will now accept up to three different RF signals from external sources, such as competitor’s basestations. This interface is the same used to connect to DAS systems and would allow deployment serving networks without Ericsson as an existing supplier – it would simply be viewed and operated as a DAS.
Again there is a constraint that the system is limited to a total of four signals – these can be 3G or 4G and split across several of the popular cellular frequency bands. For installations with a smaller number of operators, the option exists for carrier aggregation or providing both 3G and 4G to maximise device support.
Huawei’s Lampsite 3.0 offers a much larger total frequency band and capacity (up to 240MHz of signal) at the expense of fibre connection to the radio node. Lower capacity units can be powered directly over Cat 5 or 6 cable alone.
Ericsson view this to be commercially driven by network operators. A single lead operator would install the system at their own expense, then resell/lease capacity on it to other network operators.
This has been an approach for DAS systems for some years, although in many countries the building owner would contribute towards the cost. There’s no mention of the building owner acquiring the system directly and then asking one or more operators to “light it up”.
The choice between standalone small cells and full DAS solution
Some deployments mandate a wide range of different frequency bands and technologies, including 2G, 3G and 4G MIMO together with private and public safety. DAS technology is good at supporting a comprehensive range of frequencies and options, although has traditionally been viewed as expensive.
Small cell solutions are very cost effective at providing one or two technologies and/operators, incorporating the “signal source” and requiring only commonly available Ethernet cabling. They will be ideal for CBRS where only a single common frequency is used.
These newer variants of distributed radio systems, such as Ericsson Radio Dot, Huawei Lampsite, ZTE Qcell aim to solve both issues of low cost and multi-operator/multi-technology.
It remains to be seen which of these three approaches will hit the sweet spot for largest long term market demand.