I’m always impressed how seemingly quickly Mobile World Congress begins and ends despite four extremely long days (show floor hours begin at 9 am and conclude at 7 pm). And that doesn’t account for early breakfast meetings and meandering late night dinners!
(Okay, I put in three days and flew home on Thursday but I wasn’t alone: Ed Gubbins from Current Analysis and Dan Jones from Light Reading were on my flight along with a bunch of other exhausted-looking MWC attendees who all got marooned at snowed-in JFK airport for many, many hours)
Perhaps it’s countless hours of planning and executing one’s exhibit, product launch and business development strategy.
Or a result of what I unaffectionately refer to as the “long short night” of traveling east to Barcelona. (Although I suspect that flying business class as our friend Vicki Livingston did on my flight while I flew in steerage works a whole lot better!)
Maybe it’s hanging out with 93,000 of our closest colleagues from the industry in a paradoxically intimate setting. (Within 30 seconds of exiting our taxi on Day #1 we found ourselves walking with Bo Piekarski from Crown Castle).
Or perusing the industry giants in Hall 3 who use MWC to raise the technology bar through dazzling new initiates both real and far-fetched.
Nor can I discount the rinse-and-repeat cycle of bocadillos, patatas bravas, jamon, paella, cava and sangria. (Thankfully barista extraordinaire Daisy Rollo‘s team was once again in the Spirent stand to keep me caffeinated!)
And so we experienced another frenetic MWC. Here’s some key observations…
The Network Gets Smarter
From the macro to indoors, the network is moving toward becoming more dynamic to “steer” capacity resources to where they are needed which informs a fundamental shift in how networks are to be architected.
In their now-annual state of the industry manifesto, Real Wireless observes:
“At the core, virtualization, cloud RAN and SDN propose bringing the power of centralized resource into the wireless space. This offers the promise that capacity can be temporarily increased in specific areas when needed, for example at train stations during rush hour and then moved elsewhere. This is a brand-new area and, though the challenges for MNOs are significant (particularly in the cost of front-haul), the potential is clear if these can be addressed.”
At the end user level, the same principal applies where capacity moves where it is needed. Imagine a stadium where capacity first supports tailgate festivities in the parking lot and then shifts indoors for kickoff. Or capacity reallocated from the stands during the game to the concession areas for halftime. And finally, from inside the stadium to the parking lot after the game and ultimately redistributed into the macro network as fans board public transportation or become ensnarled in traffic away from the venue.
News that AT&T is migrating from its plan to deploy 40,000 small cells begs the question, “So how do we densify urban areas?”
The problem remains to address the spikes when demand exceeds macro capacity by 10 to 15 times.
In our presentation in the Small Cell Zone, we observed that macro and high power oDAS methods are inefficient and ineffective methods. Similarly, small cells don’t necessarily inherently solve the problem due to the absence of a ubiquitous process to address backhaul, site acquisition, monetization and network management to support widescale deployment and the fact that multiple operators exist within the market. (For more, see our post from 2014)
Last year saw the Ericsson and Phillips Zero Site solution. This year Freescale and TTP demonstrated a small cell add-on to existing light pole infrastructure. But both approaches continue to be single-operator centric.
Instead we suggest the need for a broader collocation approach to support the deployment of multiple operators and services on a street pillar such as the SOLiD CityDAS. Why try to solve deployment challenges multiple times when it can be addressed once?
One of the most compelling and underserved market segments is the enterprise space that is defined as buildings smaller than 500,000 square feet and larger than 100,000, as noted by our friend David Chambers at ThinkSmallCell who in his MWC recap noted:
“There was a lot of optimism in this market segment, which is definitely growing. I sense that with many initial LTE network investments now well advanced, operators are finally finding time to respond to in-building opportunities – there’s certainly strong demand for it from venue owners.”
This opportunity evokes the thesis of our previous post where I argued that the “toolkit approach” strategy – which consists of DAS, small cells, Wi-Fi, C-RAN and future architectures likely based on passive optical LAN (POL) – needs to evolve.
Indeed, SpiderCloud and Airvana are responding with enterprise small cell solutions that increasingly borrow from the DAS playbook (support for multiple services). Meanwhile the DAS OEMs are advancing solutions that exhibit some of the best characteristics of small cells (ease of deployment).
We believe the common characteristics of successful solutions within the densification toolkit address needs that include reduced TCO (total cost of ownership), flexibility (to add services and mitigate the rip-and-replace cycle) and intelligence (performance optimization, energy efficiency and analytics).
Hasta la Proxima, Barça!
So without further ado, here are the sights of MWC 2015…