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A Disturbance in the Force

By Mike Collado
May 28th, 2015
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“The Paris Exhibition Clock” by clockmaker E. Farcot and sculptor Albert Ernerst Carrier de Belleuse is a focal point in the Roosevelt Hotel lobby

The eighth installment of DAS & Small Cells Congress promises to once again provide a valuable proving ground for testing opinions and ideas as well as for challenging the status quo.

One of the most compelling trends that wireless industry Jedi knights are flagging as a significant “disturbance in the Force” is an emerging market for in-building DAS, Small Cell and Wi-Fi networks. You’ll hear descriptions such as the “enterprise battle ground” or “enterprise middle-ground” or “enterprise sweet spot.”

But let’s make it simple and call it the Middleprise Market.

The Middleprise is a huge, underserved in-building market with millions of square feet requiring coverage. Loosely defined it includes commercial venues between 100k and 500k sq. ft. filled with a wireless workforce whose smartphones keep them connected and safe.

As attractive as this market opportunity is, the in-building Middleprise Market is complicated. Today’s business and technology models don’t necessarily translate.

Here are some of the critical success factors:

  • Funding and Ownership is going to play a key role. While wireless operators will seek to participate, it is unlikely that they will want to do it all. Similarly, third-party owners will need to assess the ROI before pulling the trigger. So it’s incumbent upon the venue to be a catalyst that either shoulders all or shares in the costs of the network as Joe Madden (Mobile Experts) suggested in his post in FierceWirelessTech. Which informs that getting the business model right is paramount and possibly more complicated than ever.

 

  • DAS vs. Small Cells. Think about it… There is a Middleprise tipping point for both solutions. The bigger the venue, a Small Cell deployment tilts in favor of a DAS; the smaller the venue, a DAS deployment becomes less viable as a Small Cell strategy becomes more attractive. And let’s not forget about Wi-Fi! Like the business model, there is no cookie cutter approach for choosing among the Middleprise densification toolkit.

 

  • Design and Network Infrastructure will challenge even the best in our industry to balance quality of service (QOS) with total cost of ownership (TCO) in the Middleprise as Monica Paolini (Senza Fili) observed at the 2013 Small Cells World Summit. If you’ve been to one stadium, you’ve been to pretty much all of them… In contrast, the Middleprise is not so clean. The buildings that make up this market represent 100 years of architecture standards, and incorporates just about every building material known to man.

 

  • Public-Safety Requirements and Responsibilities. The Middleprise market is subject to fire code mandates as well as ethical considerations to enable in-building communications for emergency first responders, security personnel and the general public. Merging the efforts to enable public-safety and cellular communications – which is a focus of organizations such as the Safer Buildings Coalition – is sure to drive Middleprise opportunities.

 

Here’s a suggestion: When you pack your bags for DAS Congress, leave a little room for the return trip so you can bring home the plethora of opinions, observations and opportunities you’ll hear about in New Orleans, including those surrounding the Middleprise Market.

And make sure your plans also include the Tour of the Roosevelt Hotel on Wednesday, June 10 at 11:20 AM. The hotel is not only the host site of the conference but also a classic example of the Middleprise. Through narratives from our team as well as and industry subject matter experts, we’ll tackle key topics such as funding and ownership models, choosing among the densification toolkit, design and infrastructure considerations, and developing public safety requirements. Learn more and secure your spot here.

 

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Big Ideas Spur Evolution and Revolution

By Mike Collado
May 4th, 2015

IMG_0997 14Last week’s Wireless Infrastructure Show continued – no, blew the roof off – the recent trend of events focused on forward-looking ideas and initiatives.

(See our last post for insights from the NEDAS “Peering into the Future” themed conference and the HetNetForum‘s “The Wireless Technology Roadmap: A Trip into the Future” panel at the ACUTA Annual Conference.)

Unlike more narrowly focused industry events, the PCIA conference is broad in scope and serves up big ideas around things such as:

  • Creating the Wireless Workforce of the Future
  • Expanding Human Possibilities through Cellular Technology
  • Empowering Public Safety
  • Densifying the Wireless Network Indoors, in Urban Areas and Rural Areas
  • Enabling Smart Buildings

All of which informs that big ideas require evolutionary and revolutionary change.

Certainly the technology is changing. Panels were filled with a  steady diet of LTE-U, 5G, virtualization, C-RAN, Digital DAS, Small Cells and WiFi.

Perhaps, more importantly, presenters repeatedly demonstrated that business models must also change, such as:

  • Workforce Training
  • Public-Safety Initiatives
  • Sharing of In-Building Costs
  • Development of Repeatable Processes for Small Cell Deployment
  • (Re-) Alignment of the Wireless Ecosystem Stakeholders

The wireless industry is innovating at a furious pace. It will be interesting to continue to observe.

Check out our tweets from the event!

 

 

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Creating the Wireless Workforce of the Future Panel

 

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Chris Stark (Nokia) Keynote

 

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Big Ideas from Nokia Keynote

 

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Nokia Keynote: Need for New Technology & Business Models

 

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FirstNet’s Ed Parkinson

 

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Proud to Sponsor the Wireless Infrastructure Show

 

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Early Risers for the HetNet Forum’s Annual Breakfast Meeting

 

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Mike and Lori from Hutton Communications (SOLiD Partner)

 

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Eric from Graybar (SOLiD Partner)

 

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Tearing it up at the PCIA Golf Outing: Brook Bascom (Smartlink, WWLF), Tim House (PCIA), Jason Nelson (FierceMarkets) and Mike Collado (SOLiD)

 

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En route to the 19th Hole

 

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Great Day on the Links!

 

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Wildlife on the golf course!

 

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Venue for the President’s Reception

 

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Jonathan Adelstein Kicks Things Off at the Gala

 

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Packed Crowd for the Gala

 

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Playing for the Crowd!

 

 

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Silver Bullets, The Future & The Trade Show Circuit

By Mike Collado
April 23rd, 2015

As a company, we’re a pretty active participant in the “industry discussion” that manifests as conferences (a/k/a the trade show circuit as my friend Jim Parker affectionally refers to it), associations, workgroups and social media.

It’s a great way – in addition to frequent conversations with customers and the consumption of reports – to identify major trends which include “significant changes in technology, distribution, product innovation, markets, and consumer and social developments around the world that might shake up not only the business but the entire industry” according to Verne Harnish in his excellent book Scaling Up.

Over the last month and a half, I’ve observed that the discussion has taken on a heightened tenor around “silver bullets” and future network solutions for enabling communications inside buildings.

Screen Shot 2014-11-24 at 5.47.50 PMDAS vs. Small Cells vs. WiFi

Everyone loves a good debate.

Remember the prognostication that Small Cells were going to kill DAS? Guess what… With LTE-U and the VoWiFi, there are now murmurs of pitting WiFi against Small Cells and DAS.

We’ve long advocated for a toolkit approach whereby you pick the right tool or tools. As Dr. Derek Peterson (Boingo) rhetorically asked last year at LTE North America, “Why not use all the tools in the toolkit?”

In a recent LinkedIn discussion that addresses the always-changing “year of the small cell” prediction, John Celentano correctly puts things into perspective: “Small cells are not homogeneous where one size fits all. On the contrary, as you point out, the configuration used is very application-dependent. At the same time, small cell deployments are not a zero-sum game, that is, if one configuration wins then another loses. We need all of the above to make it work as intended. And that’s why it will take time and money to realize widespread small (cell) deployments.”

Based on what’s currently in the toolkit, Joe Madden (Mobile Experts) suggests that a combination of DAS and WiFi is ideal for in-building densification.

On a panel earlier this month at the NEDAS NYC Spring In-Building Wireless Summit entitled “DAS & WiFi- A Symbiotic Relationship”, I had the pleasure to join Jeff Bonja (Corning), Bill DelGrego (ExteNet) and Chintan Fafadia (PCTEL) to explore Joe’s thesis as well as other toolkit trends. Check out the video archive here.

Screen Shot 2015-04-23 at 1.45.05 PMConvergence

What’s perhaps ultimately driving the “versus” narrative is the quest for a single solution – a silver bullet.

This topic came up during a panel session this week at the ACUTA Annual Conference where I presented with Vladan Jevremovic (iBwave) and Rick Soto (Crown Castle) among college and university technical leaders who are responsible for ensuring coverage and capacity for wireless users categorized by Tracy Ford (HetNet Forum) as “mobile addicts” in reference to a report from Flurry Analytics (see below). Check out our presentation slides here.

(Interestingly, the preceding ACUTA panel – led by Walt Magnussen (Texas A&M University) who presented almost as many times as Miranda Lambert was nominated at the 2015 ACM Awards and explored campus public-safety communications solutions – also encountered the aspiration of a silver bullet)

Alas, there is no silver bullet. Yet.

(And if you subscribe to the toolkit approach strategy, perhaps there should not be)

But that doesn’t mean there’s not significant change coming.

Screen Shot 2015-04-23 at 2.01.54 PMPeering Into the Future

The wireless industry is innovating and advancing at an alarming pace. Which explains conference themes such as NEDAS‘ recent “Peering into the Future” and panels such as HetNetForum‘s “The Wireless Technology Roadmap: A Trip into the Future.”

I’ve shared previously that the wireless industry transforms itself roughly every 10 years. (see a great infographic here)

The impending juggernaut of course is 5G.

Related are advances in WiFi (802.11ac; 802.11ad: 802.11ah; and 802.11p) and LTE (Unlicensed and Direct) technologies and the strategies to harness them including VoIP, VoLTE and VoWiFi.

(LTE-D which allows smartphones to communicate with other mobile devices could be an industry game-changer)

And then there’s C-RAN which, while a nascent architecture, promises long term cost savings and ease for service providers to upgrade or add additional capacity to their network. See our interview with Monica Paolini (Senza Fili) here.

For the in-building space, I believe that the lines are going to begin to blur between DAS and Small Cells. IOW, DAS is going to get digital and more intelligent while small cells are going to find a compelling way to support multiple operators and services.

I envision both evolutionary and revolutionary trends in DAS innovation.

To me, evolution is about improvements. For example, the progression from feather pens to fountain pens to ballpoint pens. In DAS, the evolutionary step is digital with the predominant feature of turning analog RF into bits with the benefits of making the difficult things easier (including designing, building, joining, optimizing, monitoring and managing the network) and automating interference identification and cancelation.

Revolution is about step-change. Using the previous example, the typewriter was revolutionary in a world of styluses. Future DAS – if we in fact call it DAS – begins to look like a potential silver bullet based on a converged, single-platform, nearly infinitely-scalable fiber infrastructure with support for RF and IP services including commercial cellular and public safety, WiFi, HD-CCTV cameras and building automation with virtualized intelligence to step up or down and route capacity to where it is needed within the network.

A Common Thread

The trade show circuit has a way to reminding us to “keep it real” (as my friend and colleague Ken Sandfeld says).

At ACUTA, I overheard a discussion where an attendee inquired about the benefits of the many features she was hearing about.

So in that spirit, here’s what I believe are the key benefits any innovation within the wireless industry needs to deliver:

  • Reduced TCO (CAPEX and OPEX lifetime savings)
  • Flexibility (to add services and mitigate the rip-and-replace cycle)
  • Intelligence (performance optimization, operational efficiency and analytics)

 

Next week Team SOLiD will be attending and presenting at PCIA’s Wireless Infrastructure Show where we’ll continue to explore the densification toolkit including the benefits and features of what’s in it today as well as the coming evolutionary and revolutionary innovations.

What trends and themes are you witnessing?

 

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Source: Mobile Experts

 

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Source: HetNet Forum and Flurry Analytics

 

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Source: iBwave

 

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Source: iBwave

 

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Source: iBwave

 

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When in Atlanta (host for 2015 ACUTA Annual Conference) , it’s soul food…

 

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From one trouble-maker to another… (Thanks Dawn for agreeing to the photo!)

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The MWC Time Warp

By Mike Collado
March 9th, 2015

IMG_0055I’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…

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Dr. Erik Pennings (SOLiD Director) presents at the Small Cell Zone

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.”

The flow of news releases at MWC reflects this as evidenced through RAN initiatives from Ericsson, NTT DoCoMo, Telefonica and Brocade.

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.

Screen Shot 2015-03-09 at 3.44.24 PMOutdoor Densification Revisited

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?

Screen Shot 2015-03-09 at 3.42.37 PMThe Enterprise Battleground

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!

Mercifully, the prediction by Peter Jarich of a steady diet of 5G didn’t overwhelm us. But, hey, there’s always next year!

For more updates, please see coverage from Fierce Wireless, RCR Wireless and Light Reading as well as posts from ThinkSmallCell and iBwave.

So without further ado, here are the sights of MWC 2015…

 

 

 

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Lemme guess… Flight’s delayed? Hanging our with Vicki (4G Americas) and Abe & Claire (TIA NOW) and others before the long short night

 

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Incoming

 

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The queue for Fast Track at El Prat

 

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The universal phenomenon of one guy doing the work… Thanks Urs!

 

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Let’s get this party started

 

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Team SOLiD

 

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Mike Collado presents on densification trends at the Small Cell Zone

 

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Team SOLiD Dinner

 

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Lunching with Lori and Brian from Hutton Communications

 

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Dr. Pennings presents on C-RAN at Small Cell Zone

 

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Robot directing human at SK Telecom

 

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You can dance if you want to…

 

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Welcome to a 12-hour delay at JFK

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