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Densification, Densification, Densification!

By Nick Marshall
March 15th, 2016

Screen Shot 2016-03-14 at 12.00.03 PMJust like in real estate there are 3 keys to success in the world of radio coverage and capacity distribution and they are, in no particular order, Densification, Densification and Densification. This is particularly important at the edge of the network where it connects to subscribers’ handsets, smartphones, tablets and other end points like IoT or M2M sensors.

Where is the Edge?

The Edge is where the mobile signals from the macro tower start to run out of range and a user starts to experience a drop in data rate or lack of coverage. This is caused by any number or combination of factors including RF signal attenuation due to physical impairments, obstructions or interference, and the dynamic requirements of users. The Edge can be outdoors, in a building or venue or in high traffic density locations like stadiums and underground in subways.

Living on the Edge…

The macro cellular network is simply not designed for life at the edge as demand for coverage and capacity is dynamic with rapidly changing coverage requirements and capacity demands. With more mobile devices (think smartphone, tablets, laptops and IoT/M2M) requiring wireless connectivity, access points at the edge need to become much more dense, dynamic and proactive. In some respects the Edge must proactively follow the traffic demand. Mobile traffic is “tidal.” For example there is more demand for capacity in an enterprise between 9am and 5pm during week days than outside of working hours. At a major sporting event outside a stadium on game day the capacity demand is in the car-park before the game and that traffic shifts to the stadium for the game and then back to the car park for after the game. On days which are not game days demand falls to virtually zero.

Screen Shot 2016-03-14 at 11.59.27 AMWhat do we mean by Edge Densification?

Edge Densification is a major trend and has been the driver behind Heterogeneous Networks (HetNets) for some time now. It means increasing the radio throughput per square meter by any means possible in both the Transport and Access layers of the RAN.

In Transport, this means maximizing fiber allocation from the carrier’s demarcation point deep into the Edge, leveraging both CWDM and DWDM to enable Centralized RAN (C-RAN) architectures now and using NFV and SDN to transition to Cloud RAN in the future. Fiber transport can function both as backhaul and fronthaul and is a critical part of C-RAN and basestation hoteling. It also enables virtualization of the baseband in the cloud or data center as well as MEC (Mobile Edge Computing) or IT functionality at the Edge to further increase densification.

In the Access layer, densification techniques would include using more efficient protocols such as LTE with carrier aggregation or aggregating with Wi-Fi in the unlicensed bands for data offload, 3GPP standards such as eICIC, CoMP and higher order QAM and MIMO can all be deployed to densify the Edge and increase throughput per square meter.

Although still to be specified, densification will continue into 5G as one of the drivers of a massively dense small cell underlay/overlay. This will probably operate in the millimeter wave bands with short range and low power for high frequency reuse.

Together Transport and Access can be used to enable the increases in coverage and capacity needed for Edge Densification. Using Edge Densification, MNOs can respond to the exploding growth in data traffic and the proliferation of wireless connections to subscribers and to IoT devices. The MNO must densify its network and balance between maximizing the use of a limited asset or spectrum with ever more efficient transport such as DWDM and access protocols such as LTE-Advanced Pro or 5G, and obtain an increase in throughput per square meter of its network while lowering TCO.

Are There Edge Densification Business Models?

The traditional MNO ecosystem has reached a level of “Capex Exhaustion” for in-building and venue densification and property and venue owners must look towards neutral hosts or 3rd party owners (3PO), value added resellers (VARs) and system integrators to deploy and densify their in-building networks. 3PO’s like Tower companies and infrastructure owners are already stepping up in the US – many Towercos are reporting significant double digit leasing revenue growth in recent earnings. VARs are leveraging multiple OEM relationships to handle the maximum variety of deployment scenarios. There is also an emerging role to be played by the building owners and real estate companies themselves to deploy DAS in the “middleprise.” Neutral host and SCaaS offerings from small cells are emerging to compete with traditional DAS systems as do the various “flavors” of Wi-Fi – LWA, LTE-U, LAA and MulteFire.

Screen Shot 2016-03-14 at 12.00.44 PMWhat are the Opportunities and Obstacles for Edge Densification?

In the US the majority of the big venues have been done and DAS is readily available. According to the US government there are 335,000 commercial buildings with floor area >50,000 square feet for a total of 44 billion square feet in the US today. With < 6% aggregate floor space penetration by in-building wireless systems there is a huge opportunity – this is the Middleprise. In addition with in-building traffic growing 7X by 2020 and 4G and Wi-Fi outpacing that to reach a staggering 53 Exabytes/month by 2020, there is a clear need for densification.

SOLiD at MWC 2016

I recently had the pleasure of discussing this topic on a panel at MWC 2016 with Ken Sandfeld – President and CEO of SOLiD North America, Ray LaChance – Co-Founder and CEO of ZenFi Networks and Chris Jaeger Managing Director Transit Systems/Large Venues from BAI Communications. BAI’s subsidiary Transit Wireless built and operates the New York City Subway DAS which runs over ZenFi fiber and uses SOLiD DAS equipment.

You can watch the videos here:

 

The New York City Subway is one of the World’s oldest (1st station opened in 1904 [world’s oldest is London-1890]) and largest (by number of stations). There are 422 stations in the New York Subway system, and Transit Wireless equipped the 279 of these which are underground. This is the World’s largest DAS – 279 subway stations, with 1.6 billion riders/year (averages 5.3 million during the week, 3 million on Saturdays and 2.4 million on Sundays) and a great example of Edge Densification.

(Learn more about this project here)

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We’re All Living on the Edge

By Mike Collado
March 14th, 2016

When we started blogging about densification in late 2010, both the industry landscape and vocabulary were significantly different. Heck, we didn’t even use the word “densification”.

Much has evolved over the last five-and-a-half years…

 

Which is why – as we stated in our last post – that it seems necessary to update our the name of our blog to better convey the SOLiD’s role within the wireless ecosystem.

(Insert drumroll here…)

Welcome to Living on the Edge.

Why this name? Put simply, the edge is where we spend our days working, playing and living.

Here’s why it’s apropos: the macro cellular network is not designed for life at the edge. Which means that enabling communications at the edge requires solutions and strategies that deliver coverage and capacity from the edge of the carrier core network to the building (indoors) or pole (outdoors) and ultimately to the handset.

We call this Edge Densification. And SOLiD possesses the portfolio and experience to provide these complex solutions that include Fronthaul and Backhaul for C-RAN and Base Station Hoteling strategies; Passive Optical LAN as a building block for RF and IP inside the building; and next-generation amplifier-radio solutions for distribution of RF indoors and outdoors.

At Mobile World Congress, we joined our friends Nick Marshall (ABI Research), Chris Jaeger (BAI Communications) and Ray LaChance (ZenFi Networks) to discuss Edge Densification with TIA NOW’s Abe Nejad. Check out our videos for a primer on Edge Densification!

 

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New Beginnings

By Mike Collado
January 25th, 2016
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Foundation Day Celebration at SOLiD’s Seoul Headquarters in 2015

The combination of digging out this weekend from Winter Snow Jonas and watching the NFL conference championship games served as a reminder that we’re only 25 days into 2016. (For a look a back on 2015, check out our Year in Photos!)

Like many, I find the start of the new year to be an opportunity to embrace new goals, new outlooks and new approaches.

At SOLiD, we’ve already made changes…

Most significantly, we announced last week that SOLiD Inc. has acquired the North American operation including all assets, business dealings, and resources.

This is an exciting and important next step in advancing SOLiD’s success and growth in both the North American and global wireless markets. As “ONE SOLiD”, we are stronger and better positioned to accomplish great things.

ONE SOLiD is a win for the markets we serve by increasing our ability to offer a broader product portfolio and a more competitive value proposition by leveraging our portfolio of RF Amplifier, RF Radio and Optical Transport core capabilities that have been battle-tested in the global markets.

(For more information, here is our acquisition FAQs plus a video interview by RCR’s Martha DeGrasse of newly-appointed president for SOLiD Americas, Ken Sandfeld.)

In the spirit of change, we’re making other changes you’ll be seeing soon.

We just gave our homepage a facelift to more effectively showcase new and relevant information for myriad stakeholder interests. Among them, be sure to check out our new Bold Ideas section. The same layout and format will soon carry over to our secondary pages. And we’ll soon reflect our entire global initiative. Please let us know what you think!

Our blog is also changing, starting with its name.

“The Inside Story” was a clever mash-up for conveying the “scoop” for the in-building wireless industry. And it served us well.

But the market has evolved and continues to do so at a rapid pace. SOLiD, too, has responded and continues to do so with a portfolio of solutions that enable densification from the edge of the core network to the building or pole and ultimately to the handset. Put simply, SOLiD is more than in-building DAS.

In addition to changing the name, we’ll bring you new topics and trends to build upon and compliment some of our key themes from 2015 including the Middleprise and Public-Safety Imperative. Plus you’ll hear from more voices at SOLiD and from within the industry in addition to my own.

So stay tuned. Until then, here’s to new beginnings!

Now back to the snow…

 

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Snow topped out around 30 inches for director of marketing Scott Gregory!

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Most Read Posts of 2015

By Mike Collado
December 29th, 2015
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Team SOLiD at its 2015 Sales Kickoff

I’m sure every year has its share of highs and lows, ups and downs, challenges and opportunities, you get it… But 2015 seemed to be infused with a little more change than in recent years.

The ecosystem wrestled with two significant and interrelated transformations:

First, business models for funding and owning DAS networks got put under the microscope. Wireless operators moved further away from owning the neutral host DAS network as evidenced by AT&T’s all-but-abandonment of its Antenna Solutions Group (ASG). And even though they had been connecting to 3PO-owned networks for the 12 to 18 months leading up to 2015 (and continued to connect throughout the year), operators started to question whether the old business models for DAS networks – where the venue does not pay – are still valid.

Second, the ecosystem began to shift focus from Tier 1 venues (i.e., having over 500,000 square feet such as stadia, subways, airports, etc.) to the Middleprise (i.e., enterprise venues having 100,000 to 500,000 square feet such as hospitals, hotels, college buildings and Class A corporate). Why? Namely, saturation within the Tier 1 segment. In contrast, the nascent Middleprise market has barely been addressed. But it comes with challenges to not only the business models and technology toolkit but also to network infrastructure and public-safety communications.

No doubt, we’ll begin to see evolutionary and revolutionary progress in the coming years that address both of those trends.

Until then, thanks for reading. On behalf of Team SOLiD, I wish you and your families comfort, joy, peace and happiness to last throughout the coming year!

Here’s what you read the most on The Inside Story in 2015…

Number 1: WiFi on a DAS? First ask yourself why
Convergence and all-fiber infrastructure inform that the industry will keep wrestling with this question.

Number 2: The Evolution of Multi-Carrier DAS
An oldie but goodie – A look from back in 2011 at how DAS may evolve.

Number 3: What are the Business Models for In-Building Coverage for Healthcare & Why Look at Them Now?
Another throwback post but clearly indicative of what was on the minds of the ecosystem in 2015.

Number 4: Holding its Own: IBTUF IX
The annual Verizon summit wrestled with hot topics including Small Cells, Public-Safety, CPRI and C-RAN

Number 5: The Wonderful World of Wireless
In spite of industry turbulence, the wireless industry is about to usher in some significant change and opportunity!

Number 6: The Public Safety Imperative
Creating safer in-building environments for occupants and first responders is paramount.

Number 7: Kicking Off 2015 at the NEDAS Philadelphia Social
It was a frigid evening but a great start to the year hosted by our good friends at NEDAS!

Number 8: The Future of DAS Ownership
Another throwback – an exploration of how funding and ownership models could evolve.

Number 9: A Disturbance in the Force
Given what’s currently in movie theaters, how apropos… The Middleprise!

Number 10: An Unlikely Discussion at MWC
It’s almost that time again… Our thoughts on the hot topics for the 2015 edition amid industry superlatives.

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