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The Wireless Stadium Evolution and Revolution

By Seth Buechley
December 18th, 2014

Fist The Wireless Stadium Evolution and RevolutionAmericans love football almost as much as their smartphones. Stadium technology sits in the middle of these great passions, so keeping ahead of the demand curve is a huge task for those of us fortunate enough to be in the wireless industry. Don’t be alarmed, but significant change is underway in stadiums and arenas around the world.

As you read the articles or experience live games at the stadiums highlighted in this edition of the Stadium Tech Report by Mobile Sports Report, you’ll come to understand that ensuring a quality game-day experience doesn’t end with the roster, coaches and playbook. It also shows up as blazing-fast upload and download speeds; the ability to watch replays on mobile devices from different angles than what’s on the Jumbotron; and a host of mobile applications whereby a fan can buy and receive a new Russell Wilson jersey without leaving his seat and identify which restroom location has the shortest wait line.

Law of Supply and Demand

I recently attended an Oregon Ducks game at Autzen Stadium, which is supported by a brand new distributed antenna system (DAS) currently serving the nation’s two largest operators (learn more here). I observed again how we fans use our smartphones to memorialize and share our experiences.

Wireless industry experts forecast that the consumption of mobile data will increase more than 6 times over the next 5 years. However, within certain highly concentrated locations such as stadiums, the demand for mobile data is expected to exceed macro capacity not by a factor of 6 but, rather, by a factor of 10, 15, or perhaps 20, according to research from iGR (learn more here).

Put simply, wireless capacity demand on game day at venues that hold 20,000, 50,000, 80,000 or 100,000-plus fans outpaces supply. Which is why, as evidenced by surveys conducted by Mobile Sports Report, the majority of NFL and many college stadiums have deployed DAS or Wi-Fi or both to densify the macro network.

Advancing Our Connected World

Remember the “The Right Stuff”? The movie, adapted from the Tom Wolfe novel, details the race to space against the then-Soviet Union where success was measured by going higher, farther, and faster. The fledgling U.S. space program required both evolutionary and revolutionary strategies and solutions. Our industry’s wireless toolkit must similarly advance to ensure that our connected world includes the stadium.

Today, that means the ability to scale to address near term capacity demands and the KPIs of multiple wireless operators and, in many cases, essential two-way radio and public-safety communications. All this must happen while venue owners and operators are also focusing on minimizing cabling infrastructure and space requirements in public and “head end” areas.

But, in the near future, the wireless toolkit must become significantly more intelligent to deliver additional revenue services creating value that extends far beyond basic connectivity. For instance: Metrics and analytics that can be used by the venue for one-to-one marketing programs with fans; the ability to precisely locate a fan who is in need of emergency care; or dynamic routing of capacity from inside the stadium to outside the venue after the game and ultimately to areas along major roadways or public transportation.

Screen Shot 2014 12 18 at 9.26.35 AM 1024x742 The Wireless Stadium Evolution and RevolutionWhat’s Coming and When

Evolution is about improving existing solutions by making them faster, smaller, or cheaper. The original Mini Cooper was evolutionary because it was small. Revolution is when a radically new platform or approach is introduced. In keeping with the automotive analogy, Tesla is revolutionary because it is different. Both have merits but only one represents an industry step-change.

DAS and small cells are evolutionary wireless network densification solutions built upon architecture deployed within the macro network but sized for deployment at the venue. Both continue to evolve at a brisk pace and today represent the most cost-effective and efficient method for filling in the capacity holes at venues.

In contrast, the next-generation networks will look vastly different from today’s approach. Fundamentally, these networks will be distinguished by a fiber infrastructure and network intelligence. These revolutionary networks will be nearly infinitely scalable and enable support for multiple RF- and IP-based services as well as over-the-top (OTT) applications. Most notably, they’ll enable virtualization to “shift” capacity to where it is needed within the network and deliver network and user analytics to provide new ROI business models.

We believe we’re in the late stages of the network evolutionary period and that revolutionary solutions will emerge over the next few years. The wireless industry has a perfect the opportunity to innovate and deliver sports fans unique experiences at their favorite stadiums.

(Note: this article by SOLiD president Seth Buechley recently appeared in College Football issue of the Stadium Tech Report from Mobile Sports Report in which SOLiD is a sponsor)

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Where are the Small Cells?

By Mike Collado
December 8th, 2014

IMG 0301 1024x768 Where are the Small Cells?Now its third year (we’ve attended each year), Small Cells Americas continues to expand its audience – attracting more than 750 registrants according to the event organizer with – interestingly – little attendee overlap from the recent LTE North America event.

The conference continues to grow presumably on the promise that small cells are coming.

Really, they’re coming.

That’s what industry experts are saying:

ABI Research believes 2015 will now witness meaningful small cell deployments.

(OTOH, an analyst once quipped that if a prediction doesn’t hit the mark, he simply adds a year to the timeline, so go figure…)

Once upon a time, these events were platforms for platitudes that prompted another analyst to decry that the small cell hype has outpaced reality.

Mercifully – as we observed in posts where we summarized both the Small Cells World Summit and the recent LTE North America – the industry discussion has steadily progressed.

Here’s what we learned…

(For comprehensive coverage, see this update from ThinkSmallCell)

The State of the Union

In his opening remarks, Dr. Alan Law, the new chairman of the Small Cell Forum stated that the industry is progressing how to deploy small cells to densify the network and pointed to (1) backhaul, (2) site acquisition, (3) monetization and (5) network management as key challenges impeding their widescale deployment.

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Which are pretty much the same challenges that Sue Monahan, CEO of the Small Cell Forum shared in her opening remarks six months prior at Small Cells World Summit.

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Stated differently, as AT&T’s Tom Keathley observed, the wireless industry has a ways to go before it is ready for a large-scale deployment of small cells.

Why?

Based on our discussions during the conference, two key reasons stand out.

Lack of a Repeatable Business Process

Our friend Ken Rehbehn (451 Research) last year shared that the absence of a ubiquitous process for the hurdles mentioned above would hinder widescale small cell deployment.

Which we echoed in a post-2013 Small Cells Americas blog update:

… accelerated rollout needs to be automated and deployment simplified like Wi-Fi access points. More importantly, the widescale deployment of small cells means that it will be incumbent upon ALU and Ericsson to work with DAS OEMs and other stakeholders in the ecosystem.

And…

Another insightful presentation was delivered by Teresa McEneny from Cisco who highlighted location based services and analytics as big opportunities within the evolving in-building space and identified the barriers to widespread deployment of small cells to include power, support, backhaul, real estate, cost and need for multi-vendor HetNet.

Put simply, the industry needs to identify ways to make the harder things easier including how to design, build, join, commission, optimize, monitor and manage the network.

(And we would submit that this applies not only to small cells but the other tool in the densification kit, DAS)

Screen Shot 2014 12 08 at 11.12.06 AM Where are the Small Cells?Not Enough Like DAS

Given recent (and perhaps still lingering?) sentiment that small cells would put the DAS industry out of business, it’s ironic that the industry would request that small cells look more like DAS.

A key knock on small cells is that they are singular in purpose.

Those from the DAS industry have already seen this move play out: Sharing is good.

Venue owners don’t want multiple parallel infrastructure. They understand that we live in a BYOD world, so a single operator solution won’t meet tenant needs.

Similarly, they likely have a public-safety communications requirement and thus seek ways to mitigate the expense of a separate solution to comply.

Lastly, they seek ROI. And while the current DAS (and for the matter, small cells) doesn’t provide a business model (our friend Stuart Carlaw from ABI Research describes the industry as being stuck in a “coverage and capacity infinite loop”), it is clear that a single infrastructure with support for multiple services is the answer.

So, we believe both small cells and DAS will evolve by “borrowing” from each other’s best attributes while maintaining their individual and unique qualities that inform where they will be deployed to densify the network.

(For a primer on how to decide which tool to deploy, see a new report by David Chambers at ThinkSmallCell sponsored by SOLiD)

Your Turn

What were your key takeaways from Small Cells Americas?

What do you predict we’ll be talking about in 12 months?

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Sue Monahan (CEO at Small Cell Forum)

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Dr. Alan Law (Chairman at Small Cell Forum)

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Nick Marshall (ABI Research)

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Rupert Baines (Real Wireless)

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Mark Grayson (Cisco)

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Ken Sandfeld (SOLiD)

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Carole Mayhew and the Avren Team

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Densification is a Toolbox Approach. So, Now What?

By Mike Collado
November 24th, 2014

20141119 122042 1024x576 Densification is a Toolbox Approach. So, Now What?We had the pleasure last week to attend one of our favorite events – LTE North America.

(For additional coverage, see our tweets from the show and videos from RCR Wireless.

This event stands out for us because it’s the Goldilocks of both content and stakeholders within the wireless ecosystem – not too broad and not too narrow; not too overwhelming and not too sparsely attended.

With topics such as HetNets, Small Cells, LTE, 5G, Network Optimization and Public-Safety, it’s always right up our alley.

We had the privilege to present before industry peers our observations on the evolutionary and revolutionary approaches that will be deployed to densify the network. As a manufacturer, it’s a topic we’re truly energized by.

(In fact, we’ll advance this topic further next week at Small Cells Americas.)

One of the key topics that stood out the most for us during the two days in Dallas was that it appears that our industry is mercifully moving away from the DAS versus Small Cells debate and beginning to engage in a pragmatic conversation to identify the right tool for the job rather than promoting an allegiance for a single technology.

Well, sort of…

Screen Shot 2014 11 24 at 5.46.06 PM Densification is a Toolbox Approach. So, Now What?The Decade of Densification

Why are we even having this discussion?

Earlier this summer, we dubbed the current period in the wireless industry as the “decade of densification.”

(The wireless industry transforms itself roughly every 10 years; see a great infographic here)

Pat Diamond from Key2mobile – an early stage company working on improving urban capacity and connectivity in the licensed-spectrum space – observes that densification is about marrying up both coverage and capacity within the wireless network.

Or, as Paula Doublin from AT&T describes it: coverage is ensuring water fills the entire lake; capacity is ensuring how deep the water is in the lake.

Of course, densification is required both indoors and outdoors.

And those spaces are unique in size and physical characteristics as well as usage requirements and durations.

Time after time, presenters and delegates uttered the phrase, “A toolkit approach is needed to densify the network.”

Screen Shot 2014 11 24 at 5.47.50 PM Densification is a Toolbox Approach. So, Now What?The Beatles vs. The Stones

Leave it to our friend Dr. Derek Peterson (CTO at Boingo) to break it down as he did during his afternoon talk on Day #1.

Everyone loves a good debate. And some within the wireless industry have pitted DAS against Small Cells.

Remember the claims that Small Cells would kill the DAS industry?

(See our thoughts on this topic from Small Cells World Summit 2014)

The problem is these kinds of discussions have made it increasingly difficult to discern the truth from the hype.

For instance, some say DAS is too expensive compared to Small Cells. We heard a presenter claim that Small Cells will be deployed at stadiums at 1/10 to 1/20 cost of DAS.

At the other end of the spectrum, another presenter suggested that small cells won’t have the capacity to support a single floor of users at a meeting facility.

As a rule of thumb, we believe DAS to be ideal for large venues (>500k square feet).

Small Cells are ideal for small buildings (<100k square feet).

But that’s just a starting point. And it leaves a big gap for densifying medium-sized enterprise venues.

Screen Shot 2014 11 24 at 5.54.05 PM 1024x775 Densification is a Toolbox Approach. So, Now What?The Right Tool for the Job

You wouldn’t use a sledgehammer to drive a nail for a picture hook, would you?

The industry discussion needs to progress to explore using the right tool for the job.

That’s what AT&T is doing based upon their series of commercials featuring the fictitious characters of Frank and Charlie highlighting a toolkit of strategies that include the macro network, DAS and Small Cells.

Here’s the thing… The toolkit is advancing and old assumptions may longer hold true.

For instance, at this year’s Small Cells World Summit, Stuart Carlaw (Chief Research Officer at ABI Research) observed that DAS is becoming economical for medium installations between 100k and 500k square feet.

However, the toolkit may also inform that multiple tools might be used. In Dallas, Boingo’s Dr. Peterson rhetorically asked, “Why not use all the tools in the toolkit?”

We believe there exist venues in which DAS and Small Cells should be deployed together. In this theoretical scenario, DAS may cover the majority of the public areas and small cells could be used to boost capacity for specific operators or applications where needed.

Advancing the Discussion

In our opinion, one of the most important discussions the wireless industry needs to have centers on the densification toolkit.

It’s no longer sufficient to say it’s a toolkit approach. Rather, we need to explore the “decision tree” which informs which tool or tools to use based upon the unique requirements.

To jumpstart the conversation, SOLiD is sponsoring a forthcoming paper to be published by our friend David Chambers at ThinkSmallCell.

Meanwhile, how do you view the decision tree? And how is it different for operators compared to the enterprise?

 

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SOLiD was short-listed for the Best LTE Backhaul Solution award for INFINITY ACCESS

 

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Jennifer Pigg Clark (VP at 451 Research)

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Andy Germano (VP at Small Cell Forum)

 

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Nicolas Cotanis (CTO at Reverb Networks) & Ken Sandfeld (EVP at SOLiD)

 

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Mike Collado (VP of Marketing at SOLiD)

 

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Paul Gowans (Mobile Strategy Director at JDSU)

 

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Dr. Derek Peterson (CTO at Boingo)

 

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Chief Alan Perdue (Executive Director at Safer Buildings Coalition)

 

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Stuart Carlaw’s Presentation from Small Cells Americas

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Climbing the Mountain

By Mike Collado
November 6th, 2014

Team SOLiD celebrated Founder’s Day today which marks 16 years since the company’s inception in Seoul, Korea.

The cornerstone of the celebration includes climbing a nearby mountain – an activity which symbolizes our collective determination and ambition as an organization.

 

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Dr. Joon Chung (Chairman) addresses the team

 

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Seth Buechley (President, North America) and Dr. Seung Hee Lee (CEO)

 

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Ken Sandfeld (EVP, North America), Seth Buechley & Seung Hee Lee

 

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Jung Hoon Kim (Vice President, Global Sales), Henry Woo (Senior Vice President), Seth Buechley, Ken Sandfeld, Dr. Joon Chung & Dr. Seung Hee Lee

 

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Henry Woo, Ken Sandfeld, Jung Hoon Kim & Dr. Byung Joo Yoo (General Manager, Japan)

 

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Ken Sandfeld & Seung Jong Kim (Global Sales Director)

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