We’re just back from the 2014 Small Cells World Summit where we were treated to a week of fabulous weather in London (thanks Andy Germano for packing the sunshine in your carry-on bag), networking and information sharing among the wireless industry’s elite innovators and thought leaders.
One word best describes this year’s event and – we believe – the climate of the small cell market: maturation.
With 1122 registered attendees (>40% year-over-year growth), SCWS outgrew the Metropole which previously hosted the event (no, we don’t miss climbing three levels of stairs and the maze we had to navigate to reach the backhaul sessions last year).
The ExCel ensured that conference tracks, exhibits and networking were in close proximity.
And while there was crossover noise from the adjacent presentations and the roar of jets taking off from London City Airport every five minutes (we LOVED David Swift’s cheeky Tweet!), the new venue signaled a new milestone for the conference and the Small Cell Forum.
But the real sign of maturation is the message.
Gone – for the most part – is the bravado we heard at last year’s conference that suggested that Small Cells would supplant or even kill off Distributed Antenna Systems (DAS) as the method for densifying the network.
Stuart Carlaw (ABI Research), Joe Madden (Mobile Experts) and others all share that a toolkit approach is needed. And that the toolkit includes the macro network, DAS, Small Cells, WiFi and other emerging strategies.
Similarly absent is the wireless backhaul bombast.
Backhaul also requires a toolkit approach because – while operators prefer fiber – it’s cost-prohibitive to trench fiber to the location of a radio. So wireless backhaul is needed. But as Manuel Rosa da Silva (Portugal Telecom) poignantly declared during the Operator CTO Panel Discussion, “If you don’t have fiber, you’re dead.”
(South Korea has battle-tested wireless backhaul. It’s a tool in the kit but real-world experience demonstrates that buses, rain storms and bird droppings wreak havoc on a network reliant upon this strategic approach)
Lastly, the ecosystem discussion is evolving beyond a focus on just the technology. The industry is now also exploring and implementing training and certification programs as well as pragmatic business models that seek to drive revenue through OTT (over the top) services that extend service beyond basic connectivity.
(Small Cell Forum Chairman Gordon Mansfield said it well: “It is important to recognise the potential social impact of what we and the tech we develop can do.”)
Collectively, the maturation of the industry discussion informs that the real ramp-up of deployment of small cells to help densify the network is near.
We predict this year’s conference to have marked an inflection point in the advancement of both the small cell and densification market. And while it’s still fresh in our minds, we confess we’re already excited to be back again next year.
Tell us what stood out to you as revelatory at SWCW.
Backhaul, DAS, Distributed Antenna System, In-Building Wireless, Small Cell Forum, Small Cells, Small Cells World Summit