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An Unlikely Discussion at MWC

By Mike Collado
February 25th, 2015

IMG_20140222_105905_697[1]It’s that time again for jetlag, sore feet and one-hour taxi queues… For missed appointments due to Google-Outlook-Apple calendars that didn’t sync… And serendipitous encounters with long-lost colleagues on La Rambla at 2 am.

Ladies and gentleman, I give you Mobile World Congress.

(“And I like it!” as Mick Jagger says)

It’s been predicted by our friends Ed Gubbins, Peter Jarich and Joe Madden (among others) that a certain number (5) and a letter (G) will dominate conversations at this year’s congress.

(Cue Ted Nugent: “5G fever, duh, duh, duh…”)

While we understand the allure of the promise of fiber-like wireless speeds, the topic we’re keen for is network densification.

Unfortunately, the discussion won’t likely progress beyond the current mantra of, “It’s gonna to be a toolkit approach.”

Screen Shot 2015-01-15 at 2.03.44 PM

Courtesy of Joe Madden, Mobile Experts

The Densification Challenge

Iain Gillott from iGR identifies in a paper sponsored by SOLiD that “Mobile bandwidth demand is rapidly increasing around the world. In North America, iGR expects that by 2017 the consumption of mobile data per month will increase more than six times over its level in 2012. But, the deeper issue gets lost in this statistic. Within any given geographic market, there will be locations where the mobile data network will be unable to meet the average level of data demand simply due to the congregation of large numbers of users.”

Joe Madden from Mobile Experts quantifies this “data tsunami” as having properties whereby “data demand is ‘peaky’, with 15x higher demand during peak hours” and “data demand is increasingly ‘spotty’ with hotzone demand up to 500 times higher in some cells than in other cells.”

The solution? Make the network denser.

Pat Diamond from Key2mobile, an early stage company which is focused on the urban wireless market, defines densification as the marrying up of both coverage and capacity within the wireless network.

The key is getting coverage and capacity where the users are and when the users need it.

IMG_0350The Toolkit Approach

Only a few short years ago, the industry buzz was that small cells would be the death knell for DAS (distributed antenna systems).

Touted as a sure thing for densifying outdoor spaces, the wide-scale deployment of small cells has been slowed by the absence of a ubiquitous process which Small Cell Forum Chairman Alan Law says includes backhaul, site acquisition, monetization and network management. Similarly, Ken Rehbehn at 451 Research suggests that the key challenges center around real estate and power. Currently, small cell deployment is focused on indoor spaces which are low-hanging fruit having fewer obstacles.

Meanwhile, Stuart Carlaw at ABI Research observes that “DAS is evolving at a frightening pace” and is well-positioned to economically solve for both large (>500K sq. ft.) and medium (100-500K sq. ft.) venues.

Stu’s colleague – Nick Marshall – hypothesized during a briefing late last year that densification solutions may likely look more like DAS than a small cell.

And then there’s Wi-Fi which certain analysts including Ken Rehbehn and Joe Madden view as a compelling play for densifying indoor corporate environments.

Which brings us to the toolkit approach…

When asked why not just use small cells for everything during a panel discussion at LTE North America, our friend Dr. Derek (a/k/a Derek Peterson, CTO of Boingo) responded, “Why not use all the tools in the toolkit?”

Screen Shot 2015-01-15 at 2.13.15 PM

Courtesy of Joe Madden, Mobile Experts

Not Far Enough

Remember “the voice” in the movie Field of Dreams that urged protagonist Ray Kinsella to “go the distance?”

We observe that our industry – for the most part – is still stuck on the Beatles or the Stones debate (we’re borrowing this great analogy from Dr. Derek): do we densify with DAS or small cells?

But why not the Beatles AND the Stones? More importantly, why not the Beatles AND the Stones AND Dylan AND Hendrix?

We note that our industry is struggling to advance the toolkit conversation to a decision tree discussion which examines the rationale for selecting among DAS, small cells, Wi-Fi, C-RAN and future architectures likely based on passive optical LAN (POL). To jumpstart the conversation, SOLiD sponsored a paper by David Chambers at ThinkSmallCell but we maintain there is much more thought leadership to be done.

We believe that perhaps the most compelling gap to be solved is for the underserved “middle ground” indoor market that is best characterized as enterprise venues (think hotels and office buildings).

We’re not alone. Jennifer Pigg at 451 Research remarked at a recent conference that agendas would better serve the educational needs of attendees by avoiding yet another Super Bowl venue case study. And Joe Madden has identified this market as an important emerging battleground.

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).

As an industry colleague recently shared: “The next few years are gonna be a helluva ride.”

Screen Shot 2015-02-16 at 11.25.21 AM

We’ll even have real, live human beings in our stand!

See Us at MWC

Team SOLiD is showcasing our RF and Optical Transport solutions in Hall 6, Stand L41.

We also have the privilege to be included on the agenda at the Small Cell Zone (Hall 7, Stand F61) which is hosted by the Small Cell Forum (SOLiD is a member) and features presentations from executives and thought leaders we most admire. We’ll present on “The Densification Toolkit Evolution and Revolution” (Monday at 14:00) and “Getting Clarity on Cloud-RAN” (Tuesday at 14:00).

Please message below in comments or contact us to meet; or just stop by!

Keep an eye out for updates on our blog, LinkedIn and Twitter.

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