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Is it Possible to Avoid “Rip and Replace”?

By Mike Collado
October 5th, 2015
Screen Shot 2015-10-05 at 11.22.40 AM

Photo courtesy of NEDAS

Last week I had the privilege to moderate a panel on design and infrastructure trends at the NEDAS Toronto Workshops & Social. Joining me were Alex Berezhnoy (LinkWave); Ron Poulin (BTI Wireless) and Edmond Zauner (Anritsu).

As a starting point, we referenced James Carlini who states that: All the cabling needed to build the network should fit the lifespan of the building, not the lifespan of the technology that is hanging off of it.

I challenged the panelists, “Is that realistic?”

An easy approach is to examine whether the building is greenfield (new construction) or brownfield (existing construction). If the former, there is a chance to achieve obsolescence avoidance by pulling additional fiber. After all, fiber – theoretically – is nearly infinitely scalable. But there’s potentially more to it.

Is it a Tier 1 (>500k sq. ft.) or Tier 2 building? Logic suggests that a Tier 1 venue such as a stadium would boast a budget capable of “over-engineering” the infrastructure to future-proof it. On the other hand, stadia tend to be most impacted by the data tsunami. Many of the in-building systems succumb to a “rip and replace” scenario after a few short years of use.

Screen Shot 2015-10-05 at 11.27.05 AMA Tier 2 building – which we call the middleprise – comes with different challenges. Namely, a requirement for a lower total solution cost compared to mainstream Tier 1 in-building projects. Will there be budget to pull additional infrastructure? And to address existing venues, will solutions providers need to find ways to leverage existing fiber and copper infrastructure with an understanding that perfection is the enemy of good. IOW, solve the problem today.

In addition to the size of the building, what goes on inside the building may challenge whether the infrastructure gets modeled after the building or the technology lifespan. How we approach a hospital may be different from an office building – at least from a level of acceptability for the “cost of disruption” which Carlini describes.

Other factors include whether multiple operators and wireless services will be supported. While it is pretty standard to support commercial cellular and WiFi, it is less clear on whether there is a public-safety communications requirement. As mobile use evolves, the placement of cellular antennae and access points must be flexible to meet changing densification needs. And public-safety may or may not be able to share infrastructure with commercial services; currently, it may not be advantageous, but when FirstNet (LTE) gets rolled out, perhaps sharing infrastructure has both technical and business benefits. (Learn more about public-safety codes, solutions and business models in The Imperative)

In the September issue of AGL’s Small Cell Magazine, I observed in an article entitled “The Middleprise: A Big and Complicated Market Opportunity” that: …the ideal infrastructure needs to provide a converged network where a single backbone serves multiple services including commercial cellular, public-safety and IP (WiFi). This optimal approach enables the infrastructure to stay in place while the end pieces get swapped out to avoid expense rip and replace. 

Indeed, obsolescence avoidance is a goal. But its long-term outcome may need to be tempered with the need to achieve current timeline and TCO budget requirements.

For more on design and infrastructure, hear from iBwave during our middleprise tour of the host hotel from DAS Congress 2015.

What do you think?

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One Response

  1. This sounded like a good panel to listen to – and to be a part of. I wish I would have been there.

    I would have added the issue of – The True Total Cost of Cabling which also includes – the Cost of Disruption. If you do not cable the building for a long timespan, you will be disrupting all those in the building to do a premature upgrade because you did not design it right in the first place.

    A great example are all the stadiums that installed wireless antennae to cover all areas for smartphone use. The problem was that many were under-engineered and the engineers had to go back the next year and add more antennae to provide more capacity. A true example of encountering the “cost of disruption” in how they had to go back and add on antennae. On top of that, they should have already pulled fiber to all the endpoint so that upgrading to antenna that connected via fiber terminations would be an easy upgrade. Instead, the stadiums were only wired with copper and will have to go through another big upgrade when they move to fiber-based anteenae to again – increase capacities.

    Bigger budgets need to “be sold” upfront to the decision-makers instead of selling “the cheapest solution” which inevitably turns out to be a more costly solution in the long-run.

    Many must learn how to sell the “real solution” and not sell a temporary “band-aid approach” that needs to be changed much more often.

    Read my “true total cost’ approach to cabling and network infrastructure.

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