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Small Cell Turbo Lag

By Mike Collado
April 9th, 2014

IMG_0288Remember those Saab 900’s from the 90’s?

When you punched the accelerator, there was a significant hesitation – or turbo lag – while the turbo spooled up and boost kicked in.

That’s what’s going on with small cells.

Now, that might sound disingenuous from a company that is currently best-known in North America as a DAS (Distributed Antenna System) manufacturer.

(In Korea, we’re better-known as the optical transport innovators whose fronthaul solution has enabled SK Telecom’s Centralized RAN LTE strategy)

So let’s be clear… Small Cells are coming. Deployment will be widespread. The total addressable market will be big. And SOLiD will be an active participant.

But not just yet.

Ball of Confusion

IMG_0300Late last year, a prominent industry analyst quipped during a briefing that “Small cell hype had outpaced reality.”

Both hype and reality were on display at two industry events hosted in New York City last week: NEDAS Spring New York City Conference  and Wi-Fi & Small Cells North America 2014.

For instance, we heard from a presenter who declared that small cells will provide capacity for stadiums at one-tenth of the cost of DAS.

Yet just last year, we asked AT&T’s Paula Doublin during a panel at the DAS and Small Cell Congress about deploying small cells in stadiums. Her response was that you need to choose the right tool for the job. In other words, there’s a business and technology use case for small cells but, according to her, it’s not likely to be in a stadium.

(Note that in the new and brilliant AT&T commercials that it is DAS that’s being deployed in the stadium and small cells in the office)

As a moderator, Monica Paolini at Senza Fili Consulting candidly confessed that the widespread rollout of small cells is a lot more challenging and taking a lot longer than the original vision.

So What’s The Hold-up?

IMG_0306Bryan Brooks knows all about small cell turbo lag.

We met Bryan last year at this same conference where he rhetorically asked a panelist when his company (Pavlov Media is the largest private provider of broadband services to off-campus student housing) would be able to deploy small cells. He’s still waiting, checkbook in hand.

The “Overcoming Hurdles of Integrating Small Cells in LTE Networks” panel attempted to explore this topic.

According to Joe Zeto at Ixia, the issues slowing down small cell deployment center around coordination between small cells and the macro network, and the maturity of SON technology to manage this. 

We believe that three things need to happen to enable the widespread deployment of small cells:

  1. A repeatable business process must be created to address real estate concerns for outdoor small cell deployments for both aesthetics and backhaul requirements.
  2. Network design and commissioning needs to be automated and deployment must be simplified to be akin to Wi-Fi access points.
  3. Small cells must be neutral host to support myriad operators and services.

Our friend Vlad Jevremovic at iBwave does a great job of explaining the challenges and critical success factors for deploying small cells in a new blog post. It’s both timely and highly informative thought leadership. 

These discussions are both necessary and positive for advancing small cell deployment.

Your Turn

Are you observing small cell turbo lag in the market? Tell us about it in the comments below!

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