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2014 Predictions for the Wireless Industry

By Mike Collado
January 2nd, 2014

We trust our friends in the wireless industry enjoyed the holiday season.

Before we hunker down and get back to business, here are our industry predictions for 2014.

(Note: This article was originally published in the December 2013 edition of AGL Magazine)

A Look Back

Over the last 12 months, we at SOLiD have observed two fundamental trends in the wireless communications industry.

First, out of the buzz surrounding Small Cells has emerged a more rational and pragmatic conversation for solving densification issues that applies a tool box approach that consists of Distributed Antenna Systems (DAS), Small Cells and Wi-Fi.

Second, FirstNet – by virtue of a Board that consists of both cellular and public-safety stakeholders – has nudged the two industries closer together to explore converged solutions to disparate problems.

It is these key trends that drive our predictions for 2014.

Network Densification

Alright, I’ll just go and say it: Small Cell deployments won’t roll out as quickly as the industry suggests. I realize this may sound self-serving coming from a company that is best-known for its DAS solutions. However, it’s not about technology; instead, it’s about the delays due to the inherent complexity of obtaining approvals and permits from municipalities to place radios on street furniture.

Necessity spawns innovation so, to address street furniture and street pillar concerns, Outdoor DAS and Small Cells are going to get smaller, lighter, greener, more powerful and provide more bands.

Single infrastructure will rule the day. Outdoors, we’ll start to see street furniture that is capable of supporting DAS, Small Cells and Wi-Fi technology. Indoors, we’ll begin to see next generation in-building solutions that take the form of a single, all-fiber, carrier-grade and enterprise-ready platform with fiber-fed antennas and power at the edge.

Finally, fiber owners become to the Het-Net what tower owners are to the macro network. There’s no solution that offers virtually the limitless capacity of Single Mode Fiber, and carriers will rely heavily upon fiber owners to empower them to deploy network densification solutions.

Public-Safety

Anyone familiar with Washington, DC knows that bipartisanship is a fact of life. In 2014, the inevitable will happen whereby FirstNet will grant the carriers access to D-Block spectrum. It fosters a win-win that satisfies the carriers’ need for spectrum and delivers the interoperable ecosystem needed to make the vision of a nationwide LTE Public Safety Broadband Network reality.

Meanwhile, FirstNet answers the question of whether it will drive the creation of fire codes that inform in-building public-safety communications requirements. With a focus on the PSBN, the task of creating fire codes definitively – and appropriately – remains with Authorities Having Jurisdiction (AHJ).

Lastly, location becomes the “Holy Grail” problem to solve for in-building wireless public-safety communications. Because Bluetooth and Wi-Fi can be turned off, those location solutions won’t qualify as public-safety grade. Location won’t get solved in 2014, but it’s going to be a hot topic.

Long-Term Implications

Whatever does happen in 2014, our industry is poised to incubate step-changes that impact the wireless market for the next 10 years.

We at SOLiD wish our customers, partners and peers a fantastic New Year in the most exciting industry there is!

Your Turn

What do you predict as the key trends for 2014?

The Experts Weigh-In on Public-Safety – Part II

By Mike Collado
October 2nd, 2013

We recently attended a DAS and Small Cells session during the 2013 BICSI Fall Conference & Exhibition where an attendee inquired about the need for joint responsibility among building owners, wireless providers and public-safety stakeholders to ensure that the general public is notified and can communicate when there is an emergency, and that first responder radio systems work when they arrive at the emergency site.

In other words, the long-term implications of a public-private partnership.

In our previous post, Jonathan S. Adelstein, President & CEO of PCIA – The Wireless Infrastructure Association and former Commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission shared his thoughts from the panel we moderated at the recent APCO International 79th Annual Conference & Expo (APCO 2013) on the need for stakeholders to agree to a business case justification to deploy in-building public-safety communication solutions and to establish best-practices among those who install and manage mission-critical public-safety networks.

Today, we hear from Robert LeGrande II, founder of The Digital Decision and former Chief Technology Officer of the District of Columbia who examines the requisite factors for a converged cellular and public-safety network and introduces the difference between carrier-grade and public-safety-grade.

 

 

Next up, James Teel from Harris Corporation on the challenges of funding in-building public-safety communications networks, the evolution of Land Mobile Radios to LTE and public-safety-grade communications.

Highlights from APCO 2012

By Seth Buechley
August 24th, 2012

In-Building Technology Update Panel at APCO 2012 with Seth Buechley (SOLiD & Safer Buildings Coalition), Minfei Leng at Bird Technologies Group and Greg Glenn of TriPower

In-Building Technology Update Panel

Our recent re-cap of the APCO International 78th Annual Conference & Expo recounted a community of public safety communication professionals invigorated by the opportunity and challenge associated with building a nationwide interoperable public safety network to serve first responders.

Aside from the spectacular weather, described by locally-raised comedian Louie Anderson as the kind that tricked settlers into stopping in the first place, two milestones stood out: (1) the appointment of the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) board of directors and (2) the creation of the annual Jack Daniel Award.

Establishing  a Nationwide Public Safety Wireless Broadband Network

This years show was abuzz from the get-go because the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) deadline for announcing the FirstNet Board responsible for planning and building a nationwide public safety network fell, serendipitously, on August 20th, the first day of the APCO event.

Acting U.S. Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank waxed on about the administrations many accomplishments before proudly announcing the names of the FirstNet Board members who were warmly received by the public safety community.

I have enjoyed the privilege of getting to know Chief Jeff Johnson, past president of the Western Division of the IAFC, during the time we were launching the SOLiD product platform and also while strategizing the formation and mission of the Safer Buildings coalition. Stated simply, he is a strong leader who “gets it” when it comes to the economic and practical reasons why the cellular community and the public safety community will want to leverage common infrastructure to deliver macro and indoor radio services for public safety.

Four public safety members join six cellular and local government members serving alongside three federal agency heads on the FirstNet Board. Of note, there are no radio OEMs (Motorola, Harris, ALU, Cassidian), nor any prime integrator (General Dynamics, Lockheed, etc.), nor active executives from the cellular operators serving as FirstNet Board members.

We can assume this is to prevent conflicts of interest and a vigorous competitive bid environment in the future.

For more on the announcement, see coverage in MissionCritical Communications and Urgent Communications.

Honoring a Lifetime of Service to Public Safety

I was especially pleased to see a new annual award created in the memory of Jack Daniel, a friend and a legendary public safety radio expert.

Jack was a Life Member of APCO and an active member of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), International Code Council (ICC), International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), Radio Club of America (RCA) and many more public safety and radio-oriented organizations. Jack, more than any other person, was responsible for setting the vision and doing the hard work that created the model NFPA and International Fire Code (IFC) codes requiring in-building radio coverage.

The Jack Daniel Award will be given annually to an APCO member to recognize excellence and achievement in the public safety communications arena.

In a touch of class, the President of APCO awarded the inaugural Jack Daniel award posthumously to Jack and invited his widow, Pat Daniel, to the main stage to accept his award.

Doing Our Part

SOLiD participated on the in-building technology update panel on Monday delivering the vision of the Safer Buildings Coalition and the methods by which we are working to ensure Distributed Antenna Systems (DAS) installations accommodate public safety radio.

Again, the common sense approach of using Awareness, Policy, and Standards to overcome the fear, uncertainty, and doubt that often prevent or delay the delivery of public safety radio was well-received.

We are officially out of the strategy and launch phase and will now focus our work on assisting some of the nations largest cities with the policy and management tools to develop their own Safer Buildings programs.

Through our product innovations and our leadership in the Safer Buildings Coalition, SOLiD intends to remain squarely in the middle of the conversation seeking to ensure public safety radio is treated like a carpooler rather than a hitchhiker on DAS systems deployed across the US.

Talking Public Safety at DAS in Action

By Mike Collado
April 23rd, 2012

We had the opportunity to present on the “Building Codes, Public Safety and DAS” panel during the recent DAS in Action event produced by our friends at the DAS Forum and PCIA.

Based on the number of questions after the session as well as the discussions we had during the breaks and receptions over the two days we were in Atlanta, it is clear that Public Safety coverage inside buildings is a complicated and emotionally-charged problem to solve.

Yin & Yang

That point was hammered home in the introductory remarks by the panel’s moderator, Bob Butchko of Lord & Company Technologies Inc., whose description of a first responder – weighted down by heavy gear, suffering through the smoke and heat of a building on-fire, and burdened by a communications radio that likely does not work in the building to coordinate with other team members – served as a poignant wake-up call to this problem.

Each panelist shared a different approach to addressing Public Safety. From attacking it with technology and establishing far-reaching partnerships; to affecting policy and initiating training and certification standards.

Overall, solving the Public Safety problem creates confliction… On an emotional level, industry stakeholders want to ensure Public Safety coverage inside buildings. Who wouldn’t?

But business issues – chiefly financial and legal – along with implementation issues – including technology and system management – get in the way.

Our Take

SOLiD has been advocating the formation of a Coalition consisting of key stakeholders – Public Safety, Building Owners and the Wireless Industry – to create a framework to ensure coverage of public safety radio communications indoors.

At DAS in Action, we addressed the four issues and objections above.

  • Financial – The incremental cable and antennae infrastructure costs of covering areas such as stairwells is approximately 10% of the DAS cost. For the benefit of the public and first-responders (who also use smartphones) services should work there anyhow. If WSPs will provide a DAS that facilitates public safety, buildings owners and the public safety community should pay all costs to deploy and manage the signal source and required inspection of the public safety portion of the DAS.

 

  • Liability – There is no known case of litigation against WSPs associated with public safety coverage. That being said, risk management is an individual analysis that happens within the purview of corporate attorneys who have a legitimate goal of reducing corporate risk. People can always file a lawsuit, so this issue can never be completely eliminated. Developing and following industry best-practices is a positive defense against unfounded lawsuits.

 

  • Technology – This is an outdated argument that has been overcome hundreds of times with quality systems deployed by qualified integrators. Many wireless industry experts believe a converged system with proper filtering is the preferred method of eliminating potential RF interference when compared to two systems often managed by two parties

 

  • Management – Buildings owners and the public safety community should handle the management burden of everything associated with the public safety DAS including signal source installation costs, monitoring as required, certification, annual inspection, and system maintenance. Such work should be done by a “Certified” technician.

 

Want To Get Involved?

We’re in the process of putting together the proposed Coalition which will serve three purposes:

  1. Create awareness and educate the market on the problems and solutions
  2. Influence policy to ensure Public Safety coverage inside buildings
  3. Establish certification standards for integrators installing and managing DAS networks that provide coverage for Public Safety.

 

We could use your help. Please share your ideas and interest below in the comments.

Thanks for reading!

Please watch Dan Myer of RCR Wireless summarize DAS in Action: