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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.

Lessons from a Winemaker

By Mike Collado
January 30th, 2014

We had the chance to spend a day in Napa last week during our Annual Company Meeting where we met Tom Davies, President of V. Sattui Winery.

Aside from being a great host (check them out – fun wines, amazing Cheese Shop & Italian Deli, and stunning grounds), Tom is an insightful business leader whose stories about the winery were inspirational.

Four things resonated with our team…

Doing Things Differently

Tom likes to camouflage his business acumen by saying he’s a farmer. But it’s clear he and the winery are pioneers.

V. Sattui pioneered not only the wine tour experience – by being the first in Napa to invite the public to come to the winery and hang out on the property by providing picnic tables – but also the wine retail business – by establishing the first direct-to-consumer wine club.

Doing things differently is a key part of what makes SOLiD unique.

Such as tailoring the ALLIANCE distributed antenna system (DAS) around the requirements of building owners. Or warehousing products on-site and pre-configuring gear to fulfill orders within days (not weeks) and to simplify field deployments.

 

Doing Whatever it Takes

Before the winery scaled and deployed modern technology, Tom helped cork bottles by hand.

SOLiD is no stranger to heroics. From getting on a plane to be on-site the next day to troubleshoot or racing to the airport with a part because we missed a freight cutoff, we’re committed to moving mountains for our customers.

 

Always Be Advancing

Tom describes a healthy paranoia of not letting the winery’s success distract from the hunger to advance.

Even though V. Sattui pioneered the direct-to-consumer retail model, the winery has continued to challenge itself to innovate and improve.

Similarly, although V. Sattui Director of Winemaking Brooks Painter was recently recognized as “Winemaker of the Year” at the San Francisco International Wine Competition, the winery continues to push to safeguard from losing its edge.

In spite of our success at SOLiD, we’re energized every day to raise the bar by innovating technology, leading the industry with new initiatives, delivering “wow” to our customers, and working with the best and the brightest in the industry (we’re hiring!).

 

Building a Wonderful Brand

Tom pinpoints Quality, Value and Service as key attributes of the V. Sattui brand and is dogmatic in protecting and preserving it.

At SOLiD, our brand is about Creativity, Honesty and Reliability.

Or, as the mnemonic that Dr. Lee offered our team:

  • S = Solid professionals
  • O = Open minds
  • L = Leadership
  • I = Integrity
  • D = Dream (about the future)

 

We look forward to applying these lessons from a winemaker to our business. Let us know how we’re doing.

 

Are You Ready for Some Wireless?

By Mike Collado
September 5th, 2013

In anxious anticipation of the start of football season, CNN published a story this week that explores the conundrum the sports and entertainment industry is wrestling with: meeting the wireless expectations of today’s uber-connected fan.

Cynics – which includes my wife – will wonder why on earth sports and concert goers need broadband capacity. After all, it’s noisy, you’re there to have fun, and the stadium shows scores from other games, right?

Wrong.

At a recent San Francisco Giants game at AT&T Park, it was the fans who were not looking at their smartphones and tablets that made up the minority.

And just to mollify any argument that you’d expect to see technology on display in Silicon Valley, the same was true at a Lynchburg Hillcats game – a minor league farm team for the Atlanta Braves.

AT&T Park - Home of the San Francisco Giants

 

Calvin Falwell Field - Home of the Lynchburg Hillcats

 

Bringing the Home Game Day Experience to the Stadium

The trend is so acute that both stadium owners and leagues are reacting. According to the CNN article:

The improved home-viewing experience — high-def TV, watching multiple games at once, real-time fantasy-football updates and interaction via social media — has left some NFL stadiums scrambling to catch up. It’s one of the reasons why, before rebounding last year, the NFL lost attendance between 2008 and 2011, forcing the league to alter television-blackout rules.

 

In response, the NFL (see more here) and MLB (see more here) have launched stadium Wi-Fi initiatives.

What will that mean for the fan?

Bleacher Report provides a great vision that includes social media interaction, stadium concessions and a dizzying array of multimedia and game footage.

Earlier this year at DAS and Small Cell Congress, SOLiD hosted a panel of experts that included John Avenson, Vice President of Technology for the Minnesota Twins. Target Field is one of the first stadiums to provide Wi-Fi. It has also deployed a Distributed Antenna System (DAS).

Avenson shared that today’s fans expect to stay connected, and that expectation now transcends generations.

The same panel included a wireless operator who, in describing the stadium of the future, declared that fans simply won’t come if the stadium can’t deliver a great wireless experience.

DAS First, Wi-Fi Later

Here’s where things get interesting…

In its inaugural “State of the Stadium Technology Survey”, Mobile Sports Report editor Paul Kapustka found that DAS is more prevalent that Wi-Fi:

When it comes to wireless connectivity, Wi-Fi might get the headlines, but according to our respondents, Distributed Antenna Systems, or DAS, is actually more popular. Fifty-three percent of survey respondents said their facility already has a full-facility DAS deployment to all areas, while only 33 percent of respondents said they currently offer high-quality Wi-Fi to all seating areas. Why is DAS showing up first, and Wi-Fi later? Simply because of two reasons: Putting in a DAS, a network of smaller, distributed cellular antennas, eliminates the most pressing problem in many large venues: The “no service at all” issue that arises when tens of thousands of cellular customers are competing for access from a few local towers. Though it might be slower than a Wi-Fi connection, DAS provides a working signal to a majority of people in a facility, solving the most vexing problem for many fans, that of having no connection at all.

 

Carriers fund stadium DAS networks to assure strong carrier Net Promoter Scores or Quality of Service for their customers. The concern is that if a fan can’t upload a photo of the winning touchdown, they might just switch cellular providers the next day.

(DAS is also effective for enabling public-safety coverage in the stadium)

But – as we learned at the recent SEAT Conference – carriers are not particularly keen on funding Wi-Fi deployments for the simple reason that they believe the DAS will be sufficient to handle data capacity.

Achieving the Vision

Clearly, DAS is going to be deployed only at high-profile stadium locations. (Sorry, Hillcats fans…)

But satisfying the fans’ broadband needs through Wi-Fi requires addressing the conundrum of paying for the network which the CNN article touches on:

Another reason, Kapustka said, is that the cost of installing Wi-Fi will come out of the pockets of venue owners and operators who have traditionally not needed to invest in such costly projects. Instead, they receive public money to help build stadiums and television money for the right to broadcast games.

“Stadium owners and operators need to get their hands on the fact that they need to put in Wi-Fi like they need to put in plumbing,” Kapustka said.

 

Given the costs to deploy either DAS or Wi-Fi, infrastructure – not revenue models or cellular and Wi-Fi technology – is perhaps the MVP (it just seemed appropriate – smiles) in assuring these networks can scale to enable the connected fan both today and in the future. RCR Wireless captured our thoughts last May at the HetNet Forum‘s DAS in Action event:

 

Your Turn

What are the challenges and opportunities for enabling the Home Game Day Experience at the Stadium?

I Know What You Did Last Summer

By Mike Collado
September 4th, 2013

While technically there are still a couple more weeks of Summer, Labor Day signals an end of the Summer mindset of taking things just a little slower and the earnest start to a commitment to finishing the year strong.

(Actually, we didn’t rest on our laurels this summer but, instead, notched significant advances at the SEAT Conference and APCO)

Here’s a look back on a SOLiD Summer…

Team SOLiD on the Colorado River

 

Shenanigans at the Logistics Center

 

Dinner "Mixer" with SOLiD Korea

 

East Coast Team Members Eric Carey (VP of Services & Support)) & Mike Collado (Director of Marketing) Join West Coast Team Members JP Headley (Controller) & Mike Wing (NOC & Support Manager) at AT&T Park

 

Justin Trask's Family (DAS Support Technician) Welcomed Their Son (and Future SOLiD Employee)

 

Matt Atkins (Inside Sales Manager) at Lake Havasu

 

Kevin Vierling (Director of Product Management) Finishing Strong

 

Dan Le (Staff Accountant) Getting it Done at Spartan Race

 

Ken Sandfeld's (Vice President of Sales) Tour of Italy

 

JP Headley (Controller) at Mormon Handcart Pioneer Reenactment

 

Mike Collado (Director of Marketing) Watches the Yellow Jersey at the USA Pro Bike Challenge in Denver

 

Chris Graff (Sales Manager) at Oak Bluffs in Martha's Vineyard

 

Eli Fischer (Sales Manager) in Manhattan Beach