The biggest question that must be answered before a carrier deploys an in-building small cell system in an enterprise is whether it makes economic sense? Reducing the deployment time and cost of small cells is the key to increasing the number of enterprises that fit into that business model, Ronny Haraldsvik told AGL Small Cell Link.
SpiderCloud will announce an initiative to help mobile operators and enterprises reduce the time needed to identify, verify and deploy in-building small cell systems at the World Mobile Congress later this month in Barcelona, Spain.
The current standard rollout of a DAS is about nine to 12 months, and many operators still think that small cells will take that long to deploy. However, small cells are not nearly as disruptive to the structure of the building as DAS. A small cell deployment is more like Wi-Fi. Through a self-organizing network (SON) platform, existing Ethernet capabilities and a smartphone planning app, SpiderCloud has reduced the planning and deployment time to less than 30 days.
“With our approach, we have removed 90 percent of the time and cost normally required to deploy a system of equal scale and capabilities,” Haraldsvik said. “We have always believed the biggest challenge to the uptake of small cells in the enterprise is not whether they would work. The challenge is to change the operational procedures within the operator to speed the deployment of the system.”
One way of changing the operational procedures of carriers was to develop a pre-sales smartphone application, the EASY-30, which is designed to remove costly, complex and time-consuming steps in the decision-making process. The E-RAN Estimator calculates customer requirements taking into account the number of floors, floor area, number of employees or subscribers and access technology, then it estimates the number of radio nodes and service nodes, as well as providing insight into Erlangs, materials, dB losses and user density.
“Armed with the necessary details, the business operations team can swiftly initiate a project to build the E-RAN at the location or building,” he said. “Using SON to optimize the user experience as well as the system management, a network for 3,000 people can be set up in a matter of days by installers with Wi-Fi experience rather than macro cellular RF experts.”
With a 30-day turnaround on a contract, a carrier’s enterprise sales force can go after 1,000 accounts, instead of just 100 targeted buildings, which it would have with DAS.
“Ethernet and SON shave weeks and months off the deployment process, and the cost is no more than a Wi-Fi system. No longer does there have to be cost-sharing over a DAS because it is too expensive,” Haraldsvik said. “With the pre-sale app, we have taken away the need for several meetings and back and forth communications between the IT department and the mobile operator’s RF team.”
Vodafone Deploying Small Cell Commercially
Vodfone Netherlands began deploying SpiderCloud’s small cell technology last fall, and this month, Vodafone UK launched its Sure Signal Premium indoor small cell service for medium and large businesses.
“Working with Vodafone UK, we have made our system commercial grade,” Haraldsvik said. “We have several commercial deployments with Vodafone. We also have six LTE trials going on in the United States, and we have commercial contracts, but we have not been able to announce them yet.”
SpiderCloud’s small cell technology is being targeted at medium to large companies; in particular, it has deployments at insurance companies and financial institutions. A potential enterprise must have at least 150 employees and 50,000 to 75,000 square feet. SpiderCloud’s technology scales up to 100 radio nodes per deployment with one services node, all over Ethernet. The vendor’s largest deployment so far is nearly 80 radio nodes, which took less than three days to deploy.
“We believe small cells must feature soft handoff of voice, LTE, Wi-Fi, be easy to deploy, sit on top of an existing Ethernet, if needed, and be able to scale to handle tens of thousands of subscribers,” Haraldsvik said.