New Small Cell Design Promises to Blend In

By J. Sharpe Smith

Senior Editor, AGL eDigest

After leaving a career building macrocells with Wigdahl Electric, David Wigdahl took a long look at the burgeoning small cell industry. He spent time talking to mayors about small cells and found a rough relationship between carriers and municipalities.



“Their impression of the wireless industry was that it is a bunch of bullies with a lot of lawyers.” Wigdahl said. “There are a number of different companies out there that are designing small cells that are a pole with a refrigerator size cabinet attached to the side. The result of the approach is sometimes small cells that don’t look appealing.”

The most important thing the wireless industry needs to do is improve that relationship, Wigdahl decided, by making small cells so that they are visually acceptable.

“A good relationship is critical because it is not one monopole that needs to be installed; it’s hundreds of thousands being put up all over,” he said

Wigdahl has now started a new company, nepsa Solutions, to manufacture small cells with a friend, William Wrigley Jr., former chairman and CEO of the Wrigley Company.

“We are trying to be the voice of reason between the carriers, the users and the community at large, which will help the carrier get into any community better, faster and with a better light shown upon them,” he said.

A photo simulation of the KitstiK on Ocean Drive in Miami Beach with its beatiful Art Deco Buildings

A photo simulation of the KitstiK blending in on Ocean Drive in Miami Beach with its beautiful Art Deco Buildings.

Wigdahl knew that his small cells would have to be cost-effective and good looking. Additionally, beyond the carriers, he wanted something that the community could use for the security cameras sensors for the internet of things. It would give them a vested interest, he said.

“If we could get some consistency or a look that everyone could appreciate, then it could become a standard. Small cells need to blend in to the city to be accepted. Right now, nothing is consistent,” he said. “The community might say small cell deployments are a great idea if it understands that all the deployments will look the same and that they will benefit from revenue from the carriers. Plus the city will be able to use the sites for IoT sensors.”

The nepsa small cell, the KitstiK is a telescoping product. The components can be produced and shipped anywhere in the United States within 48 hours. The structure is assembled on site and can be customized to meet the individual height requirements of the particular cell site. Installation takes only two hours.

“The process needs to be smooth and fast,” Wigdahl said. “Once you have the fiber and electric feed in the ground, you install the radios and guts of the cell into the base and extend it upwards like the old car antennas. There is a range of heights that it can be pulled up to.”

To serve municipalities with concerns around historic preservation and maintaining an authentic appearance, nepsa provides a range of custom-solutions for:  arts districts, historic districts, gaslight districts, waterfront and residential enclaves.”

“I wanted to come up with something different, unique,“ Wigdahl said. “The carrier needs small cells and the users need small cells. We just need to marry the two together and harmoniously get along. That is what this product does.”

Nepsa is in the testing stage with Ericsson, as well as Nokia/Alcatel Lucent. The product has gone through all the testing, including for wind-loading, and is very close to being ready to deployed.

At the beginning of the cellular buildout, Wigdahl was working as fast has he could putting up 27 macro towers a month. In the future, the market might require 27 small cell deployments a day.

“Back then, the carriers were willing to pay anything for that tower. Today, the carriers are a lot more knowledgeable. The cost of the cell phone service has come down. You have to be more agile and quick. You need a less expensive product that can be mass produced,” he said.