Common wisdom now says that small cells will represent a big opportunity for the wireless infrastructure industry. With AT&T’s announcement that Project Velocity IP (VIP) would bring 40,000 small cells online, the technology was placed front and center stage. But there were other signs of mainstream acceptance of small cells, like NEC’s agreement with SpiderCloud. But in 2012, small cells found a niche beyond the “densification” of urban networks. New small cell networks began to grab a foothold in rural areas, chiefly because of their low cost. Here are some of the stories that illustrate these trends.
“We are `densifying’ our wireless grid,” John Donovan, senior executive VP, AT&T Technology & Network Operations, said. “High traffic metro areas require denser, cell-site grids to help capacity and improve quality. During the next three years, you are going to see a shift in our investment to use more small cell technology. By 2015, we expect more than 50 percent of the planned densification will use small cells.” Densification will result in more network usage, better revenue opportunities, improved in-building coverage and support for launching voice over LTE, he added. MORE
NEC is partnering with SpiderCloud Wireless to provide the SmartCloud system to its existing and new customers as part of an end-to-end small-cell solution, the companies announced at the Small Cells World Summit 2012, held June 26-28, in London. SpiderCloud’s emphasis on medium to large size enterprise deployments, which demand hundreds of radio nodes serving thousands of users, complements NEC’s current smaller scale approach, deploying femtocells in the residential small office market. MORE
In mobile ecosystems where DAS has reigned supreme for coverage fill-in and capacity growth, small cell equipment sales are expected to catch up quickly to DAS and disrupt that dominance. The two technologies, however, are more likely to complement each other rather compete, according to an ABI Research report entitled, “The Future of Active vs. Passive DAS, Repeaters, and Threat from Small Cells.” MORE
ClearSky Technologies, a regional wireless data provider, is working with NEC to offer Femtocell as a Service (FaaS) to regional wireless carriers that use GSM and UMTS. FaaS, where the femtocells are hosted on a third-party infrastructure, is an alternative, economical approach to launching services for many smaller carriers. ClearSky will use NEC’s femtocell gateway and corresponding plug-and-play residential, enterprise and outdoor femtocell access points. MORE
The Vermont Telecommunications Authority (VTA) has signed a contract with CoverageCo to provide cellular coverage in parts of northern Vermont previously unserved by carriers. CoverageCo will start deploying the small cells this summer, and commercial service is expected to begin by the end of the year. “CoverageCo’s small-cell approach allows it to provide service where it was previously not economically feasible,” said Richard P. Biby, CoverageCo CEO. “Because the sites are small and completely IP-based, a standard Internet service over a virtual private network can be used to connect to the core network.” MORE