The most recent movements in the mergers and acquisition market don’t have anything to do with tower purchases but with fiber optics.
Yesterday, we learned that ExteNet Systems plans to acquire MetroFiber d/b/a Axiom Fiber Networks, which is a telecommunications infrastructure services provider operating in the greater New York City metropolitan region. Before the acquisition, the company had 250 route miles in New York. It will be closing in on 2,000 small cell nodes in the area by the end of the year.
Crown Castle International, which has 50,000 small cells on the air or under development, intends to acquire LighTower (LTS Group Holdings) from Berkshire Partners, Pamlico Capital, for, which owns or has rights to approximately 32,000 route miles of fiber located primarily in top metro markets in the Northeast. The company will cost Crown $7.1 billion in cash, which it will finance, in part, by selling $1.73 billion in senior notes.
“With a fiber footprint after the transaction that will cover 23 of the top 25 most populous U.S. markets, Crown Castle is well-positioned to capitalize on the growing demand for mobile connectivity as network architecture continues to evolve and bandwidth demands continue to increase,” according to Crown Castle.
The transaction will double Crown Castle’s metro fiber footprint, resulting in it owning or having rights to 60,000 route miles of fiber, making it one of the largest owners of metro fiber in the United States.
The purchase of LighTower “significantly increases opportunities for small cell network deployments in top metro markets in the Northeast including Boston, New York, and Philadelphia,” according to Crown Castle.
CommScope to Acquire Cable Exchange
An example of the OEM market gearing up for the fiber-optic future in general and data centers in particular, CommScope plans to acquire Cable Exchange, a privately held quick-turn supplier of fiber optic and copper assemblies for data, voice and video communications.
Cable Exchange, headquartered in Santa Ana, California, manufactures a variety of fiber optic and copper cables, trunks and related products used in high-capacity data centers and other business enterprise applications.
“This highly complementary acquisition will deepen CommScope’s capabilities in supporting the growing market for high-capacity, multi-tenant data centers and hyperscale data centers operated by the world’s largest technology and retail companies,” CommScope said. “As more user-driven information and commerce flows through networks, operators are quickly deploying larger and more complex data centers to support growth in traffic and transactions.”
Remember, during the second-quarter of this year, Verizon announced fiber purchases from Corning and Prysmian Group in order to deliver new fiber services, including 5G, and supporting small-cell deployment.
May 10, 2017
As the protection of innovation, patents are at the core of the wireless (and really every) industry. Who has them and who doesn’t has a lot to do with deciding the winners and losers when companies are making equipment. So when competing wireless OEMs CommScope and Kathrein entered into a long-term global agreement to cross-license portions of their patent portfolios, it stands out as evidence that the wireless industry is feverishly focused on the future breakthroughs on the way to 5G.
Under the agreement, both companies will be able access and implement the other company’s patents and technologies relating to passive base station antennas, DAS and filters.
The agreement was born out of the belief that each company had something to gain from sharing access their patents, according to Ben Cardwell, senior vice president, CommScope Mobility Solutions. In fact, Kathrein is the first and only company that CommScope has licensed to its digital DAS patent portfolio, while CommScope gains access to Kathrein’s passive base station antenna and filter portfolios.
“Kathrein and CommScope are obviously strong competitors in the marketplace — two of the biggest and most innovative. We battle fiercely out there at the same time.” Cardwell said. “We respect each other’s innovations. The reason we would cross license is we both have decades of patents in antennas and filters.”
CommScope and Kathrein decide cross-license their wealth of patented technology innovation in order to focus on future innovation, Cardwell said, instead of spending time designing around each other’s innovations.
“There are enough new problems in mobile networks as they get more and more complex that it is better to spend our time solving the new challenges,” he said.
The cross-licensing agreement is emblematic of an industry effectively hitting the fast-forward button. Cardwell pointed to steep challenges that will come with 5G technology, the speed of change and the need to keep up.
“Mobile networks are evolving faster than they ever have,” he said. “5G represents the biggest challenge for our customers going forward. There is enough future challenges dealing with the complexity of the networks right now and going forward that we don’t need to reinvent the wheel.”
Future antennas must also keep up with increase node densification, a raft of new frequencies in the centimeter and millimeter bands and network functions virtualization. Each node will have more capacity, more frequencies and will be closer to more nodes to keep up with the insatiable demand for data.
“With densification, there are more interference challenges than ever before. Those are problems we solve every day with our DAS and base station filtering products. Cardwell said.
IT professionals at major universities are challenged to keep pace with the network connectivity needs of students while addressing security concerns. The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, believes it has an answer.
The Office of Information Technology of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, is using CommScope’s Powered Fiber Cable System to deploy more outdoor wireless access points and security cameras across the campus. The Powered Fiber Cable System eliminates the need to run additional power lines.
The Powered Fiber Cable System helps add connectivity and security with its unique ability to deliver power over Ethernet (PoE) at distances of 30 times traditional PoE systems. That powering capability makes it possible for the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, to discretely install access points and cameras across campus without having to run new power lines. The IT department can deploy the network without electricians, using a centralized architecture that is concealable in lampposts and existing street works. The result is better Wi-Fi access outdoors and better security capabilities, at less cost and in a quicker timeframe.
The Powered Fiber Cable System is comprised of two main components—hybrid copper/fiber cable and the PoE Extender, an environmentally sealed closure with one PoE+ output. It also includes cable/fiber management, power transmission management, safety and overload protection as well as a universal power supply (PSU). Customers can use the PoE Distance and Voltage Calculator to determine the maximum distance and correct input voltages.
CommScope is supplying the equipment and providing on-site technical engineering support to modernize the wireless and wired communications for visitors to Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina, home of the NFL’s Carolina Panthers.
To upgrade the wireless network at Bank of America Stadium, the Panthers hired Beam Wireless, Inc., a DAS and small cell consultant, to provide technical services and equipment selection guidance. The Panthers and Beam Wireless selected CommScope’s ION-U® distributed antenna system (DAS) to enable fans to upload photos and videos, text and make calls, and enjoy other mobile applications despite the high concentration of wireless users during football games and other events. The Panthers were able to deploy the DAS in less than 90 days from start to finish, and three wireless operators are now on-air throughout the stadium.
The ION-U greatly reduces DAS complexity while maximizing performance and making owning and operating the system simpler and more economical. For example, the ION-U enables network engineers to adjust power levels all the way down to individual frequency bands, allowing for more targeted network optimization. To take up less valuable real estate, the ION-U incorporates an Intelligent Point of Interface (i-POI) that decreases the amount of space needed at the headend. An ultra-versatile DAS, the ION-U supports multiple operators, frequency bands and air interface technologies in one unified, low and high power system.
In addition to the wireless network elements, CommScope is supplying high performance copper and fiber network infrastructure to help the Panthers deliver an integrated, engaging experience to fans, while supporting stadium operations. CommScope is supplying an Optical LAN (Local Area Network) Solution for a passive optical network in the stadium suites and high performance structured cable/connectivity elsewhere. This integrated infrastructure enables applications such as high-bandwidth data, voice, VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) and WiFi services; high-definition TV and hospitality services for the suites; and broadband video.
Qypsys, a nationwide system integrator specializing in DAS and passive optical LAN, led the installation of the Optical LAN.
“The Panthers’ took a leading role in designing and driving these major network upgrades at Bank of America Stadium, highlighting a trend we are seeing at stadiums throughout the U.S. and Europe,” said Ben Cardwell, senior vice president, CommScope Mobility Solutions. “Ensuring a premiere fan experience, speeding the deployment process and making upgrades and optimization easier are some of the benefits of venues taking greater control of their networks.”
December 10, 2015 — Verizon Wireless has tested and approved CommScope’s ION-E DAS for use on its network. It is the first U.S. carrier to approve the product in laboratory testing, which is necessary for a carrier to begin using it as a part of its network. Two other U.S. carriers are in various stages of testing the technology and the remaining carrier doesn’t typically test equipment. Verizon will go live with ION-E deployments before the end of the year.
The development of the ION-E was announced 18 months ago and it was launched by third-party service providers earlier this year.
The purpose of the ION-E is to increase penetration into the Enterprise market. Deployment costs of DAS are too high to market the DAS to the majority of the enterprise market, according to Morgan Kurk, CommScope chief technology officer. Half of the cost of a typical DAS is gobbled up by installation.
“The skillset to deploy these multi-operator, multi-technology DAS systems is a challenge. It has to be made less complicated to lower the cost of deployment,” Kurk said. “We have tried to reduce the installation and design down to what it takes to do Wi-Fi.”
The ION-E is designed to be a simplified solution that can be deployed by IT professionals not necessarily RF technicians. Implementation of ION-E is simplified by using the structured cabling systems, single and multimode fiber and 10 Gigabit Ethernet, which are familiar to IT installers.
The enterprise market for indoor wireless coverage totals a whopping 30 billion square feet of office space, and only 2 percent is currently covered, according to Kurk. Class A real estate, used by Fortune 500 companies, is the immediate target market. CommScope hopes a new economic model can be developed that will drive DAS into use by enterprises.
Not All on Board With IBW
Even as CommScope and others take aim at the Enterprise in-building DAS market and 80 percent of all data sessions originate or terminate indoors, a new study shows that not all in the real estate community appear to be clued into the importance of in-building wireless.
The study, commissioned by CommScope and carried out by Coleman Parkes, showed that 48 percent of architects globally plan and design buildings to accommodate dedicated in-building cellular networks.
The research, which studied the views of building managers, facilities managers, real estate managers and architects, discovered differing opinions across industry sectors when assessing the importance of connecting people inside buildings.
For example, 70 percent of respondents in retail, a sector that relies on mobile as part of its commerce strategy, always consider indoor wireless as part of their building projects. Less consideration was given in sectors without as much reliance on mobile, such as banking and insurance (58 percent), and energy and utilities (50 percent).