August 28, 2015 — The ink has dried on CommScope Holding Company’s purchase TE Connectivity’s telecom, enterprise and wireless businesses in a a $3 billion all-cash deal.
“[The transaction] will enable us to accelerate industry innovation, solve more wired and wireless challenges with an enhanced fiber portfolio, and better serve global customers in more markets around the world,” Rick Aspan, CommScope spokesman said.
The new CommScope has 25,000 employees, with a presence in all major geographic regions. It will provide indoor and outdoor wireless networks; data centers and central offices; connected and efficient buildings; and access and backhaul networks. For the near term, the newly-acquired TE Connectivity Broadband Network Solutions businesses will be operated as one of CommScope’s business segments, alongside of existing CommScope’s wireless, enterprise and broadband segments.
“One of the most significant benefits of the BNS acquisition for existing CommScope wireless customers is our newly enhanced fiber backhaul portfolio, which will provide access to industry-leading fiber connectivity,” Aspan said. “As customers consider microwave or fiber backhaul, CommScope will have the right solutions and expertise to support their needs.”
Commscope expects to realize $150 million in savings across all areas of the company by 2018 as the two concerns are integrated. The company now boasts ownership of 9,800 patents, an R&D budget of more than $200 million annually and additional DAS products.
“Our customers also will have access to an expanded portfolio of DAS and cell site services, including digital DAS solutions,” Aspan said.
The expanded UltraBand ultra-wideband, outdoor macrosite antenna portfolio from CommScope helps wireless operators deploy LTE now and be prepared for future spectrum and technology roll outs. The antenna portfolio is intended to increase the flexibility of operators to support present and future multiple frequency bands with potentially only one antenna per sector. The product prepares operators for future spectrum and technology while supporting legacy 2G and 3G networks. The portfolio includes more models of the Argus UltraBand base station antenna system, including the version with an internal smart bias tee that received the Network Product Guide’s 2013 Gold Award for innovation. The expanded antenna portfolio helps to increase an operator’s ability to support a variety of site configurations with multiple port options and independent beam optimization. The antennas are engineered for PIM suppression and support air-interface technologies including GSM, CDMA, W-CDMA and LTE in almost all frequency bands. www.commscope.com
By J. Sharpe Smith —
Five years ago nearly all of the enterprise and venue deployments were funded by carriers, which demanded total control over these systems that used their precious spectrum and also conveyed the carrier’s image for coverage and capacity before millions of patrons every year. But two things are changing as the enterprise wireless market evolves: enterprises want more control of wireless on their premises and carriers are more open to having someone else foot the bill.
“The enterprises have become savvier,” Stephen Kowal, vice president, Global Partners, CommScope, told AGL Small Cell Link. “They don’t want to regenerate just one carrier’s signal, so they implemented systems that are neutral host. With demand for public safety and first responder in-building coverage because of changes in local building codes, the in-building systems became more complicated.”
Additionally, as increased smart phone use makes BYOD policies a must, enterprises are demanding more control over those systems, according to Kowal.
Traditionally, CommScope has sold directly to the carriers for in-building systems in the enterprise space. In response to the market evolution toward enterprise-funded in-building wireless, CommScope developed an installation partnership program known as PartnerPro Network and 30 systems integrators have been added during the last 18 months.
“It became evident that the carriers were becoming more open to different funding mechanisms, allowing enterprise owners to pay for their own wireless in-building networks, we realized quickly that you have to address that differently,” said Kowal, who heads up CommScope’s post-manufacturing supply chain.
Supply chain characteristics have changed dramatically as the manufacturer sells to the enterprise, he said. Carriers are likely to plan deployments at a number of venues during a certain period of time, giving the manufacturer a good forecast for its equipment production.
“Going from a small list of carriers to thousands of end users, you have to deal with stocking issues through the distribution channels,” Kowal said. “You have to deal with the education process of the enterprise owner, concerning BYOD and public safety issues, there is a lot of mystery in that. You also have to do things the right way to get the carrier to allow you to use their spectrum over the system.”
CommScope Names First Companies to Expanded In-Building Wireless Partner Network
To help venue owners and wireless operators find system integrators, CommScope has expanded its in-building wireless partner network to include Black Box Network Services, DAS Simplified and RF Connect and designated them as In-Building Wireless Premier Partners because of their ability to commission and optimize a CommScope DAS solution, managing a project from start to finish.
“We decided to differentiate ten percent of our partners, which have hit this high, high level of skill where we see the repeatable quality from them,” Kowal said. “The ability to work with multiple parties including venue owners and network operators while deploying a technologically complex in-building wireless system is a refined skill, which some companies do better than others.” CommScope is willing to stand behind these premier installation partners, adding a second year of warranty on the equipment.
As the wireless world shifts its attention to commercial buildings, OEMs are coming out with products designed specifically for in-building wireless in the enterprise space. At the Mobile World Congress last month in Barcelona, Spain, CommScope launched a unified wireless infrastructure platform designed around an IT-based structured-cabling architecture, attempting to bridge the gap between in-building wireless systems and enterprise cabling.
The ION-E integrates licensed wireless and power with Gigabit Ethernet for Wi-Fi into one unified wireless network, which features multi-band, multi-operator and multi-technology capabilities and uses cabling common to most commercial buildings.
The ION-E was four years in the design and engineering phase and took advantage of CommScope’s enterprise structure cabling expertise as well as wireless and DAS experience, according to Matt Melester, senior vice president and general manager, Distributed Coverage & Capacity Solutions, CommScope. The OEM has a billion dollar business supplying cabling to enterprises.
“We wanted to leverage the penetration that we have in the enterprise market with a product that would have a better fit,” he said. “What is the ideal product for this market? Answer, it had to be a lot simpler than what the current wireless solutions are. If we use a structure cabling approach, we could leverage the installers that have been working in the enterprise for the last 20 years.”
The ION-E is a simplified, optimized solution that can be deployed by IT professionals who are not wireless experts. Implementation is simplified by using the structured cabling systems familiar to IT installers, along with providing a simple user interface for setup and configuration with minimal input.
“The world lacks people who have RF design expertise. This limits the deployment of traditional DAS networks at a time when deploying indoor networks within enterprise buildings is increasingly in demand,” Melester said.
BYOD = Multi-operator, Multi-technology and Multi-band
Trends in the enterprise market, such as bring your own device (BYOD) policies, are increasing the demands on in-building wireless systems to support multiple operators, technologies and frequency bands.
“We see BYOD as a positive trend because of our emphasis on multi-operator systems,” Melester said. “The days of a carrier signing up all the employees of a company to its handsets are gone. You don’t have a homogenous mass of phones.”
Cloud Radio Access Network
Commercial buildings require flexibility to handle floor space layout changes, the relocation of users, or other changes that would require an extensive rework of the wireless system. The ION-E employs a standard grid approach and supports on-demand software-defined frequencies to flexibly adapt to changing requirements.
Base stations can be located off site, and IT professional can shift network capacity to meet changing usage patterns with a click-and-drag in a graphical user interface.
Will the ION-E kill the stand-alone DAS network?
Because ION-E is low-power and designed for indoors, it will not compete with products such as the ION-U, CommScope’s high-power indoor/outdoor DAS product
“The ION-E is ideally suited for the enterprise, not shopping malls or stadiums,” Melester said. “There may be some overlap in high-rise buildings that need higher-power DAS to combat outside macrocellular signals.”
In the next several years, Melester sees a convergence of platforms, with consistent headends and a consistent distribution methodology across all the platforms. Currently, the networks are evolving to integrate base station with the DAS through a CPRI interface.
“We expect to see more announcements like the one between Alcatel-Lucent and TE Connectivity,” he said. “It’s a positive step. A lot of money is being wasted because base station manufacturers have been reluctant to decouple the base station from a macrosite. High-power base stations in DAS networks are creating a lot of heat, wasting power and taking up a lot of space with the attenuation panels.”
Corning Converges Too
In May of last year, we reported that Corning had launched an all-optical, converged in-building wireless system at CTIA 2013, which is targeted at enterprises, hotels, convention centers and other venues that need high-speed, high-capacity wireless hubs.
Built on an optical backbone, Corning’s ONE wireless platform is designed to handle core cellular technologies and enable multiple applications, including wireless LAN, public safety and location-based services. In addition, it offers Wi-Fi support through its built-in gigabit Ethernet and power-over-Ethernet capability.
The platform leverages fiber-to-the-edge technology to deliver more bandwidth, services and applications. Along with greater data speeds, capex and opex are decreased and disruptions for upgrades are reduced.
Although it has been somewhat ignored in the past, base transceiver station-to-DAS headend connectivity is now getting a lot of attention from manufacturers.
“Given the prevalence of DAS deployments, and multi-operator DAS installations in particular, BTS-to-DAS solutions are critical,” John Spindler, TE Connectivity director, product management, in-building DAS, told AGL Small Cell Link.
Historically, integrating base transceiver stations into DAS headends was done in a couple of ways. One was to take a hodgepodge of attenuators, splitters and combiners from different sources and assemble the cables and components on-site. Later the packaging was improved when manufacturers began assembling the parts and delivering them to integrators in a box, which made it easier because it reduced the installation time.
But both methods were passive. Any attenuation had to be made by manually turning the knobs, and there was no effective way to monitor it remotely.
The development of active integration panels (AIP) provides a new era of connectivity between mobile operator base stations and DAS with features such as remote monitoring and software configurable controls that improve system management, according to Spindler.
“In a multi-operator scenario, monitoring the downlink allows you to make sure that a single operator does not take more of the composite power than the other operators,” he said. “With a user- configurable automatic limit control on the downlink, you can avoid overdriving the DAS headend.”
With remote monitoring, in the case of a problem, the system may be fixed without sending a service tech. Diagnostics may be performed over the Internet, and adjustments may be made to the systems, Spindler said.
“If you cannot monitor these systems remotely and diagnose the problems, they are hard to maintain. This is a big step forward,” he said.
Active integration panels offer space savings, which may reduce the footprint in the headend by as much as 75 percent compared with traditional, passive attenuation panels. This solves the problem of space, which can be both expensive and scarce.
“You’ll see racks and racks of attenuation panels in large venues,” Splindler said. “Space is huge. Getting enough space for the DAS headend can be problematic in some places. With an AIP you get real estate savings from an opex standpoint plus the reduction in installation time and cost.
Active integration technology also reduces passive intermod by eliminating cabling and connectors and using components are low PIM, which is essential for LTE operations.
“With the advent of 4G and LTE, performance has really come to the forefront. Eliminating PIM is imperative so that DAS performs at its best,” Spindler said.