ExteNet Systems has completed its acquisition of Axiom Fiber Networks. Terms of the agreement were not disclosed.
Axiom’s high-bandwidth fiber will be accretive to ExteNet’s existing purpose-built fiber in Manhattan. Overlaying Axiom’s newly-built and high strand count fiber to its fiber plant positions ExteNet well to address the increasing densification, bandwidth and communication needs throughout New York City.
“Our customers, including service providers, building owners, municipalities and enterprises require scalable, reliable, secure and high-bandwidth network solutions,” said Ross Manire, President and CEO for ExteNet Systems. “ExteNet has an expansive fiber network in New York City, serving outdoor and in-building customers. This acquisition of Axiom Fiber Networks allows us to extend and densify our service footprint in lower Manhattan for the benefit of our customers. I would like to welcome Axiom customers, and employees, to the ExteNet family.”
ExteNet will undertake responsibilities of all existing Axiom customers. Axiom CEO Felipe J. Alvarez will join ExteNet’s management team.
The “hyper-densification” of small cells, the Internet of Things and connected real estate are all essential to make 5G and smart cities a reality, Ross Manire, president and CEO, ExteNet System, told an audience in a keynote address at the HETNET Expo 2017, Oct 10, in West Palm Beach.
ExteNet, which is involved in commercial office space, healthcare, hospitality and sports/entertainment, is seeing the in-building wireless market evolve away from the carrier-funded model.
“There are some very interesting changes going on in the indoor market,” he said. With respect to venues there has been a significant change in terms of how wireless networks are funded and deployed.”
Because of downward pressure on revenues from users, the ability of the carriers to fund smaller venues has been limited, leading to sales efforts directed straight to the venue owner.
“Our pitch to the venue owner is they need to think about wireless coverage as another utility. It is that important. It’s like water or electricity, heat or air conditioning,” he said. “Your tenants want to have connectivity anytime and anywhere. Studies have shown that if you have wireless connectivity it enhances the value of the building.”
ExteNet chose HetNet Expo 2017 to announce a new indoor deployment at the Columbia Center, the tallest skyscraper in Seattle. The company owns and operates more than 350 outdoor and indoor distributed networks in the United States.
Separately, Katarina Kueber, general manager at Urban Renaissance Group, said, “Building tenants and visitors expect wireless service to work flawlessly inside, irrespective of the size of the building. Today, wireless infrastructure is deemed critical for enhanced business performance and operations, with building owners and managers risking loss of business without adequate investment in indoor wireless coverage. We are extremely glad to be working with a proven leader like ExteNet in our network design and build.”
Buildings, especially older buildings, are a key growth segment, according to Manire. Building owners need to enhance their communications infrastructure to support tenant services and building management systems, because the current wiring is far below acceptable.
“Sometimes the wiring in buildings looks like a bowl of spaghetti,” he said. “It is an area we think deserves a lot of attention, so we are starting to spend more resources looking at combining the building of our wireless network infrastructure and the broadband infrastructure to support tenant services and building management services.”
ExteNet’s “New Distributed Network Vision” focuses on hyper densification of the distributed network architecture, functionality at the edge and the Internet of Things. The future of wireless is going to be less about individual technologies and more about network architecture, according to Manire.
“The focus will be on how to build a robust architecture that will support the applications and IoT that we see coming down the line,” he said. “We think that distributed networks are going to be an increasingly critical component of the overall wireless topography and hyper densification [of small cells] is going to be a part of that. We see edge functionality, more intelligence being pushed to the edge, and more content being pushed to the edge to enhance services for users.”
Manire noted nodes will reach more than 111 thousand in 2017, according to iGR Research, and the number will reach more than 519 thousand by 2021. Extenet is already involved in hyper densification of small cells in Manhattan, where it has more than 2,000 small cell nodes supporting four carriers, with has rights to 8,000 poles. It is also busy hyper-densifying the nodes in San Francisco.
The fan experience at the 2017 NCAA men’s and women’s basketball tournaments, also known as March Madness, is being enhanced by distributed network systems suppliedby ExteNet Systems.
ExteNet’s multi-carrier distributed networks enable advanced wireless connectivity at three venues hosting the 2017 NCAA tournament games, including Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport, Connecticut, and an iconic sports and entertainment venue in Manhattan, New York.
This enhanced indoor coverage is designed to be seamless for subscribers of the wireless carriers that have network agreements with ExteNet for these venues.
Ross Manire, president and CEO of ExteNet Systems, said “ExteNet remains committed to partnering with sports and entertainment venues and the leading national wireless carriers to meet the ever-changing mobile demands of fans. The rate of data consumption continues to grow, and we are focused on enabling seamless coverage and high-bandwidth capacity for the participating wireless carriers in each of the prominent venues where we manage and operate our distributed networks.”
Bankers Life Fieldhouse hosted first- and second-round games of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament on March 17 and March 19, while the Manhattan venue will be the site of the men’s East Regional on March 24 and March 26. Regional games for the NCAA women’s basketball tournament will be held on March 25 and March 27 at Webster Bank Arena.
February 23, 2017
Wireless carriers face technical challenges in making connections between the network core and small cells. Randall Schwartz, a senior analyst and consultant with Wireless 20/20, led a session about small cell connectivity at the Tower & Small Cell Summit in September 2016. He said the limited number of users for a given small cell could help boost throughput.
A panelist in the session, Mike Alt, is vice president of network design at ExteNet Systems, an independent provider of distributed wireless communications networks. The company builds, owns and operates indoor and outdoor networks, small cells, and distributed antenna system (DAS) networks — any kind of interconnected distributed network system, as Alt put it. “We don’t just refer to it as DAS anymore, because it’s not just one topology,” he said.
Alt said that ExteNet Systems has been deploying small cells in some way, shape or form for 11 years. As a result of a rapid increase in wireless carrier demand for small cell deployments, carriers are seeking the most cost-effective way of building small cells, along with preparing municipalities for rapid, imminent network densification.
Small cell throughput translates into the signal-to-noise and distortion (SINAD) ratio, Alt explained. “When we’re integrating a network, usually on behalf of a carrier, the network operator doesn’t usually specify a speed, such as 600 kilobits per second, or something like that,” Alt said. “They’re basically saying they have to have 12 dB of SINAD variation between systems. If there is one significant integration challenge from the technical perspective, it is creating the isolation between the macro network and the small cells.”
Heterogeneous networks are supposed to work together, but Alt said that, in reality, they’re supposed to serve their customers, and only their customers, and then hand off to each other. Integrators spend a significant amount of effort to isolate the small cell coverage footprint and its capacity from the macro network, both for indoor and outdoor systems. Integrators are engineering indoor venues with signal levels to overcome signals that enter from outside.
Companies deploying small cells often take steps to make small cell installations aesthetically pleasing so, for example, a street doesn’t present a view with a lot of cell equipment. Alt said some situations are more challenging than others, such as making a wood pole still look like a wood pole when fitted with cell equipment.
“With wood poles, many installers use shrouds around the equipment,” Alt said. “Municipalities require some of it, and many have restrictions on how many attachments you can place on a pole. A single shroud that conceals 16 or 18 pieces of equipment behind it may be deemed one attachment.”
Smart poles, which are light poles with small cell equipment installed inside them, offer concealment, and they blend in with other light poles. The smart pole has functionality combined with aesthetic appeal. It may have Wi-Fi connectivity for a smart city application. The cell antenna could be concealed by a shroud at the top, and a uniform structure within the pole could contain a microwave backhaul solution.
“Another form of smart pole has LCD information displays, the ‘you are here’ kind of interactive map,” Alt said. “Cities are starting not only to see the aesthetics, but also applications for themselves. That’s where a smart pole provides a significant benefit. If you can go in a municipality and not only show the installation is not disruptive, it actually offers you something the city can use for its own benefit. That’s usually the win-win situation you try for.”
Alt said that when it comes to wireless networks, neutrality has a different meaning than it did three or four years ago. “With previous DAS deployments, neutrality was based on a fine demarcation between the carrier-owned equipment and the neutral-host DAS owner’s equipment,” he said. “Today, neutrality has numerous complex demarcations. The carrier will take its equipment to a point where then it joins with the host’s fiber, and then it goes back to their equipment, and then goes up to the host’s antenna.”
With blurred demarcation and neutrality, a small cell deployment may have a baseband unit and remote radio head combination owned by the carrier, and yet the infrastructure is owned by the neutral host. Alt said this changes the business, technical and operational structures need to be supported. “It is different than what it was when it was just a DAS deployment situation,” he said. “As a result, for both indoor and outdoor systems, when you start talking about a neutral-host scenario, the neutrality involves the attachment and the use of the fiber in many instances for any kind of small cell deployment.”
With indoor systems, the neutral host could think about supplying any combination of the antenna, the connection with the radio, the baseband, the power and the backhaul. Alt said that typically the host would own the antenna, the coax and the fiber. The venue or the host might own the small cell. The host has two customers: the carrier that is interested in serving subscribers in the building and the building owner itself. The venue may or may not have a financial interest in the system, but Alt said the venue certainly has an interest in the aesthetics of the system.
“The venue wants the antennas to be hidden,” Alt said. “The carrier wants ubiquitous capacity delivery. Suddenly, you are catering to two different masters. One wants ubiquitous coverage. The other says, ‘I don’t want to see any equipment. I don’t care what sacrifice you have to make on that.’”
When a venue has more than one wireless system operator, a given area might have to have more than one antenna. “Small cell deployments are becoming much more popular within venues, and the venues have to be resigned to the fact that they may see multiple sets of equipment,” Alt said.
It’s possible to view wireless service as a utility today more so than it was years ago, Alt said, when it was viewed as a luxury. He compared it with Wi-Fi service that most hotels used to charge for, and sometimes the Wi-Fi connection wasn’t even very good. Today, many travelers won’t use hotels that don’t provide good Wi-Fi service, and they expect it to be provided without an extra charge. Alt said many venues are taking responsibility for providing wireless service to remain competitive.
Nevertheless, Alt said there is a piece of the installation for which venues often expect the system operator to pay, and that’s the space for the equipment. “If the venues are allocating some space for the equipment, it’s very challenging for a venue to give that up for free because its goal is to rent space for money.”
Mike Alt, vice president of network design at ExteNet Systems. Photo by Don Bishop
December 6, 2016 —
ExteNet Systems is known for owning and operating distributed network systems that are used to enable outdoor and indoor wireless connectivity. Its networks connect workers in the Empire State Building, fans at Barclays Center and users on the streets of San Francisco. Tormod Larsen, VP and CTO, spoke to us about opportunities in smart cities for his company and the wireless infrastructure industry.
Is there a role for ExteNet in the coming smart cities?
Larsen: Absolutely. ExteNet’s role boils down to providing the underlying network that enables connectivity to all these devices, whether it is used for surfing the Web or for cameras or gunshot detection or meter reading. If you don’t have the network, those applications are moot. We want to design and build cost-effective and appropriate infrastructure to support it.
Does your role as a neutral host help you enter the smart cities space?
Larsen: We already have a pretty significant and dense footprint in major metro areas, so using the existing small cell/distributed networks to apply the smart cities applications is where the initial opportunities occur. Using our business model to provide services as a neutral host allows us to economically provide the various smart city services, in addition to the more traditional wireless services. If you look at our infrastructure as the backbone, the product is similar but the use cases and the customers are expanding and evolving.
It becomes a symbiotic relationship between the city and the carriers that is important to how these networks grow over time. Again, in the end, it comes down to having that infrastructure in place to enable city-wide smart connections.
How do you break into municipal communications market?
Larsen: ExteNet, since inception, has had a team in house that has worked closely with municipalities and utilities. We have agreements with a large number of both cities and utilities to attach to their infrastructure: typically light poles, traffic lights and utility poles.
The model is evolving today as a lot of the municipalities are transitioning to a becoming a customer in addition to being the landlord. In our discussions, the city is saying if you are already building out this network in my community what is another way we could benefit from this?
How is it going so far?
Larsen: We have already done some IoT connectivity for cities, connecting schools, providing cameras in the community or meeting other needs where they could leverage our existing purpose-built fiber plant. Going forward, we see that expanding to include connectivity that is specific to those cities and municipalities.
How big will the challenge of connecting smart cities be?
Larsen: It is not like we are starting a new business. We are expanding what we are already doing. We have a strategic siting initiative where we have been working with municipalities for a long time on these types of models.
They have a long wish list in terms of smart city technology. They have pretty lofty ideas on what they want to do in terms of smart cities. One of the challenges I see coming into play is cities beginning to understand all the possibilities and then trying to do everything at once, without doing a business model for each application. In general, if the underlying network is designed appropriately, the ability to support IoT is a natural next step.
What is the answer?
Larsen: It is a case of prioritizing which applications can be met over time. Municipalities need to narrow the scope of their RFIs. We have been working with a few cities in a holistic manner to help with the business model. It costs less to use a shared network than a dedicated network, but there is still a cost and they need to figure out a way to recoup that cost before layering more applications on top of it.