Ken Sandfeld, president of Americas, SOLiD, sounds more like an economist these days than an executive at an OEM. He talks as much about concepts like supply and demand as he does about watts and megahertz.
With DAS built out in most of the high-profile arenas, entertainment venues, transportation hubs and Class A office space, in-building wireless looks less like a real estate play where third parties lock up venue rights and more like a utility to be provided by the building owners. The increasing data demand in buildings with supply should be met by building owners in cooperation with carriers, according to Sandfeld.
“We need to solve the problem of being able to meet demand with supply. Demand being the person in the building with the handset and the supply being the carrier,” he said.
Another part of the DAS equation for the “middleprise” (buildings with 100,000 square feet to 500,000 square feet) is lowering the cost and complexity of the equipment to make it more feasible for the building owner.
“We are focusing on providing our customers with a scalable path toward adding new frequency bands,” Sandfeld said. “We don’t want them to have to rip and replace equipment as things change. We are making sure all the current, legacy equipment is protected from change or future-proofed, you might say.
“While some in the DAS industry have been jumping from technology to technology, our plan takes a very long-term view of the longevity and evolution of our current products. We are committed to supporting the Alliance DAS platform as new technologies come in,” he added.
The current technology in the DAS market, predominantly hybrid fiber/coax systems, is complex and expensive. Future systems will consist of either fiber or CAT cabling. Additionally, it is not capable of handling the 5G speeds of the future.
To future-proof their buildings for 5G, Sandfeld suggests that companies pull fiber and CAT6a cables, both of which can handle 10 gigabits, throughout their buildings at a density that is similar to Wi-Fi density.
Cabling changes in the building solve only 20 percent of the problem, according to Sandfeld, and the other 80 percent of the problem is ensuring connectivity for the mobile devices. “That is why DAS has not grown. It is an incomplete solution,” he said.
At Mobile World Congress next year, after several years of development, SOLiD will unveil a new solution for the challenges facing the DAS market.
“SOLiD is solving for the connectivity issues for any operator in the world on any DAS system. The middleprise will buy a turnkey solution if the solution provides a compelling business case for operators to provide their signals to the DAS,” Sandfeld said.
Carriers can’t afford to pay a fixed amount every month for a DAS unless they get a return on their investment. With the exit of carriers as drivers of DAS in the enterprise market, a new business model is needed, according to Sandfeld.
“As far as return on investment is concerned, both parties should see a return,” Sandfeld said. “An operator should only have to pay for the data used in the building, while building owners need to view it as a utility expense upon which they are just trying to recoup some of the investment in the infrastructure.”
How much that data will cost the carrier is subject to the laws of supply and demand and would be negotiated upfront.
“We are solving an economic problem here, not a technology problem,” Sandfeld said. “You can take excess wireless capacity in a building and pair it up with demand from building tenants and visitors and provide access to carriers that want to provide service to their users in that building for a negotiated price.”
For an analogy of this new in-building wireless paradigm, look at the carriers’ use of roaming, where a user can access a network that doesn’t belong to their carrier, then their home carrier simply pays a fee for the usage to the out of network carrier. Sandfeld’s idea sounds a lot like being about roaming onto an in-building wireless that is owned by the enterprise, which then would receive remuneration from the carrier.
January 26, 2016 — SOLiD Inc., a South Korean-based manufacturer of wireless equipment, has purchased the assets of REACH Holdings related to REACH’s role as SOLiD’s exclusive North American partner.
At first blush the SOLiD’s purchase of REACH, which has been doing business very convincingly as SOLiD since 2010, might not seem like such a big deal. REACH has enjoyed a tight, exclusive long-term relationship with SOLiD, and REACH’s first employee and executive vice president Ken Sandfeld, has been named SOLiD’s president in North America. But the purchase opens the door wide open to the hotbed of wireless innovation happening in South Korea.
“In the short term, it will be uneventful,” Sandfeld said. “We plan to take advantage of SOLiD’s resources even heavier as one organization. We will have an enhance ability to communicate with each other, which will give us a better ability to deliver what our customers currently expect.”
What will change, according to Sandfeld, is the availability of new products and specialized products in the U.S. market faster through stronger product management.
“Being one organization instead of two simplifies a lot of things,” he said. “We plan on immediately having additional product line that was not yet being offered in the United States. We plan on offering an array of passive coarse wavelength division multiplexing [CWDM] and active tunable dense wavelength division multiplexing [DWDM] products to address the densification market. We are trying to solve problems that carriers have serving the edge small cells, DAS and RRH’s with more innovative optical products.”
Additionally, domestic SOLiD customers will have access to an expanded line of Interference Canceling System (ICS) repeaters.
SOLiD has been expanding its capabilities in other ways. Because of an acquisition last year of Pantech, it is now a radio manufacturer, producing cell phones and modems and other equipment. The acquisition increased its IPR portfolio in LTE and boosted its size to 1,000 people globally and now 75 in the United States.
The C-RAN and optical LAN products that SOLiD has deployed in South Korea are going to be required in the United States in the future, Sandfeld said, because densification requires more fiber in more places and more aggregation points.
“The optical products are going to make their way here. That is a key part of 5G – aggregating the bandwidth and communicating between nodes requires a lot of infrastructure,” Sandfeld said.
The inclusion of REACH into SOLiD also provides more access to lessons learned through densification in South Korea with direct access to the engineering and R&D department at SOLiD in Korea.
“We have realized in Asia that the emphasis on power consumption and size of the solution as well as the amount of RF that we can generate is paramount,” Sandfeld. “When you have nodes on every block the problem of power consumption gets a lot larger and size of the equipment continues to plague the industry.”
Sandfeld said additional radio head products will come out in 2016 with various power levels and lower prices in the industry, but does not expect it to be a breakout year for C-RAN.
“CPRI isn’t a problem solver for the majority of the networks. It is a problem creator. It is inefficient and OEM focused,” he said. “In the United States dedicated fiber is run and limited it to one thing such as CPRI or Ethernet. The C-RAN solutions that we make in Asia not only transport CPRI, but they also digital RF, Ethernet and PON [passive optical networking]. There is a lot more going on in Asia than here.”
The real problem that must be solved in the enterprise or “middle-prise” market segment, as SOLiD refers to it, has more to do with the signal equipment, than with a cheaper, simpler DAS. The killer app is going to be a solution that combines the enodeB radios into the solution.
“As long as we are selling a DAS to an enterprise that has to, in turn, call the carriers and to ask them to connect their BTS, the business model is completely broken,” Sandfeld said. “Even if a carrier agrees to supply a BTS, enterprises work on schedules of days or weeks, carriers’ schedules look out six months to a year.” As a result, the growth of integrators is limited, because they can’t complete their sales cycle.
With signaling equipment that is pre-approved by the carrier built in to the DAS, the carrier would only have to sign a signal re-transmit agreement.
“What I have been waiting for my entire career in DAS is to put the two pieces together that we can sell to the enterprises as a single solution. That is the Achilles’ Heel of the DAS coverage business. SOLiD is working on solving this problem,” Sandfeld said.