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Tag Archives: Mike Collado

In-Building Wireless: Creating a New Toolkit

July 25, 2017 — 

From legacy to current and emerging technologies, developers have many tools at their disposal for designing in-building wireless systems. It’s good that they do because coverage requirements and building configurations vary widely.

By Don Bishop

Executive Editor, AGL Magazine

The problem for in-building wireless communications coverage, as Mike Collado explained it, is that the macro wireless network was never designed or engineered to support in-building wireless for today’s connected world. Collado serves as Corning’s director of wireless applications marketing, and he spoke earlier this year at the Network Infrastructure Forum, a part of the International Wireless Communications Expo. Collado said that among those with an interest in having in-building wireless coverage are wireless service users, mobile network operators, building owners and public safety agencies.

Photo by Don Bishop

Mobile network operators focus their efforts on developing and sustaining their macro networks, Collado said. They pay attention to quality of service and the cost per bit of delivering service. He said buildings that lack good, reliable wireless coverage and capacity cost their owners revenue. Moreover, owners could face legal liabilities and public relations failures for not having wireless coverage and capacity in their buildings if something bad happens. He said social media readily spreads the word when coverage in a building is poor, and that’s not good for property owners.

Public safety agencies want in-building coverage so their increasingly complex wireless devices, which now include more functions than two-way radio, work properly indoors to help with their tasks and to help their first-responders do their jobs safely, Collado said. “And I would argue that users rely upon their smartphones in order to stay safe,” he said. “You don’t think about pulling a fire alarm because remember we were taught in elementary school, ‘Don’t touch the fire alarm.’ You call 911.”

LEED Certification

Among developments spurring the need for in-building wireless systems are energy efficiency and commercial building codes. Building owners’ desire to obtain Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) green-building certification motivates them to install energy-efficient reflective glass. Collado said the glass wreaks havoc on RF. “It creates either a dark building or a shadow building,” he said. “A LEED building can block the macro network from reaching another building.”

Commercial building codes increasingly are requiring owners to enable their buildings for indoor public safety wireless communications. “There are new stakeholder roles in order to make this work with wireless operators retreating from playing a starring role in funding and owning and operating these networks,” Collado said. “Others are going to step up and play new and different roles. All of those roles are going to have to align and intertwine to develop and deliver the desired results and outcomes.”

What’s in the Toolkit

Three categories of tools in what Collado called the in-building wireless toolkit can be used to construct indoor systems: legacy, current and emerging tools (see Figure 1). Various tools help to achieve desired outcomes based on the type of building and the needs and requirements of users, operators, owners and public safety agencies.

Figure 1. Parties with an interest in in-building wireless communications include wireless service users, mobile network operators, building owners and public safety agencies. Source: Mike Collado

Legacy tools include signal boosters, such as bidirectional amplifiers, which Collado said are sold for broadband communications. Another legacy tool, repeaters, uses digital signal processing and channelization. And a third legacy tool is passive distributed antenna system (DAS) networks, one type of which is consists of leaky coaxial cable.

Passive DAS uses signal amplification at one end of a length of leaky coaxial cable through which the signal radiates. As a result, Collado said, the greater the distance from the amplifier, the more the signal strength diminishes. A more sophisticated passive DAS uses amplification at the headend, and coaxial cable feeds a series of antennas throughout the structure.

Current tools include active analog DAS, which needs a signal source. The signal can be taken off the air, although Collado said it often works better if the wireless carrier places a base station at the headend to supply the signal. He said an analog DAS converts RF to light, sends the light through fiber-optic cable for the risers, and then converts the light back to RF for the horizontal runs.

Another current tool is small cells, which Collado classifies into two types: picocells and microcells, and e-femtocells that use the internet as backhaul to the carrier core. Other small cells, such as Ericsson Radio Dot and SpiderCloud, have direct connections with the carrier core.

A third current tool is voice over Wi-Fi. Collado said whether voice over Wi-Fi provides satisfactory wireless telephone calls depends on the quality of the building’s Wi-Fi connection.

Among what Collado calls emerging tools are some that reimagine existing tools and others that represent innovations. One is active digital DAS. “With active digital DAS, as opposed to looking at it from an RF perspective, it’s IP,” he said. “It’s a more intelligent DAS system. You’re able to fine-tune what is distributed to each antenna.”

Because the key to DAS is a signal source and distribution, Collado said a pragmatic approach uses small cells as the signal source, followed by active analog DAS or active digital DAS to distribute the signal throughout a building.

Collado said centralized DAS involves collocating the headend equipment. It places the large base stations and other space-consuming gear in another location, perhaps a less expensive real-estate location separate from the building to be served or, if there are space constraints, it puts the base station where it’s possible to deploy it. The collocated headend gear then uses a fiber path to distribute the signal into the building.

With cloud DAS — sometimes called virtualized DAS — essentially the signal source is in the cloud, which refers to computer servers in a data center linked via the internet.

Other emerging tools that use unlicensed spectrum operate at 5 GHz. “Using unlicensed spectrum offers a way to enable LTE in a building to help augment the capacity of the wireless network to provide the desired quality of service or quality of experience in the building,” Collado said.

The Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) offers the use of shared spectrum that Collado said holds the promise of enabling third parties, neutral hosts and building owners to own and operate wireless networks somewhat independently of the wireless network operator. “CBRS is a new initiative that is gaining traction and momentum,” Collado said. “It may take years for it to become real because the chipsets in smartphones have to enable and support CBRS.”

Generally, the enterprise needs to step up and own or fund part, if not all, of the infrastructure for enabling the in-building coverage, Collado said. He said that measured as a cost per square foot, certain technologies lend themselves better than others that could be deployed in small, medium-size and large buildings or venues.


Collado described a case study for what he called the middleprise, or a building from 100,000 square feet to 500,000 square feet in size (see Figure 2). “They’re hotels. They’re office buildings. They’re residential buildings. In this case, we’re going to look at new construction for a hotel with 350,000 square feet.” Collado said certain things need to happen.

Figure 2. In-building wireless systems made to serve buildings between 100,000 square feet and 500,000 square feet make use of various technologies, depending, in part, on who is paying for the service. The trend is for the building owner to pay. Source: Mike Collado

“First of all, you will have a public safety communications requirement for a new building,” he said. “That could depend on the location or municipality and what signals must be delivered to support public safety operations in that jurisdiction. You could use signal boosters to support multiple public safety signals and frequencies cost effectively. Or, potentially, you may need to use a public safety DAS, which is more expensive, depending on how many public safety frequencies it must carry.”

Guests expect Wi-Fi service, so the hotel will have to have to be fitted with Wi-Fi access points. Collado said it’s impossible to control which wireless carriers guests will be using with their phones, so the Wi-Fi service has to support multiple network operators.

Ways to Enable Coverage

A hybrid solution could be used with a middleprise installation, such as the hotel in this example. Collado said a small cell could provide the signal source, and a DAS could distribute the signal in the building. “Cloud DAS is a more virtualized signal source and very much an emerging technology in the toolkit,” he said. “That could be a potential way. Using unlicensed and shared spectrum could be a couple of years down the road, but those are all ways to enable in-building coverage and capacity in this middleprise type of scenario.”

Collado said the emerging tools in the kit require not only developing innovative technologies, but also new business models that align the needs the user, the building owner, the carrier and public safety agencies. “What a great time to be in the wireless industry to solve some of these new and deep challenges,” he said.





Enterprise Is the Current Buzz, But Large Venues Are Still the Biz

December 20, 2016 — 

By Mike Collado

Principal Consultant, Wireless 20/20

rp_Mike-Collado-150x150.jpgIn Roman theology, Janus – the god of transition – is famously depicted as having two faces to represent the dichotomous nature of change which includes beginnings and endings, opportunities and threats, and wins and losses. This ancient perspective is still applicable today. As author and Fortune columnist Dan Lyons observes, “Transformation is hard – but not changing can sometimes be fatal.”

For the wireless industry, transition manifests as megatrends as well as sector-specific trends, and informs that successful outcomes are contingent upon organizations getting the right groups to focus on the right things at the right times.

Throughout this multi-part series, we have examined how 5G, Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS), Public-Safety and E911 Location, and the Tier 2 Enterprise Market will impact the in-building wireless ecosystem in 2017 and beyond. Specifically, we have forecasted when each trend will be felt, and made recommendations on which key functional areas (R&D, Marketing, Sales) should be focused on them in 2017.

Our final trend is the Tier 1 Venue Market.

Opportunities Remain, But Competition and Market Penetration Is Higher

tier-1-illustrationIn-building wireless continues to be a vibrant industry for simple reasons that include the fact that the macro cellular network was never designed for indoor wireless use, buildings obstruct radio frequencies, and business cases exist to fund high-profile projects. To wit, a recent market study from ABI Research forecasts the worldwide in-building wireless market will more than double in revenue by 2020, with the market anticipated to top $9 billion by 2020.

The mainstay for the in-building wireless industry is large public venues such as stadiums and arenas, airports, subways, convention centers, shopping malls, casinos and resorts where it is economically advantageous to carriers and venue owners to empower wireless users to “sit and stay” as opposed to leave the facility to use their wireless devices. These venues, which are typically 500k square feet or larger, are known as the Tier 1 Venue Market.

DAS tends to be the preferred solution to address this market segment for both technical and business reasons. Not only does DAS effectively deliver coverage and capacity, but also efficiently uses spectrum, manages interference, scales for future capacity requirements, and adapts to technology changes. In addition, the ability of DAS to support multiple carriers on a single infrastructure is the lynchpin for neutral-host business models where ROI is achieved for the network owner through multiple revenue streams generated by carriers who pay monthly fees to participate on the network.

According to data collected by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) in its Commercial Buildings Energy Consumption Survey (CBECS), the Tier 1 Venue Market consists of approximately 8,000 buildings. Considering this rather small universe on which the in-building ecosystem has focused almost exclusively, Wireless 20/20 estimates this segment to be nearly 35 percent addressed.

Given both market penetration levels and the downtrend in carrier spending for in-building projects as a strategy to densify their networks, we observe that the Tier 1 Venue Market has transitioned from a growth market to a mature market.

Shifting Strategy for a Mature Market

As the Tier 1 Venue Market progresses to become a mature market, the in-building ecosystem will adapt and evolve go-to-market strategies in key ways:

  • Market commoditization will reprioritize price, channel strategy and brand differentiation above product innovation as key value drivers.
  • Focus will shift from coveted, but highly-contested and limited “greenfield” projects to more plentiful “brownfield” opportunities where older in-building networks require “forklift” replacement and more recent networks need to be upgraded to support AWS and LTE-A.
  • In response to fewer market opportunities, organizations will seek to capture greater customer share-of-wallet by expanding their solutions portfolio through a build, buy or partner approach.
  • Ecosystem members will look to dominate and defend market sub-sectors such as verticals (e.g., airports) or geographies (e.g., mid-Atlantic) through specialized and distinctive product and service value propositions.
  • Operational challenges will be addressed through improved education, simplification of the design and commissioning of the network, streamlining platforms to make it easier to order and deploy gear, and significantly more sophisticated network monitoring and management solutions.

Timeframes and Stakeholder Focus

tier-1-timelineAlthough the Tier 1 Venue segment has become a mature market, that does not mean it is no longer viable. On the contrary, it will continue to account for most of the U.S. in-building wireless spend for the next few years. That’s because the technology toolkit, business models and distribution channels are optimized, and value propositions are aligned with stakeholder requirements. Similarly, DAS will continue to be the optimal solution that gets deployed.

In 2017, R&D, marketing and sales will be actively engaged in the Tier 1 Venue Market. While innovation is not a key value driver in a mature market, it nonetheless remains critical. R&D should focus on reducing CAPEX and OPEX through a combination of hardware and software technology to simplify deployments, and enable virtual upgrades to the network and fewer truck rolls. Marketing should focus on developing differentiated value propositions and creating “champions” among distribution channels through education, lead generation, success stories and other co-marketing programs. Lastly, sales should focus most of its efforts on the Tier 1 Venue Market where account executives will still find the available opportunities to make their number in 2017.

In summary, maturation of the Tier 1 Venue Market is going to usher evolutionary and revolutionary change that can manifest as either opportunity or threat to participants within the in-building ecosystem depending on how they position themselves. Will your organization be prepared?

Mike Collado helps companies win mindshare and capture marketshare. He is a Principal Consultant at Wireless 20/20 and former Vice President of Marketing at SOLiD. He also serves as a strategic advisor for both industry and nonprofit organizations and is an author, blogger and frequent speaker at wireless industry events. Learn more about Wireless 20/20 and the WiROI™

CAPEX and OPEX network planning tool at www.wireless2020.com. Contact Mike at mike@mikecollado.net.


New Approaches Needed to Unlock the Enterprise Market

December 15, 2016 — 

By Mike Collado

Principal Consultant, Wireless 20/20

rp_Mike-Collado-150x150.jpgChange is disruptive. It creates opportunity and challenge, and catapults some industries and businesses forward, while it and leaves others behind. Well-known examples include the automobile and the horse and buggy; Netflix and Blockbuster; digital and smartphone cameras and Kodak.

The wireless industry is not immune to change. Cellular has undergone significant transformation since early systems were put into operation in the early 1980s. Change currently manifests both in megatrends that we’ve recently examined including 5G and Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) as well as sector-specific trends such  as Public-Safety and E911 Location.

To use a golf metaphor, we’re on the back nine of a series that identifies five key trends and how they’ll impact the in-building wireless ecosystem in 2017 and beyond. Included in the analysis, we forecast when each trend will be felt by the industry, and recommend which key functional areas (R&D, Marketing, Sales) should be focused on them in 2017.

Today we look at the Tier 2 Venue Market.

A Once-in-a-Decade Opportunity for New Market Leadership

tier-2-illustrationA survey conducted by WiredScore reveals that prospective Tier 2 Venue tenants rank cost, location and connectivity (including telecommunications) over access to transportation, quality of building management, environmental sustainability of the building, and features such as gyms and rooftop spaces. The message is loud and clear: indoor cellular connectivity is not an amenity; it is absolutely essential .

The Tier 2 Venue Market is also known as the Enterprise, “Middleprise” or “Other 80 Percent.” This segment refers to venues having between 100k and 500k square feet, and consists of hotels and hospitals as well as education, retail, corporate and multi-tenant high-rise buildings. In these venues, cellular connectivity has become an expectation commonly described as the “fourth utility” because it is such a fundamental part of our business and personal lives.

In contrast to the Tier 1 Venue Market, which is defined as venues having more than 500k square feet and includes airports, subways, convention centers and stadia, the Tier 2 universe is more than 15-times larger and, heretofore, barely penetrated.

There are approximately 128,000 Tier 2 venues in the U.S., according to data collected by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) in its Commercial Buildings Energy Consumption Survey (CBECS). Wireless 20/20 estimates that less than two percent of these have been enhanced with in-building cellular coverage solutions. In an effort to quantify the Serviceable Available Market (SAM), John Celentano at Skyline Marketing projects the U.S. Tier 2 Venue Market to grow to $1.4 Billion by 2021.

To be sure, the Tier 2 Venue segment represents a future growth market in which there will increasingly be more revenue to compete for every year, and where innovation, disruption and reinvention will be the keys to unlock opportunities as well as differentiate and deliver value to its stakeholders.

Tier 1 Venue Outlooks Don’t Translate to the Tier 2 Venue Market

The in-building wireless ecosystem will require new thinking around business models, technology solutions, buyer personas and market engagement strategies to unlock the Tier 2 Venue Market:

·       Carriers and venue owners are diametrically opposed in a debate over who is responsible to provide cellular coverage indoors. Unlike Tier 1 Venues and certain strategic Tier 2 Venues in major metropolitan markets, carriers won’t pay for the electronics or infrastructure. Instead – like the other utilities in the building – the onus will be on the venue. Therefore, integrators will play a significant role in educating and guiding buyers through options.

·       The buying decision is not based upon return-on-investment (ROI) but, rather, a requirement informed by financial, legal and regulatory drivers such as tenant expectations for wireless as a utility, lost revenues, life and death legal liabilities, and compliance with public-safety mandates. This will impact how the ecosystem engages and messages buyers.

·       Conventional neutral-host business funding models – which are predicated upon owning and operating multiple networks at a single location, thus generating ROI via multiple revenue streams through both carrier “rent” and WiFi advertisement – will struggle to be viable in the Tier 2 Venue segment because venues won’t necessarily require all four operators and ad revenue will be significantly diminished or exist at all.

·       CAPEX will determine the in-building solution that gets deployed. Key considerations include the signal source, the scalability of the distribution network infrastructure to accommodate future bands and services, and ease of which to order, deploy and maintain the network. In the foreseeable future, look for off-air repeaters and femtocells to serve as signal sources that drive either boosters or passive and active DAS networks.

·       Value propositions will need to shift from carrier-based messaging which focuses on coverage and capacity to venue-based messaging which centers on improving the building to deliver benefits that translate into things the venue cares about such as leasing, retention, property value, favorable online reviews and compliance

Timeframes and Stakeholder Focus

tier-2-timelineThe Tier 2 Venue segment is approximately one-and-a-half years away from taking off as a growth market which will establish new market leaders within the in-building ecosystem. But stakeholders should heed the counsel of Josh Linkner, author of “The Road to Reinvention,” who observes, “We can no longer rely on the past as a game plan for winning” – a cautionary tale that informs stakeholders must disrupt or be disrupted.

Specifically, R&D should be laser-focused in 2017 on addressing the signal source which is the most important product challenge – not platform architecture or network infrastructure – to resolve for the Tier 2 Venue Market. To ready the organization, Marketing (including Corporate Development) should develop and roll out the go-to-market strategy which includes, among other things, portfolio-based business models; value propositions tailored to vertical segments within the venue market; engagement programs to educate venue stakeholders which include building owners, property managers and leasing agents; and identify channel partners who can help accelerate and scale within verticals and regions. Finally, because the Tier 2 Venue segment is still in the “introduction” stage of the market lifecycle where the business model, technology toolkit, value proposition and market engagement are still-nascent, Sales should not focus much effort on this segment in 2017 but, instead, center efforts on the “mature” and established Tier 1 Large Venue Market.

Next trend: The Tier 1 Venue Market.

Mike Collado helps companies win mindshare and capture marketshare. He is a Principal Consultant at Wireless 20/20 and former Vice President of Marketing at SOLiD. He also serves as a strategic advisor for both industry and nonprofit organizations and is an author, blogger and frequent speaker at wireless industry events. Learn more about Wireless 20/20 and the WiROI™

CAPEX and OPEX network planning tool at www.wireless2020.com. Contact Mike at mike@mikecollado.net.


Indoor Public Safety, E911 Location May See Growth

December 13 2016 — 

By Mike Collado

Principal Consultant, Wireless 20/20

mike-colladoChange is often viewed as a catalyst for opportunity. Yet the SWOT planning method, which considers the strategic viability of a business plan or market initiative by assessing the upside (strengths and opportunities) and downside (weaknesses and threats) for both internal and external dynamics, informs that change can also be inauspicious.

Given the observation of the philosopher Heraclitus, “The only thing that is constant is change,” business leaders within the wireless industry have much to consider as they seek to identify the right ventures for their organization in response to both megatrends and sector-specific trends.

This article arrives as the midway point in a series that investigates five key trends and how they’ll impact the in-building wireless ecosystem in 2017 and beyond. So far, we’ve examined 5G and Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS), including when each trend will be felt by the industry and which key functional areas (R&D, Marketing, Sales) should be focused on it in 2017.

Today, we tackle public-safety communications and E911 location services.

An Industry Shaped by Regulations and Requirements

ps-illustrationThe importance of indoor public-safety communications and location services cannot be overstated. Public-safety personnel must be able to communicate and coordinate efforts. Likewise, the general public needs to be able to call for help as well as receive alerts and instructions. Plus, knowing only the horizontal location of the caller is insufficient – the vertical location or z-axis is essential information during an emergency when seconds can determine an outcome.

That’s because, according to Chief Alan Perdue, the executive director of the Safer Buildings Coalition (disclosure: I serve as a board member), an estimated 80 percent of all wireless calls originate or terminate inside buildings. Similarly, most emergency incidents occur indoors.

These facts have not lost on the International Code Council (ICC) and National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) whose bodies created the first national code for indoor public-safety communications in 2009. This model language was elevated to the technical provisions section of the code in 2012, and it is expected that it will be further refined in 2017. Related, FirstNet has hinted that in-building communication is essential, although the independent authority has not indicated whether indoors will be included in its scope to provide emergency responders with a nationwide high-speed, broadband network dedicated to public safety.

Location has also received scrutiny. In 2015, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) stated that, “(The) gap in the performance of 911 location service needs to be closed: the public rightfully expects 911 location technologies to work effectively regardless of whether a 911 call originates indoors or outdoors.” The FCC has set forth location rules for both horizontal and vertical location in which certain increasing benchmarks must be met over a timeframe of seven years.

Together, these Fire Code and FCC requirements represent changes that signal potential opportunity. In February 2016, ABI Research forecasted the public safety worldwide spend for DAS will double to $1.7 billion over the next five years. And in a move that advances the lucrative commercial indoor location-based services market, smartphone OEMs have made Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) a standard which will likely spur innovators to develop other applications including public safety.

Nuances Distinguish Indoor Public-Safety from Indoor Commercial Cellular

Members of the in-building wireless ecosystem that view indoor public-safety communications and E911 location as an adjacent market to capture greater customer share-of-wallet will likely find more differences than similarities to commercial cellular in their go-to-market strategy:

·       Public safety is a regulated industry which means that products and network performance “shall” – not “should” – meet specified requirements and standards. Failure to comply significantly impacts the venue owner.

·       Buyers, influencers and channel partners tend to be stakeholders the commercial in-building wireless ecosystem has not consistently engaged before. They include Venue Owners, Authorities Having Jurisdiction (AHJ), A&E firms and electrical contractors.

·       The buying decision is not based upon return-on-investment (ROI) but, instead compliance with an unfunded mandate. As a result, price is the key consideration.

·       OEMs should expect to reap lower revenue per project while shouldering higher manufacturing costs. That’s because the infrastructure needed for public-safety is approximately a quarter to a third of that for commercial cellular. Plus, products must be “hardened” to meet certain unique public safety-grade requirements which include NEMA Type 4 enclosures, 24-hour battery backup capabilities, dry contacts for fire panel connections, filtering against competing signals, and red paint.

·       The market is as nascent as indoor commercial cellular was in 2002, which means that the likelihood of a fundamental understanding of problem-solution scenarios among AHJs, CRE and A&E stakeholders is low.

Timeframes and Stakeholder Focus

ps-timelineA market currently exists to address indoor public-safety communications due to prevailing code requirements. But, given the aforementioned nuances, organizations should weigh the risks and rewards. It is likely that momentum for this market as well as E911 location won’t meaningfully increase until five years when codes become more stringent and uniform, LTE public-safety is launched through FirstNet, and location requirement standards become higher.

Conceivably, R&D, Marketing and Sales groups among in-building ecosystem organizations will be actively engaged in 2017. R&D should manage the product portfolio via a build-buy-or-partner approach with the understanding that the majority of buildings within the foreseeable future will be addressed by BDA Signal Boosters, not Active DAS and Small Cell solutions. To fill the information void, Marketing should develop programs to engage and educate AHJs and Venue stakeholders. Finally, Sales should similarly liaise with public-safety and E911 location buyers, and cultivate channel partners who possess both venue owner relationships and expertise in local and regional public-safety deployments.

In summary, requirements for indoor public-safety communications and E911 location services is going to usher evolutionary and revolutionary change that can manifest as either opportunity or threat to participants within the in-building ecosystem depending on how they position themselves. Will your organization be prepared?

Next trend: The Tier 2 Venue Market.

Mike Collado helps companies win mindshare and capture marketshare. He is a Principal Consultant at Wireless 20/20 and former Vice President of Marketing at SOLiD. He also serves as a strategic advisor for both industry and nonprofit organizations and is an author, blogger and frequent speaker at wireless industry events. Contact him at mike@mikecollado.net.


Bridging the In-Building Wireless Divide Between Carriers, Enterprises

December 8, 2016

By Mike Collado

Principal Consultant, Wireless 20/20

rp_Mike-Collado-150x150-1.jpgChange often has a dichotomous impact with elements that are both good and bad; beneficial and painful; opportunistic and threatening. But change is also inevitable.

Like it or not, evolutionary and revolutionary changes are afoot within the wireless industry. From megatrends which have pervasive tidal wave effects to sector-specific trends that have smaller ripple effects, these changes will present seemingly contradictory implications for the in-building ecosystem.

As organizations plan for 2017 and beyond, they must focus the right groups on the right things at the right times.

This multi-part series examines five key trends and how they’ll impact the in-building wireless ecosystem in 2017 and beyond. Related, we will forecast when each trend will be felt by the industry and advise which key functional areas (R&D, Marketing, Sales) should be focused on it in 2017.

First up was 5G. Next, it’s Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS).

Using Shared Spectrum to Enable Others to Connect to the Mobile Core Network

Earlier this year, the FCC opened 150 megahertz of spectrum (3550-3700 MHz) for commercial use. Known as CBRS, the band is located partly in the 3GPP TDD Band 42, and partly in TDD Band 43.

cbrs-spectrum-diagramIts backers, which include Ericsson, Federated Wireless, Google, Intel, Nokia, Qualcomm and Ruckus (part of Brocade), envision an industry ecosystem that leverages shared spectrum to deliver LTE-based solutions on a massive scale and serve as a catalyst for 5G. Simply stated, CBRS represents a new frontier of change.

CBRS addresses – among other things – coverage and capacity indoors as well as outdoors in dense urban environments. Notably, it enables enterprises, neutral host service providers and large venue owners to become mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) and deploy carrier-grade LTE networks on which mobile subscribers can roam. It’s a win-win-win: unresolved and underserved venues and locations benefit from having wireless service; subscribers benefit from a high quality of service experience; and carriers theoretically benefit from a significantly cost-effective shared network, which provides an expanded network footprint.

cbrs-illustrationAs pragmatic as CBRS sounds, there exists several important obstacles. First, carrier approvals remain forthcoming to connect these networks to the core network. In addition, commercial Spectrum Allocation Server (SAS) administrators have yet to be appointed by the FCC to prioritize, assign and manage frequencies licensed within the 3.5 GHz band. Last, CBRS chipsets must be incorporated in smartphones. When the first carrier approves, expect other carriers to follow suit. Meanwhile, SAS vendors are currently in interoperability testing. Look for CBRS chipsets in smartphones as soon as six months but more likely 18 months.

A Key to Unlock and Address In-Building Wireless Markets

Although clear answers do not currently exist, CBRS has the potential to reshape parts of the in-building wireless ecosystem landscape in profound ways:

·       Venue owners will be able to control their own cellular destiny and no longer depend on the carriers or third parties to bring service to the building. Instead, the venue owner will pay a nominal annual subscription to operate their own private CBRS network in return for possible revenue sharing from the operators in the form of modest roaming fees.

·       The neutral host model will be reimagined as no longer the owner and operator of multiple networks at a single location, but, instead, as a consolidator of many CBRS networks into the core networks.

·       DAS and Small Cell OEMs will innovate products to deploy CBRS networks indoors and outdoors. CBRS small cells will feed DAS head ends and use the distribution efficiencies of DAS for indoor deployments in certain enterprise venues that require multi-operator support. Meanwhile, small cells will evolve from single-operator to multi-operator, and offer the value proposition of low total cost of ownership and ease of deployment to address smaller enterprise venues as well as dense urban outdoor applications.

·       Lines will continue to blur between in-building cellular networks and Wi-Fi networks including infrastructure sharing as well as convergence of small cell radios and access points.

·       Systems integrators and installers will be in demand to deploy and maintain equipment to meet demand within unresolved and underserved market segments such as the Tier 2 (also known as the Enterprise or Middleprise).

Timeframes and Stakeholder Focus

cbrs-timeframe-illustrationCBRS is still nascent. However, with strong support from ecosystem stakeholders that represent carriers, the core network, smartphone chipsets, neutral hosts and OEMs, it’s likely that CBRS is poised to accelerate in the United States and begin to have an impact on the in-building wireless industry in about three years from now. Expect other countries to also adopt the shared spectrum model.

Therefore, of the key functional areas within in-building ecosystem organizations, R&D should be well engaged in 2017 to develop and execute on product roadmaps to support CBRS and/or interoperability testing. Marketing should be sharing the roadmap with the analyst community but not yet promoting among the distribution channel.

In summary, CBRS is going to usher evolutionary and revolutionary change that can manifest as either opportunity or threat to participants within the in-building ecosystem depending on how they position themselves. Will your organization be prepared?

Next trend: Public-Safety Communications and e911 Location.

Mike Collado helps companies win mindshare and capture marketshare. He is a Principal Consultant at Wireless 20/20 and former Vice President of Marketing at SOLiD. He also serves as a strategic advisor for both industry and nonprofit organizations and is an author, blogger and frequent speaker at wireless industry events. Contact him at mike@mikecollado.net.