The greater Dallas/Ft. Worth area, known fondly by some as the home of the Cowboys, hosts the headquarters of myriad major communications companies such as AT&T, Ericsson, Hutton Communications, CommScope and Zinwave, among others. Now, the headquarters of South Korean DAS OEM SOLiD’s U.S. operations resides in this hotbed of communications.
The in-building cellular and public safety infrastructure provider has opened of its new headquarters in Plano, Texas, a suburb in the Dallas metro area after moving from Southern California.
“We needed a place to grow and California was not favorable for that. We needed more space, access to more top talent, technical and otherwise,” SOLiD Americas’ President Ken Sandfeld said in a phone interview.
The facility provides SOLiD with the space needed for its seven-year growth plan, which includes room for research and development on technologies such as virtualized RAN and new types of amplifiers.
“We need to enhance our logistics capabilities for assembly and kitting to handle more volume for the United States and Central and Latin America, as well as keeping more inventory on hand,” Sandfeld said.
The new SOLiD facility includes:
DAS Growth Continues in the Large Venues
The market for large venue, carrier funded-DAS was supposed to being drying up, according to industry analysts, but Sandfeld said it continues to be “extremely strong,” being driven by upgrades to existing systems.
“Traditional legacy projects have continued to grow in the last two years,” he said. “If that part of the business is plateauing, we have not experienced it yet. These systems are not lasting very long. Five years is the lifespan of a venue DAS.”
SOLiD is replacing legacy systems with new technology that supports higher density, higher capacity and higher signal strengths, according to Sandfeld, as well as fixing mistakes that were made on previous deployments.
“A lot of projects made mistakes in the technology that was deployed,” he said. “We see venues that deployed multiple DAS technologies by different OEMs, which leads to disparate systems, and they are now trying to consolidate them.”
As far as the “Middleprise” market, commercial venues from 100,000 to 500,000 square feet, is concerned, it is growing, but some technical issues still need to be worked out before it really takes off, according to Sandfeld.
“The market will pivot on the Middleprise faster when the standards for network integration for IoT are created,” he said. “The ability to interoperate with the core networks of the wireless operators needs to become more standardized and virtualized. Until that happens, the Middleprise will grow at a slower rate.”
ExteNet Systems’ Deployments in Sports Venues Tops 25
ExteNet Systems echoes Sandfeld’s bullishness on the large venue market. Recently the company reached a milestone of deploying operational multi-carrier distributed network deployments at 25 sports and entertainment venues across North America,covering over 25 million square feet of indoor space, alongside a corresponding 1,500 acres of outdoor space.
ExteNet’s footprint in the sports and entertainment market now features deployments across the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, MLS, AHL, NCAA and Formula One. Some of the venues include Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Barclays Center, Dunkin’ Donuts Center, Madison Square Garden, Marlins Park and Circuit of The Americas (COTA).
J. Sharpe Smith is senior editor of the AGL eDigest. He joined AGL in 2007 as contributing editor to the magazine and as editor of eDigest email newsletter. He has 27 years of experience writing about industrial communications, paging, cellular, small cells, DAS and towers. Previously, he worked for the Enterprise Wireless Alliance as editor of the Enterprise Wireless Magazine. Before that, he edited the Wireless Journal for CTIA and he began his wireless journalism career with Phillips Publishing, now Access Intelligence. Sharpe Smith may be contacted at: [email protected].
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.
SOLiD has launched its new Alliance 20W, which is a 20-watt DAS that enables coverage and capacity at large venues and outdoor areas including stadia, campuses and dense urban streetscapes. The network provides lower total cost of ownership (TCO), flexibility to support multiple bands and operators, and intelligence to simplify commissioning of the network as well as to conserve power during off-peak hours.
The SOLiD Allance 20W, which replaces the company’s TITAN 20W DAS, supports multiple wireless operators on a single platform that requires only a single strand of fiber. It eliminates the need for multiple, parallel infrastructure, providing up to four discrete inputs per band with independent RF power control so each wireless operator is guaranteed the same level of power output.
SOLiD’s digital Thor amplifier technology improves power efficiency of the Alliance 20W DAS by up to 40 percent comparatively while reducing the physical footprint. The amplifiers are not only smaller in dimension but also lighter in weight, which results in smaller, more aesthetic enclosures that are easier to install in more places.
The Alliance 20W possesses “green mode” intelligence which, based on capacity use, enables the system to further reduce power consumption. Additionally, the DAS features EasySet, SOLiD’s one-click auto-commissioning software that reduces installation costs and simplifies system commissioning and optimization.
Plus, the ALLIANCE 20W integrates flexible, modular combining options to support multiple outdoor antenna manufacturers. www.solid.com
It might be hard to believe, but a huge swath of what is known as Class A commercial real estate or the highest-quality buildings on the market has yet to be penetrated by in-building wireless systems.
ExteNet System identified real estate venues as ripe for implementation of indoor DAS three years ago. Two years ago, ExteNet deployed a DAS in the Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower) in Chicago.
“We see a lot of Class A buildings without in-building coverage, similar to the Willis Tower before we deployed there,” Ross Manire, ExteNet president and CEO, told DAS Bulletin.
Soaring 1,454 feet above Midtown Manhattan, the iconic Empire State Building also did not have an in-building wireless system. Until now. ExteNet Systems signed an agreement with Malkin Holdings to design, own and operate the distributed antenna system that will enable wireless access on each of the building’s 102 stories. The new DAS will serve as the crown jewel in the building’s makeover, which includes energy-efficiency, buildingwide energy infrastructure upgrades and the restoration of the art deco lobby at a cost of more than $550 million.
“Malkin Holdings clearly wanted to get coverage inside of the building as quickly as possible. It is such an iconic building, and it has so much traffic going to the observation deck, plus the amenity for tenants,” Manire said.
ExteNet is currently deploying its network, which is slated for completion in the second quarter 2014. SOLiD is the vendor for the hardware, and 15 miles of coax and fiber will be required to wire the building.
Manire describe the Empire State Building system as a “hard build.” With the building undergoing a complete preservation, ExteNet has the challenge of getting its work done while trying to stay out of the way of the other contractors. Additionally, because the structure is older, it doesn’t have raceways to pull cable through and will take more engineering work.
“One of the criteria of building an in-building DAS is that you have to generate enough signal in the interior space of the building so that you block out signal from the macrocellular environment outdoors,” Manire said. “That could demand a higher power system or more nodes and antennas spread throughout the building.”
Extenet is paying for the complete cost of the system and the deployment upfront with the expectation that it will attract multiple carriers to pay to use the system. So far, Verizon Wireless and Sprint have signed on as tenants on the neutral host system.
“We have two carriers and are working on getting two more,” Manire said. “We will move forward with an agreement from one carrier. If you waited until all four carriers agreed, you would never get anything done.”