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Alcatel-Lucent, Qualcomm to Develop Next-Gen Small Cells

Alcatel-Lucent and Qualcomm plan to collaborate on small cell base stations that enhance 3G, 4G and Wi-Fi connectivity in residential and enterprise environments. The partnership combines Alcatel-Lucent’s experience developing small cells with Qualcomm’s small-cell chipset expertise.

The two companies hope to develop small cells with enhanced wireless network reception in environments such as urban areas, shopping malls and other enterprise venues. By working together, Alcatel-Lucent and Qualcomm Technologies intend to accelerate the adoption of small cells and alleviate the impact of mobile data on wireless networks.

As the density of small cells grows over time, the chances for interference will grow commensurately. As a result, future technologies will need to provide better signal-to-noise reception and improved optimizing.

To facilitate this acceleration, the two companies plan to jointly invest in a strategic R&D program to develop the next generation of Alcatel-Lucent lightRadio small cell products featuring Qualcomm Technologies’ FSM9900 family of small cell chipsets.

On June 19, Michel Combes, CEO, Alcatel-Lucent, announced “The Shift Plan,” which is designed to transform the company from a telecom equipment generalist into a specialist provider of mobile and fixed broadband access and core networking. Additionally, the manufacturer’s management structure will be reorganized into four main business lines: IP Routing and Transport, IP Platforms, Wireless Networks and Fixed Networks.

“This initiative [with Qualcomm] perfectly illustrates The Shift Plan we announced last month, which will see Alcatel-Lucent focus on growth technologies, including those facilitating ultra-broadband access,” Combes said. “We also said we would actively seek collaboration with key industry players, working together with Qualcomm Technologies.”

Combes replaced Ben Verwaayen, who left the company after it incurred a net annual loss of $1.8 billion in 2012, down from a net profit of $1.1 billion the previous year. It was the only one of the major wireless infrastructure companies that incurred a loss. As a matter of course, Alcatel-Lucent is shifting its assets and resources to high-profit areas.

ABI Research’s competitive assessment ranked Alcatel-Lucent as the most innovative vendor with three best–in-class scores for innovation in the areas of R&D investment and commitment, small cell and HetNet development and TCO innovation.

Wi-Fi Ventures Beyond Carrier Offload

Wi-Fi, well known as the killer app for cell tower overload, may become critical to other platforms, as well.

HetNets Tower, a subsidiary of TowerStream, added its first rent-based cable company anchor tenant on its neutral host Wi-Fi network in the second quarter, Jeff Thompson, TowerStream president and CEO, told the second quarter earnings call.

“Combined with our existing customer base, this is a clear indication that the use of Wi-Fi to offload mobile data will continue to increase as carriers, cable companies and other Internet platform companies employ a wide range of solutions to address rapidly growing traffic volumes,” he said.

While 21 exabytes are projected to be offloaded from cellular systems by 2017, the Wi-Fi market opportunity is expanding beyond cellular offload, Thompson said. He noted the recent decision by Starbucks to switch its Wi-Fi service at 7,000 stores to Google from AT&T is an example of the expanding importance of Wi-Fi.

“Not only does this deal showcase the importance of Wi-Fi as a significant competitive advantage for a range of companies, it also demonstrates Google emerging as a significant Wi-Fi player,” he said.

Cable companies are also enhancing their Wi-Fi networks, which Thompson said will lead them to HetNets’ doorstep.

“We expect TowerStream [HetNets] to be a significant beneficiary of the trend, and as announced on June 28, we signed a rent-based Wi-Fi lease agreement with a major cable operator for our New York City Metro network,” he said. That company has requested additional sites be built to address its coverage needs.

Thompson said he expects cable companies to be interested in the HetNets Tower’s franchises in other cities including San Francisco, Chicago and Miami.

HetNets also expects to see growth from its carrier customers, one of which, MetroPCS, is just completing integration with a new parent company.

The second quarter also heralded the certification of HetNets’ Manhattan network by the Wi-Fi Alliance as a next-generation hot-spot compliant. The operator-grade Wi-Fi certified Passpoint program allows Passpoint mobile devices to automatically discover and connect to Wi-Fi networks powered by Passpoint-certified access points, increasing carrier data offload.

“Our shared wireless network presently has substantial capacity available for lease,” said Joseph Hernon, CFO. “With the introduction of Hotspot 2.0, the number of Wi-Fi customers is virtually unlimited. We also have more than 10,000 small cell locations available for lease. We look forward to bringing additional customers onto the shared wireless network.”

Small Cells Tested in Public Safety’s Band 14

Bay Area Regional Interoperable Communications Authority (BayRICS) will oversee the build out and operation of one of the first LTE networks designed exclusively for public safety, which will eventually become part of the FirstNet nationwide public safety broadband network. The Band Class 14 LTE test network will take place in Silicon Valley using small cells provided by PureWave Networks.

“Small cells offer capabilities that will be very useful for public safety wireless networks, and there is much that we can learn about their use and applications from this trial,” said Barry Fraser, general manager, BayRICS. “We are eager to propose specific test scenarios and will monitor the results closely for useful information as we work with FirstNet to develop our regional broadband network.”

The BayRICS Authority is a 13-member Joint Powers Authority (JPA) representing the San Francisco Bay Area, which is responsible for funding, policy and oversight of regional public safety communications projects.

The network will consist of PureWave Networks’ Constellation family of small cell eNodeBs and will operate for the remainder of the year. Small cells will be demonstrated in a range of public safety deployment scenarios. Planned capability demonstrations include deployable networks, multi-tenant small cells and multi-operator core networks.

“Small cells will play a critical role in future public safety networks,” said Ronen Vengosh, PureWave’s vice president of marketing and business development. “In addition to increasing network capacity, small cells are the only effective solution for providing coverage in indoor public venues where public safety communications are required and for providing deployable, ad-hoc network coverage for incident management and event support.”

As part of the trial, PureWave is collaborating with a number of industry partners to evaluate unique eco-system solutions that will offer first responders advanced capabilities, including virtualized evolved packet core (EPC) solutions, and EPC-lite options hosted within the eNodeB itself. The company will also be testing the performance characteristics of the network with different UE types across a wide range of deployment scenarios and applications.

Other FirstNet pilot programs will take place in Adams County, Colo.; Charlotte, N.C.; Mississippi; Los Angeles; New Jersey; New Mexico; and Harris County, Texas. 

Safer Buildings Coalition Looks for Ally in FirstNet

As it continues to build a consensus, defining the problems that prevent in-building wireless systems, the Safer Buildings Coalition has been broaching the topic across multiple communities. In particular, it is looking to FirstNet, the proposed nationwide broadband public safety network, to be an ally in its mission to make buildings safer through wireless communications.

Deployment of a nationwide public safety network without consideration of in-building spaces would be a lost opportunity, according to Seth Buechley, SOLiD president and co-founder of the coalition, who has been engaging with the FirstNet leaders on the subject of in-building coverage.

“We find a shared concern that, without appropriate action, the FirstNet nationwide broadband network will get built and the public safety radios still will not work indoors,” he said.

The question remains as to whether FirstNet will take a position on in-building coverage or leave the matter up to each individual state.

“We want to prevent what happened in the cellular industry, which spent 20 years focusing on the macro networks and at the end of that they began to focus on the in-building coverage,” Buechley said.

In-building wireless systems pose a number of challenges that will require stakeholders to band together, Buechley said, such as how to define best practices. A consensus must be achieved among the various stakeholders about the importance of in-building wireless systems, he said.

“We have elevated the conversations across multiple communities and so the panelists reflect a broad section of the stakeholders, the cellular community, public safety and the vendor community,” Buechley said. “We have been very impressed with the way the public safety community, in particular, has jumped into the conversation.”

One of those conversations will take place at APCO International 79th Annual Conference & Expo, Aug. 18, in Anaheim, Calif., where Buechley will host a panel of public-safety executives to discuss in-building public-safety communications challenges and opportunities on a panel titled, “Developing Standards and Certifications for Converged Public-Safety and Cellular DAS Networks.”

Panel participants will be Jonathan S. Adelstein, president and CEO, PCIA – The Wireless Infrastructure Association; Buechley; Robert LeGrande II, founder, The Digital Decision, LLC; James Teel, director of business development, Harris Corporation.

“We are at the formative stage of identifying policy and technology solutions at the highest level through FirstNet for delivering mission-critical emergency communications to save lives,” said LeGrande. “To overcome often-conflicting interests and myriad challenges that include technical, liability, cost and management, pragmatic solutions must inspire — not simply require — stakeholders to participate.”

RF Router System

Dali Wireless has introduced a digital-over-fiber solution for delivering distributed wireless coverage and capacity. Based on the company’s t-Series RF router system, the Dali system extends the coverage and capacity of signals from wireless carriers indoors and outdoors in various environments. Primary components of the t-Series include tHost head-end units, quad-band t30 low-power remote transceivers for indoor applications, and quad-band t43 high-power remote transceivers for outdoor applications. Software options include network management and an advanced capacity management systems. All network functions, as well as adding new hardware, features and capacity re-allocation, are orchestrated from a single point via a user interface either locally or via the Internet.

With an instantaneous bandwidth of 164 megahertz in both the uplink and downlink paths, the system can simultaneously accommodate every active band (700 MHz, 850 MHz, 1900 MHz and 2100 MHz) used by the four major wireless carriers, with bandwidth remaining to provide network backhaul at 1 Gb/s as well as Wi-Fi capability. Wi-Fi traffic is completely isolated from the cellular network signals to ensure security. www.daliwireless.com