As the wireless world shifts its attention to commercial buildings, OEMs are coming out with products designed specifically for in-building wireless in the enterprise space. At the Mobile World Congress last month in Barcelona, Spain, CommScope launched a unified wireless infrastructure platform designed around an IT-based structured-cabling architecture, attempting to bridge the gap between in-building wireless systems and enterprise cabling.
The ION-E integrates licensed wireless and power with Gigabit Ethernet for Wi-Fi into one unified wireless network, which features multi-band, multi-operator and multi-technology capabilities and uses cabling common to most commercial buildings.
The ION-E was four years in the design and engineering phase and took advantage of CommScope’s enterprise structure cabling expertise as well as wireless and DAS experience, according to Matt Melester, senior vice president and general manager, Distributed Coverage & Capacity Solutions, CommScope. The OEM has a billion dollar business supplying cabling to enterprises.
“We wanted to leverage the penetration that we have in the enterprise market with a product that would have a better fit,” he said. “What is the ideal product for this market? Answer, it had to be a lot simpler than what the current wireless solutions are. If we use a structure cabling approach, we could leverage the installers that have been working in the enterprise for the last 20 years.”
The ION-E is a simplified, optimized solution that can be deployed by IT professionals who are not wireless experts. Implementation is simplified by using the structured cabling systems familiar to IT installers, along with providing a simple user interface for setup and configuration with minimal input.
“The world lacks people who have RF design expertise. This limits the deployment of traditional DAS networks at a time when deploying indoor networks within enterprise buildings is increasingly in demand,” Melester said.
BYOD = Multi-operator, Multi-technology and Multi-band
Trends in the enterprise market, such as bring your own device (BYOD) policies, are increasing the demands on in-building wireless systems to support multiple operators, technologies and frequency bands.
“We see BYOD as a positive trend because of our emphasis on multi-operator systems,” Melester said. “The days of a carrier signing up all the employees of a company to its handsets are gone. You don’t have a homogenous mass of phones.”
Cloud Radio Access Network
Commercial buildings require flexibility to handle floor space layout changes, the relocation of users, or other changes that would require an extensive rework of the wireless system. The ION-E employs a standard grid approach and supports on-demand software-defined frequencies to flexibly adapt to changing requirements.
Base stations can be located off site, and IT professional can shift network capacity to meet changing usage patterns with a click-and-drag in a graphical user interface.
Will the ION-E kill the stand-alone DAS network?
Because ION-E is low-power and designed for indoors, it will not compete with products such as the ION-U, CommScope’s high-power indoor/outdoor DAS product
“The ION-E is ideally suited for the enterprise, not shopping malls or stadiums,” Melester said. “There may be some overlap in high-rise buildings that need higher-power DAS to combat outside macrocellular signals.”
In the next several years, Melester sees a convergence of platforms, with consistent headends and a consistent distribution methodology across all the platforms. Currently, the networks are evolving to integrate base station with the DAS through a CPRI interface.
“We expect to see more announcements like the one between Alcatel-Lucent and TE Connectivity,” he said. “It’s a positive step. A lot of money is being wasted because base station manufacturers have been reluctant to decouple the base station from a macrosite. High-power base stations in DAS networks are creating a lot of heat, wasting power and taking up a lot of space with the attenuation panels.”
Corning Converges Too
In May of last year, we reported that Corning had launched an all-optical, converged in-building wireless system at CTIA 2013, which is targeted at enterprises, hotels, convention centers and other venues that need high-speed, high-capacity wireless hubs.
Built on an optical backbone, Corning’s ONE wireless platform is designed to handle core cellular technologies and enable multiple applications, including wireless LAN, public safety and location-based services. In addition, it offers Wi-Fi support through its built-in gigabit Ethernet and power-over-Ethernet capability.
The platform leverages fiber-to-the-edge technology to deliver more bandwidth, services and applications. Along with greater data speeds, capex and opex are decreased and disruptions for upgrades are reduced.