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Vodafone CTO Opens Up on Small Cells

Michelle Donegan
LR Mobile News Analysis
Michelle Donegan

Vodafone Group plc (NYSE: VOD) is gearing up to put public-access small cells through their paces early next year, according to Group CTO Steve Pusey.

Speaking on the sidelines of Vodafone's half-year-results analyst and media conference, Pusey shared some details about where the operator is at with its plans for rolling out small cells and what he thinks is the biggest hurdle for the tiny base stations to overcome. (See Vodafone Posts H1 Loss of £1.88B and Euronews: Vodafone Stung in Southern Europe.)

The challenge is operational deployment, he said. That is, all the network planning complexities involved with locating and getting access to many different sites for the small access points. The classic example for such a site is a lamppost. (See Small Cell Network Planning Poses Problems.)

"Putting something on a lamppost in the U.K. is very different to putting something on a lamppost in Germany or Italy," he explained.

Also, since there isn't room for much more than one small cell on a lamppost, operators will need to be quick to secure these sites for their network rollouts before their competitors do.

"You've got to be first in … I want to get in early and seal the real estate," he said.

Vodafone has already put its first 1,000 small cells out into its network in the U.K., and Pusey said he has instructed all of the operator's regional CTOs to install the first 200 small cells in their big cities by March next year.

The timing for this technology target is partly due to equipment availability. Pusey noted that vendors were not going to be ready until January 2013 with access points that support 3G, LTE and Wi-Fi, which is Vodafone's standard requirement for the small cells.

The limited nature of these rollouts suggest that they are technology trials rather than commercial deployments.

As for Vodafone's small-cell backhaul strategy, Pusey said the operator was doing lots of different things, but he would not specify which technologies the operator was using because he didn't want to tip off his competitors.

Vodafone has been a proponent of small cells for many years. The operator launched Europe's first residential femtocell service in July 2009 and first posed the concept of an outdoor metro femtocell -- or public-access small cell -- back in 2008. (See Vodafone Dreams of Metro Femto and Brits Get Femtos From July 1 .)

— Michelle Donegan, European Editor, Light Reading Mobile

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User Rank: Light Sabre
12/5/2012 | 5:17:46 PM
re: Vodafone CTO Opens Up on Small Cells

"I want to get in early and seal the real estate"

So Vodafone can maybe do that in Manchester, Bristol, Cardiff, Glasgow, Plymouth, Leeds. Meanwhile 02 will seal it in London, Bradford, Sheffield and EE will nail Birmingham, Edinburgh and Nottingham.

I've picked the cities and the operators randomly just to make a point. But whilst they set about sealing whichever cities they can the operators will still end up having to do deals with one another to share access one way or another. And some municipal authorities will mandate shared access anyway.

Are lampposts really the mobile operator's equivalent of IPR? Talk about a dumb pipe....

Michelle Donegan
Michelle Donegan,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 5:17:46 PM
re: Vodafone CTO Opens Up on Small Cells

Vodafone's CTO is saying you need to be first in to get the good small cell sites, but it might have already been beaten in London by rival O2. O2 acquired the rights to street furniture like lampposts in Westminster and Chelsea for its public Wi-Fi network rollout with Ruckus Wireless.






User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 5:17:41 PM
re: Vodafone CTO Opens Up on Small Cells

In the macrocell market, you have independent companies operating the towers on which multiple wireless carriers locate their equipment. Seems like there's an opportunity for someone to do the same thing in the small cell market.

User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 5:17:40 PM
re: Vodafone CTO Opens Up on Small Cells

There are a few companies already positioning themselves to do just that (wholesale licensed or unlicensed small cell access to the carriers).  Virgin Media being an example in the UK and TowerStream in the US.

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