WiFi: Small Cells' Trojan Horse?
BARCELONA -- Mobile World Congress -- Obtaining the rights for public-access small cells is one of the biggest impediments to deployments, but Ruckus Wireless CEO Selina Lo has a plan: let WiFi be small cells' Trojan horse.
Her theory is that if a network operator starts with WiFi in a city, they'll have a much better shot of deploying a small cell in the same spot at a later date. The rights process is much easier with WiFi, but it's a significant challenge to small cells.
In fact, according to 23% of the Light Reading community, obtaining rights from the city to install small cells is the single biggest challenge in public access deployments. It was voted second only to deploying new backhaul, which 35% of the community chose. (See Small Cells in the City .)
So, here's where the Ruckus Wireless Inc. (NYSE: RKUS) chief's plan comes into play. Operators don't have the time or resources to spend negotiating with local governments for rights to their "city furniture," typically lampposts or traffic lights on which they can attach their small cells. But, there has been a resurgence in municipal WiFi of late. Lo said that cities recognize connectivity as a need, and it's a need they want to fulfill, preferably with partners.
"For a lot of service providers, this is another means to acquire sites, using WiFi as a Trojan horse," Lo told Light Reading in Barcelona. "WiFi is well understood; cities understand it, but a city could not implement small cells. By giving the city WiFi, they may let them attach small cells on the same post."
Ruckus is already working with the likes of San Francisco and San Jose, where it is creating its own goodwill by donating thousands of WiFi access points to provide connectivity in busy outdoor areas. These deployments didn't actually start with a network operator -- the cities decided not to wait but are open to leasing their networks to operators after the fact. But they are also just the start of what could be the resurgence in muni-WiFi. (See San Fran Taps Ruckus to Unwire its Outdoors, O2 Brings a Wi-Fi Ruckus to the Wharf, and Ruckus Eyes Carrier Deals After $126M IPO.)
"Now that the city has recognized [connectivity] as a need, it will be good for operators," Lo said. "They can really negotiate. The city has the need. If they can give them terms that are acceptable, it's a win-win."
— Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, Light Reading