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NSN will take its distributed small cells approach indoor for businesses, but timing of general availability could still be key.

NSN to Take Its Flexi Zone to Work

Dan Jones
2/20/2014
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One of the more important aspects of NSN's latest small cell update is that it will give the company more of a play in the emerging enterprise space for improved indoor coverage.

Nokia Networks announced Thursday that it has expanded its Flexi Zone small cell portfolio, adding an indoor unit that the vendor claims has the same capabilities as a macro cell and is also managed by the same software. The vendor unveiled several small cell updates amongst a plethora of other news ahead of Mobile World Congress. (See NSN Turns Up Pre-MWC Volume.)

A small cell is a small standalone basestation that can be used to plug coverage holes and add capacity to the macro network. They come in several flavors. (See Know Your Small Cell: Home, Enterprise, or Public Access?)

Ed Gubbins, analyst at Current Analysis , says that bringing the Flexi Zone indoors is "notable" among the updates. "NSN is bringing its Flexi Zone architecture to indoor enterprise environs, directly challenging Ericsson’s Radio Dot System in particular as well as Huawei’s LampSite and Cisco’s small-cell play," the analyst tells Light Reading.

He adds, "When NSN first introduced Flexi Zone for outdoor deployments, it was too early -- operators weren't ready for much outdoor small-cell deployment, let alone a distributed cluster system. "But now vendors are proposing distributed systems for medium and large enterprise locations; Flexi Zone not only fits well there but has some maturity behind it because NSN had pushed it earlier."

Gubbins also thinks that the ability to combine Flexi Zone with its Liquid Applications system for localized services and cacheing could become interesting in the future. "Liquid Applications has been out there for a while, and NSN has been developing use cases for it. It also has some maturity behind it relative to some of the competing solutions," Gubbins notes. (See NSN: Understanding Liquid Applications.)

As ever, much of this will come down to time-to-market issues. Gubbins is expecting NSN to get the updated Flexi Zone architecture out in the later half of this year. Liquid Applications integration options will probably take longer still. NSN couldn't find anyone from the company to confirm timing because people are traveling to Mobile World Congress, so we'll update when we know more detail.

Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC), meanwhile, says it is expecting to take its Dot system to trials in the second quarter. (see Ericsson Expects Smooth Sailing for Radio Dot .)

Startup SpiderCloud Wireless , which is purely focused on the enterprise market -- rather than the slower moving public access small cell market -- has already inked supply deals with Vodafone Group plc (NYSE: VOD) for its units. (See Vodafone Launches Small Cell Service in UK.)

The enterprise small cell market is now moving faster because it is often easier to deploy, power, and backhaul the units in a business that already has its own Ethernet network installed. The Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD) trend has also helped to make the business case for better wireless coverage on corporate properties. (See How Heavy Reading Called Small Cells Right.)

— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading

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