Light Reading

Small Cells: The Battle for the Lamp Post

Dan Jones
12/5/2013
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NEW YORK -- Future of Cable Business Services -- Will mobile operators cede control of small cells and spectrum if MSOs can more easily deploy these tiny distributed radio networks across lamp posts around the US and rent the connectivity back to them?

It was an important question here at the Light Reading cable business services event on Wednesday.

Here's the cable thinking behind offering "small cells as a service." The MSOs already terminate fiber at lamp posts and buildings in towns and cities and so can provide backhaul to the small cells. Because cable operators typically have better building and licensing rights to install metal boxes on poles and walls than mobile providers, the logic follows that it makes sense for them to install and run the small cells and rent the connectivity back to the wireless carriers. (See TW Cable Eyes Small Cells Too and Comcast Testing Small Cells – Sources.)

"Small-cells-as-a-service is a home run for MSOs," stated Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO)'s Todd Nightingale on a show panel. He suggested that mobile operators are set up to run their private macrocell sites, not deploy a distributed network in towns or cities in the US.

The one snag is the question of which company owns the small cell and the associated spectrum over which the wireless data is broadcast.

"From a cable MSO perspective, we would want to own it,"¯ said Jitesh Bhayani, VP of marketing for business services at Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC). He added, however, that this is something that the MSOs are talking to mobile operators about at present.

Whatever happens, cable operators are now gearing up to at least test this new service model. "There are several trials that are being lined up right now," said Bhayani.

All the panelists agreed that the major MSOs are now eyeing this model. Cisco's Nightingale further suggested that the eventual goal is "coverage and capacity as a service," tying together wholesale small cell service and the tens of thousands of WiFi hotspots that the industry has been deploying.

In his keynote earlier in the day, Phil Meeks, COO and EVP of the Time Warner Cable's business unit, suggested that small cell deployments could start in late 2014. (See Meeks Sees Business Boom at TWC.)

— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading

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geneonlbk
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geneonlbk,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/22/2013 | 7:35:29 AM
802.11 AC
802.11 AC and wireless connection into the home could change how cable operators and carriers approach convergence. DOCIS may have reached the end of the road for the cable companies and AC into the home may provide an attractive path forward.
solucomp
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solucomp,
User Rank: Lightning
12/18/2013 | 11:33:52 AM
Re: My take on this
Dan,

I would love to see a detailed article around LTE use in private sector (unlicensed)

What is the latest in that space?

Also we are working with one vendor in Europe that has developed a PC based (100% software) eNodeB!!. Could be a great play in private sector.

 

 
Dan@LightReadingMobile
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Dan@LightReadingMobile,
User Rank: Blogger
12/17/2013 | 6:47:49 PM
Re: My take on this
50,000 sounds like a reasonable ball-park figure for 2014 for sure.
solucomp
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solucomp,
User Rank: Lightning
12/17/2013 | 6:35:57 PM
Re: My take on this
We have done cost analysis of getting fiber to the small cells with the help of some major fiber providers (can't mention names here).

The ROI doesn't work for them unless Tier 1 operators are willing to invest big dollars. For Tier 1 operators, a small cell will not generate the revenue in comparison to regular cell tower, therefore the entire fiber to small cell business case falls apart which is what Tier 1 operators are seeking. Alternative solutions such as Microwave, Lit fiber, managed services are still up in the air for discussion.

It will be interesting to watch the hand picked trial sites selcted by operators for 2014 and and see how the deployment goes. Lets not forget, besides smallc ell, we are talking huge increase in regular cell tower counts, core network upgrades, AWS, DAS and list goes on.

I think roughly 50,000 small cell will get deployed in 2014 combined tops. We are handling some deployments as well so we have some visibility into it.
Dan@LightReadingMobile
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Dan@LightReadingMobile,
User Rank: Blogger
12/17/2013 | 6:13:00 PM
Re: My take on this
Hi


The prediction is actually from our analyst arm, Heavy Reading, not a Light Reading editor. The prediction is that 700,000 public access small cells requiring dedicated new backhaul in live service by the end of 2017, not 700,000 in 2014.

Others have predicted far more deployed over that time period.


If you're suggesting that 20% or less of the 700,000 will be deployed in 2014, yeah, that seems possible/likely from what we've heard recently. 2014 seems like it'll be a tire-kicking year again.
solucomp
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solucomp,
User Rank: Lightning
12/17/2013 | 5:55:11 PM
Re: My take on this
Landlords across US finally won the lotto 6/49. Site acquisition and permits is a booming business thanks to the hype around small cells.

One editior of Light reading claims 700,000 deployments. I would say less than 20% will get deployed next year.

Not to forget never ending drive testing to collect performance data :)

 
Dan@LightReadingMobile
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Dan@LightReadingMobile,
User Rank: Blogger
12/9/2013 | 12:36:12 PM
Re: My take on this
I could see that for the future but as I understand it, virtualizing the RAN is coming but maybe not in 2014?
Vitesse Semiconductor
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Vitesse Semiconductor,
User Rank: Lightning
12/9/2013 | 12:30:28 PM
Re: My take on this
Dan, you make a good point about this benefiting smaller carriers, as cost will also play a major role in their small cell plans. Whether it's MSOs or the largest MNOs installing the necessary infrastructure, RAN sharing will play a major role in small cell networks. This formula is an especially hot topic in Europe, where 31 different service providers cover a fraction of the area covered by the four major carriers in the U.S. With RAN sharing, all operators can benefit from CapEx or OpEx trade off considerations depending on capacity needs. Expect to see more Software Defined Networking in 2014 as well, since SDN will be able to partition and virtualize multiple aspects of the shared RANs.
Dan@LightReadingMobile
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Dan@LightReadingMobile,
User Rank: Blogger
12/6/2013 | 11:32:24 AM
Re: My take on this
I'll try, no promises, but I have a couple of names.
milan03
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milan03,
User Rank: Light Sabre
12/5/2013 | 11:14:31 PM
Re: My take on this
If you could actually get NYC government members to chime in on small cell permits, etc would be absolutely incredible!
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