& cplSiteName &

Urban Jungle Is Still Too Wild for Small Cells

Michelle Donegan
News Analysis
Michelle Donegan
6/11/2014
50%
50%

LONDON -- Small Cells World Summit 2014 -- As the Small Cell Forum's new urban rollout guidelines were still steaming off the press on Tuesday, five European operator CTOs started the small cell industry's annual gathering by sounding off on the challenges that hold back public access deployments. (See Small Cell Forum Tackles Urban, Virtualization.)

"The ecosystem is complex -- from local councils, to street furniture owners, to transmission vendors, and the small cell vendors," said Bryn Jones, CTO at UK operator 3 . "Trying to get all those suppliers to create one solution that's cheap and simple to operate in a cost-effective way is a challenge. The operational part is absolutely key."

Jones called on the industry to step up and work with other stakeholders to improve the situation. "Everyone in this room needs to work together on how we get that end-to-end operational experience," he said.

Small Cells, Big Cheeses
From left to right: Dave Salam, director for network strategy and core network infrastructure; Adrian di Meo, CTO of Telefonica UK; Frode Stoldal, CTO of Telenor; Manuel Rosa da Silva, CTIO of Portugal Telecom; Bryn Jones, CTO of 3 UK.
From left to right: Dave Salam, director for network strategy and core network infrastructure; Adrian di Meo, CTO of Telefonica UK; Frode Stoldal, CTO of Telenor; Manuel Rosa da Silva, CTIO of Portugal Telecom; Bryn Jones, CTO of 3 UK.

3 UK has rolled out more than 100,000 residential femtocells and is currently working on enterprise femtocells. Once the operator has rolled out its LTE network, Jones said 4G small cells could be used to fill in capacity and add coverage. But the big challenge with LTE small cells is getting enough backhaul capacity to each site. "How to get 60 Mbit/s to 100 Mbit/s cost-effectively to each small cell is the challenge."

Dave Salam, director for network strategy and core network infrastructure at the UK's largest mobile operator, EE , said that small cells were the right solution to provide capacity in dense urban areas in the operator's 4G network. The operator already uses LTE femtocells in some of its retail stores to demonstrate the 4G experience.

But, like 3 UK's Jones, he warned that "the fragmentation of the ecosystem, especially in the outdoor case, is working against it and will make it very difficult. The cooperation needed to come through that isn't there yet."

Telefónica UK Ltd. CTO Adrian Di Meo was more concerned about the cost of renting sites in an outdoor environment, and noted that form factors are being addressed but still need work. "The size and weight of the technology is getting there," he said.

For Norwegian operator Telenor ASA (Nasdaq: TELN), the problem with small cells is not so much the operational issues, but the business case itself: "If there's money in small cells, we'll invest, but if there's not, we won't invest," said Frode Støldal, the operator's CTO.

Portugal Telecom SGPS SA (NYSE: PT) CTIO Manuel Rosa da Silva added to the financial debate, noting that that the fundamental challenges go deeper than just outdoor deployment issues. "Anything that's HetNet naturally means cost," he said.

Ideally, da Silva wants the small cell business model to be more like the WiFi model, whereby the customer pays for the equipment. "With our managed WiFi and revenue model, we have indoor coverage. It works and our customers finance that," he said. "Monetizing data is very difficult. Our 4G network is running at 20% capacity. Until we see a model that is close to managed WiFi, then we won't get there."

The concerns raised by these European operators won't necessarily be fatal for the outdoor, urban small cell business case. According to Gordon Mansfield, Small Cell Forum chairman and AVP of small cell solutions at AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), public access LTE small cell trials are well underway at several operators in more advanced LTE markets, namely Japan, South Korea and the US. While Mansfield did not reveal any details about specific trials, he said that AT&T was one of those operators.

But the candid comments from the CTOs echo the Small Cell Forum's own findings about the drivers and barriers for urban small cell deployments. The biggest drivers, according to a Maravedis-Rethink survey of 40 operators commissioned by the Forum, are: improving overall capacity; generating revenue from new applications; filling in capacity holes; reducing the cost of delivering data; and improving coverage.

On the flipside, operators surveyed said the biggest barriers were: backhaul availability and cost; securing optimal sites; monetization; and network provisioning and management.

With such challenges remaining, it seems that small cells aren't quite ready to survive and thrive on a mass scale in the urban jungle.

The challenges of small cell deployments will be analyzed during a panel session at the Big Telecom Event (BTE) on Tuesday June 17. See the BTE agenda for more details.

And for all the latest on the key small cell sector developments, check out Light Reading's Small Cells content track.

— Michelle Donegan, contributing editor, special to Light Reading

(6)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View        ADD A COMMENT
Mitch Wagner
50%
50%
Mitch Wagner,
User Rank: Lightning
6/11/2014 | 8:16:48 PM
UK more conducive
My impression of the UK is that the populated parts are densely populated indeed, making small cell deployments more practical from a physical standpoint. Is that correct?
AJ Allred
50%
50%
AJ Allred,
User Rank: Light Beer
6/11/2014 | 5:08:35 PM
City fathers owe something
Using the term 'urban jungle' helps point out how regulations at the municipal level seem to be viewed as unavoidable bumps in the road.  We look for technology work-arounds instead, as if city fathers were another form of hopeless rain fade.    

We need a set of arguments that push urban leaders to view commercial wireless as a vital community insfrastructure, like water, streets, and sewer.  We should not accept that wireless furniture gets regulated by how it looks, instead of how it works.  
MordyK
50%
50%
MordyK,
User Rank: Light Sabre
6/11/2014 | 2:33:14 PM
Re: Biggest challenge in monetization
It was easy for carrier's to stand on a high horse when it was all theory, but as they face the reality of complex and the diverse multitude of deployment scenarios in the coming years, they'll need to embrance previously avoided models such as network sharing and SC's as a Service among others.
Carol Wilson
50%
50%
Carol Wilson,
User Rank: Blogger
6/11/2014 | 2:19:28 PM
Re: Biggest challenge in monetization
MordyK,

You present an interesting and very reasonable scenario.

I totally agree that there needs to be more creativity brought to this process. I also think that's why anyone planning to deploy small cells needs to be looking at all the options. Earlier this week, AT&T said it's even looking at the cable industry's small cell as a service options, something it wasn't so high on in the past. 
MordyK
50%
50%
MordyK,
User Rank: Light Sabre
6/11/2014 | 1:56:22 PM
Re: Biggest challenge in monetization
I agree Carol, but financing is only one part of the monetization play. Carrier's need to think beyond their current business models for ways to monetize and ease operational issues.

I'll provide an example in retail but this applies to any sector if modified.

When a carrier approaches a retailer or facility owner and pitches them on a coverage solution such as DAS or small cells, a carrier ends up with a big chunk of the cost depending on the facility and teh agreement. If however the carrier provided the facility with analytics or interactive abilities with the clients derived fro the deployment, a retailer/facility would be more than happy to take on additional parts of the deployment and/or maintenance burden.
Carol Wilson
100%
0%
Carol Wilson,
User Rank: Blogger
6/11/2014 | 10:29:04 AM
Biggest challenge in monetization
I think the two gentlemen who discussed financing all this small cell stuff hit the nail on the head. Using small cells for coverage makes a ton of sense but if you can't monetize it -- or get the customers to pay for it, as with WiFi -- then the cost of the build-out and operation of those small cells looms large as a major problem. 

If there's money to be made there, the other issues can be resolved. 
Educational Resources
sponsor supplied content
Educational Resources Archive
From The Founder
Kicking off BCE 2017, Light Reading founder Steve Saunders lays blame for NFV's slow ramp-up and urges telecom to return to old-fashioned standards building and interoperability.
Flash Poll
Live Streaming Video
Charting the CSP's Future
Six different communications service providers join to debate their visions of the future CSP, following a landmark presentation from AT&T on its massive virtualization efforts and a look back on where the telecom industry has been and where it's going from two industry veterans.
Women in Comms Introduction Videos
Cisco: Mentoring Critical to Attract & Retain Women

7|19|17   |   6:40   |   (1) comment


Liz Centoni, senior vice president and general manager of Cisco's Computing System Product Group, shares why mentoring in all its forms is important for women and what Cisco is doing that's made a difference for women in tech.
LRTV Custom TV
Gigabit LTE With Snapdragon 835

7|12|17   |     |   (1) comment


At an event in Wembley stadium, EE used its live network to demonstrate gigabit LTE using a Sony Xperia XZ Premium smartphone with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 chip.
LRTV Custom TV
Implementing Machine Intelligence With Guavus

7|12|17   |     |   (0) comments


Guavus unites big data and machine intelligence, enabling many of the the largest service providers in the world to save money and drive measureable revenue. Learn how applying Machine Intelligence substantially reduces operational costs and in many cases can eliminate subscriber impact, meaning a better subscriber experience and higher NPS.
LRTV Custom TV
Unlocking Customer Experience Insights With Machine Intelligence

7|12|17   |     |   (0) comments


When used to analyze operational data and to drive operational decisions, machine intelligence reduces the number of tasks which require human intervention. Guavus invested in Machine Intelligence early. Learn about the difference between Machine Learning and Machine Intelligence.
Women in Comms Introduction Videos
Verizon VP Talks Network, Career Planning

7|12|17   |   4:49   |   (0) comments


Heidi Hemmer, vice president of Technology, Strategy & Planning at Verizon, shares how bold bets and the future of tech define her career.
Telecom Innovators Video Showcase
Masergy's NFV Journey

7|11|17   |     |   (0) comments


Ray Watson, vice president of global technology at Masergy, discusses the advantages and challenges in entering the still-maturing NFV market for the past three years.
Telecom Innovators Video Showcase
Mavenir on RCS Cloud Platform & Multi-ID

7|10|17   |     |   (0) comments


Guillaume Le Mener, head of marketing and corporate development at Mavenir, discussed RCS and the recent launch of Multi-ID, which supports T-Mobile's DIGITS, the revolutionary new technology that breaks down the limitation of one number per phone and one phone per number.
LRTV Custom TV
ADTRAN Executive Outlines Trends in Next-Generation 10-Gigabit Cable Networks

7|10|17   |     |   (0) comments


Hossam Salib, VP of Cable and Wireless Strategy at ADTRAN, outlines key trends as MSOs begin to deploy next-generation Gigabit and 10-Gigabit cable networks. In the interview, Hossam outlines the advantages of a Fiber Deep architecture, FTTH options including EPON and RFoG, and the importance of SDN and NFV in building next-generation high-bandwidth cable networks.
LRTV Interviews
Global Capacity: Bandwidth Demand Driving Ethernet Growth

7|6|17   |   6:37   |   (0) comments


At Light Reading's Big Communications Event in Austin, Texas, Global Capacity's VP of Marketing Mary Stanhope talks about how the demand for bandwidth is changing the way service providers deliver broadband services.
LRTV Interviews
Colt's Services Chief on Digital Delivery

7|5|17   |   16:12   |   (0) comments


Rogier Bronsgeest, the chief customer experience officer (chief CEO!) at Colt, discusses the way in which the service provider interacts with its customers these days and his aggressive net promoter score (NPS) targets.
Women in Comms Introduction Videos
BT VP: Women Should Fill Security Talent Gap

7|5|17   |   6:00   |   (2) comments


By 2020 there will be six security jobs for every qualified worker, and Kate Kuehn, vice president of Security for BT in the Americas, says BT wants to encourage women to fill the shortage in jobs.
LRTV Interviews
Colt Sales Exec on Services Trends

7|4|17   |   12:59   |   (0) comments


Colt's sales director for enterprise, James Kershaw, sheds some light on the services currently in demand and how network upgrades are influencing customer demand.
Upcoming Live Events
September 28, 2017, Denver, CO
October 18, 2017, Colorado Convention Center - Denver, CO
November 1, 2017, The Royal Garden Hotel
November 1, 2017, The Montcalm Marble Arch
November 2, 2017, 8 Northumberland Avenue, London, UK
November 30, 2017, The Westin Times Square
All Upcoming Live Events
Infographics
With the mobile ecosystem becoming increasingly vulnerable to security threats, AdaptiveMobile has laid out some of the key considerations for the wireless community.
Hot Topics
Mobile to Power Online Video Consumption – Zenith
Aditya Kishore, Practice Leader, Video Transformation, Telco Transformation, 7/19/2017
Can Mushroom Sprout in Crowded SD-WAN Field?
Carol Wilson, Editor-at-large, 7/18/2017
AI Will Be Ubiquitous in 2020 but Overhyped in 2017 – Gartner
Sarah Thomas, Director, Women in Comms, 7/18/2017
Facing the Facebook Video Threat
Gary Miles, Chief Marketing Officer, Amdocs, 7/17/2017
Brocade, Broadcom Merger in Doubt
Iain Morris, News Editor, 7/19/2017
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed
BETWEEN THE CEOs - Executive Interviews
Following a recent board meeting, the New IP Agency (NIA) has a new strategy to help accelerate the adoption of NFV capabilities, explains the Agency's Founder and Secretary, Steve Saunders.
One of the nice bits of my job (other than the teeny tiny salary, obviously) is that I get to pick and choose who I interview for this slot on the Light Reading home ...
Animals with Phones
Fuzzy Quick Fix Click Here
If you can't access it, is it really broken?
Live Digital Audio

Playing it safe can only get you so far. Sometimes the biggest bets have the biggest payouts, and that is true in your career as well. For this radio show, Caroline Chan, general manager of the 5G Infrastructure Division of the Network Platform Group at Intel, will share her own personal story of how she successfully took big bets to build a successful career, as well as offer advice on how you can do the same. We’ll cover everything from how to overcome fear and manage risk, how to be prepared for where technology is going in the future and how to structure your career in a way to ensure you keep progressing. Chan, a seasoned telecom veteran and effective risk taker herself, will also leave plenty of time to answer all your questions live on the air.