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SpiderCloud: Cisco 'Naïve' on Small Cells

Multimode small cell network management is anything but simple, states enterprise small cell systems vendor

Sarah Thomas

July 29, 2013

3 Min Read
SpiderCloud: Cisco 'Naïve' on Small Cells

Building and deploying small cells that combine 3G, 4G and Wi-Fi to bolster coverage indoors can't be that hard, right?

That's certainly how Cisco Systems Inc. makes it sound. But Ronny Haraldsvik, senior VP and chief marketing officer at SpiderCloud Wireless, which builds small cell systems for large enterprises and partners with carriers such as Vodafone Group plc, wants to make it very clear that there's nothing simple about coordinating and optimizing thousands of small cells with the macro network, especially when combining multiple access technologies. (See SpiderCloud Adds LTE to Its Indoor RAN Gear.)

And he's taking Partho Mishra, the VP and general manager of Cisco's small cell technology group, to task for his assertion that it would be easy to re-purpose its work in the macro mobile packet core for multimode small cell architectures.

"When we see Cisco say 'this stuff is easy -- we have Intucell and Ubiquisys, just squeeze it all together and mold it and get a scalable solution and everything is done and over,' it's a very naive statement," Haraldsvik says.

Those weren't Mishra's words verbatim, of course, but he did tell Light Reading in a recent interview that Cisco would have multimode small cells live in early 2014, and he downplayed the challenges in accomplishing that. (See Cisco: Multimode Small Cells Coming Early 2014.)

Cisco is a relatively new player in the small cell market, though it certainly has the capital and acquisitions to back up any bold claims. Yet, while it has had 3G femtocells deployed for some time, it has yet to announce an LTE small cell.

Haraldsvik's contention is that, when it does, Cisco will find coordinating networks and applying self-optimizing network (SON) technology in a small cell environment is very different to dealing with a macro cellular environment. Nokia Siemens Networks, Alcatel-Lucent and Ericsson AB all experienced this when they tried to convert their macro experience into an indoor environment, too, says Haraldsvik.

For one thing, handoff is a different beast indoors where there are only two to three base stations at most. The experience has to be seamless, accounting for real-time factors such as network congestion and device preferences. It also has to be interoperable with other gateways, certified on carrier networks and scalable.

These are a lot of the same issues that AT&T Inc. has said it's working through in its labs as it prepares to deploy multimode small cells next year. (See Multimedia Small Cells Get Stalled in Labs and 3G, 4G & Wi-Fi: AT&T Plans Small Cell Threesome.)

"If it was so easy, Ericsson, NSN and AlcaLu would have done it years ago," Haraldsvik jibes. "This may be one of the statements that could potentially live in infamy, like when [Cisco CEO John] Chambers said voice will be free. The good news is Cisco is engaging this and showing the importance of the market," states the SpiderCloud executive.

Haraldsvik does, however, believe that multi-access is where the growth will be, as Wi-Fi spending slows, but he says it will be mid-2014 before the market sees any momentum as he believes it will take that long for operators to get comfortable enough to deploy the multimode devices. And of course, the vendors, including Cisco, may be ready before then.

— Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, Light Reading

About the Author(s)

Sarah Thomas

Director, Women in Comms

Sarah Thomas's love affair with communications began in 2003 when she bought her first cellphone, a pink RAZR, which she duly "bedazzled" with the help of superglue and her dad.

She joined the editorial staff at Light Reading in 2010 and has been covering mobile technologies ever since. Sarah got her start covering telecom in 2007 at Telephony, later Connected Planet, may it rest in peace. Her non-telecom work experience includes a brief foray into public relations at Fleishman-Hillard (her cussin' upset the clients) and a hodge-podge of internships, including spells at Ingram's (Kansas City's business magazine), American Spa magazine (where she was Chief Hot-Tub Correspondent), and the tweens' quiz bible, QuizFest, in NYC.

As Editorial Operations Director, a role she took on in January 2015, Sarah is responsible for the day-to-day management of the non-news content elements on Light Reading.

Sarah received her Bachelor's in Journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia. She lives in Chicago with her 3DTV, her iPad and a drawer full of smartphone cords.

Away from the world of telecom journalism, Sarah likes to dabble in monster truck racing, becoming part of Team Bigfoot in 2009.

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