AT&T Launches RFI for Small Cells

AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) has big plans for little base stations.

According to industry sources, the operator has started a request for information (RFI) process for outdoor public-access small-cell base stations that support 3G, Long Term Evolution (LTE) as well as Wi-Fi. The sources say the operator could be looking for as many as 100,000 of the mini base stations.

AT&T already has plans to trial small cells this year, according to comments made by operator executives at the Mobile World Congress in February, and again at the CTIA show in May. But details about what type and how many base stations the operator is considering adds to the picture of its small-cell strategy. (See CTIA Postscript: Small Cells Step Out.)

It's not certain whether the operator has already drawn up a shortlist of vendors for the project. But such a list would probably include Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU) and Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC) -- AT&T's current radio access network (RAN) domain suppliers -- as well as Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), which supplies AT&T's Microcell-branded residential femtocell. (See Who's Big in Small Cells?, Cisco’s Big Small-Cell Ambitions and Cisco Works With AT&T Et Al on First Small Cell.)

AT&T said it did not comment on RFIs, in response to Light Reading Mobile's questions.

In the U.S., AT&T's moves to evaluate small cells to boost network capacity in high-usage areas follows news that Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) plans to launch LTE picocells by the end of this year. (See Sprint Tees Up LTE Small Cells and Why Sprint Needs 4G Small Cells.)

-- Michelle Donegan, European Editor, Light Reading Mobile

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joset01 12/5/2012 | 5:29:39 PM
re: AT&T Launches RFI for Small Cells

My bet? Cisco will win at least part of this contract. It has learnt a lot from the 3G femtocell deployment for AT&T.

ATARIstar 12/5/2012 | 5:29:39 PM
re: AT&T Launches RFI for Small Cells

For me that looks perfect for AlcaLu`s "lightradio" with added WiFi...

joset01 12/5/2012 | 5:29:38 PM
re: AT&T Launches RFI for Small Cells

Yes, AlcaLu will likely be in the mix. The whole thing with Cisco is that they're working on LTE and they're a trusted brand in enterprise Wi-Fi, you can see how that might be attractive for Ma Bell?

frenkeje 12/5/2012 | 5:29:34 PM
re: AT&T Launches RFI for Small Cells

I wouldn't count on it.  Cisco is a congolmerate of bought technology merged into a product that is slow.

I would bet that new core technology with scalability is what you want to base your platform on.. and Cisco has no innovation.

krishanguru143 12/5/2012 | 5:29:32 PM
re: AT&T Launches RFI for Small Cells

I disagree.  Cisco does have innovation it is just that they do it differently than others.  Cisco has allowed employees to start a start-up and Cisco provided the initial funding.  Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t.  The fact is, there are many ways to tackle a problem and at least with acquisitions, you are letting others figure out what works best.  Sure you pay a lot for it later, but R&D also isn’t cheap.

I would count on Cisco being part of the small cells.  What do you think the ASR 5000 series is built for?

I guess Apple, Alcatel-Lucent, Google, etc. have no innovation as they have all bought innovations.

OS X and iOS are based upon Darwin which is derived from BSD and NeXTSTEP which Apple bought.  Apple didn’t invent the music player either, they just made them popular.  Apple didn’t invent the tablet computer either.

Alcatel-Lucent has also done their own acquisitions along the way.

Google bought Android and a host of other companies.

digits 12/5/2012 | 5:29:28 PM
re: AT&T Launches RFI for Small Cells

I think Cisco's involvement hinges around a lot more than just its technology.

For me the key factor in this AT&T move is -- what has Ericsson managed to do with BelAir? 

krishanguru143 12/5/2012 | 5:29:26 PM
re: AT&T Launches RFI for Small Cells

I would expect both companies to be used.  Typically there are always two vendors used and rare when only one is.  When only one is used, it is usually more on the small scale in terms of number of units deployed.  I would expect something this big to have two vendors.  With AT&T already having a WiFi network though, I would expect that some or most of that core infrastructure to remain which would go in favor of Cisco.


Even with two vendors, nothing says it will be 50/50.  Ericsson is one of the two LTE vendors AT&T has selected though.  One struggling point for Ericsson might be, does AT&T want a third data network equipment supplier?  Currently ALU and Cisco are both used.  Ericsson could still be a source for LWAP’s and they should be able to use a Cisco controller, but support issues could arise.  They could also just have a Cisco and an Ericsson system and some areas will be Cisco and others will be Ericsson.  The big question, do these deplaoyments get merged with their current WiFi network though?  It could come down to the vendor that allows each “radio” to be controlled separately.

Mcgyver7 12/5/2012 | 5:27:08 PM
re: AT&T Launches RFI for Small Cells

Does anybody knows that AT&T considering additional residential femtocell vendor or indoor (enterprise) small cell vendor? Maybe this could be included in outdoor RFI. 

Currently only CISCO is providing femtocell to AT&T, but I think AT&T enevitably considering multivendor. AT&T is the biggest small cell buyer in the world, so, it is natural to think multi-vendor. Is there any information about that? 


Mcgyver7 12/5/2012 | 5:27:08 PM
re: AT&T Launches RFI for Small Cells

I think, CISCO is some difficult because as I know, schedule of their LTE smallcell is some late.  in top of that, in case of outdoor, interference mitigation with macro network is very important. So, macro infrastructure vendor like ALU and Ericsson have advantages compare to others. 

paolo.franzoi 12/5/2012 | 5:27:06 PM
re: AT&T Launches RFI for Small Cells


AT&T and Verizon would not award to Ruckus if they became a large portion of the company's revenue unless they can be part of a bigger supplier (see for example World Wide Packets).



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