A new LTE/Wi-Fi metro picocell from BelAir Networks Inc. , a company that counts AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) as a customer and already works with MSOs such as Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK), Cablevision Systems Corp. (NYSE: CVC) and Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC), could help cable share in the LTE buildout spoils.
Cable operators could use that picocell product, called the 100LP, to host LTE backhaul capacity for Tier 1 cellular carriers while also using the product to support an MSO's own outdoor Wi-Fi service, says BelAir President and CEO Bernard Herscovich. "We view both [approaches] as absolutely viable business models," he adds. (See BelAir Picocell Teams LTE With Wi-Fi .)
In that scenario, the BelAir picocell, which could be strand-mounted on hybrid fiber/coax (HFC) plant, would let the MSO manage the unlicensed Wi-Fi side of the radio system while the licensed, LTE portion backhauls traffic on the cable network on behalf of their cellular partners. The device's "virtual" access point capabilities are designed to let multiple operators share and manage a common wireless network infrastructure. (BelAir also makes a pole-mounted version for wireless carriers.)
Why this matters
Most major cable operators aren't expected to deliver LTE services anytime soon, but they are in a great position to beef up cellular backhaul revenues as telcos deploy LTE networks using concentrated, small-cell architectures. A product like BelAir's could give cable MSOs a new revenue opportunity.
For BelAir, the follow-on to its Wi-Fi/3G picocell introduced last August lets it play both sides of the service provider fence and, with the addition of LTE, gives it a technical lead over picocell competitors such as Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC) and Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO).
For more about BelAir's picocell technology and cable's backhaul ambitions, please check out:
— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable