Omnitron: Give Me PoE, Quoth the Small Cell

Dan Jones
News Analysis
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor

Omnitron might sound like a robot that converts into a car, but the company actually does something decidedly less "Hollywood" -- though potentially useful -- for operators looking to eventually deploy small cells en masse.

Omnitron Systems Technology Inc. claims to be the first company to make a compact Network Interface Device (NID) that can power and help configure small cells, the tiny basestations that are expected to extend the coverage and capacity of 3G and 4G mobile networks over time.

What it is
Traditionally, the telephone network box -- as NIDs can also be known -- mark the end of the carrier network and the beginning of the customer premises wiring. In this scenario, however, the Carrier Ethernet 2.0-compliant NID connects the small cells -- clustered on a lamp post or on a rooftop -- to the carrier network, be that a mobile operator or a cable MSO that sends them Power over Ethernet (PoE).

"This eliminates the need for a bunch of injectors," says Ty Estes, marketing communications director at Omnitron. Less cable runs and deployment costs is important for carriers trying to keep costs down when -- or if -- they head towards mass deployments of small cells. (See: Small Cells Exposed! Securing the Mini-RANs and How to Turn Thin & Crispy 3G Into Deep Pan 4G.)

GM4 PoE NIDs are available in two models: The GM4-PoE+ and GM4-HPoE. Both models support the 802.3af PoE (15.4W) and 802.3at PoE+ (25.5W) standards per port, while the GM4-HPoE models also provide up to 60W of power per port. The GM4-PoE NIDs are available with full PoE power on up to four RJ-45 ports, and feature up to two SFP fiber ports that support G.8032 Ethernet Ring Protection Switching or EPON ONU interface.

Omnitron has various small cell demarcation deployment lay-outs here. Estes says that the NID can support ring or point-to-point or other network topologies.

"There's a lot of ways to skin a cat in regards to deployment models," notes Estes.

To that end, the Omnitron NIDs also support DOCSIS provisioning of EPON for cable operators. This allows MSOs to configure the NIDs remotely like they would a set-top box on the network. (See: Comcast Testing Small Cells – Sources.)

"That's a little forward looking right now," allows Estes.

Right now, Omnitron is showing off its boxes at trade shows round the world and getting into carrier trials. Estes says the company has the NIDs in "five or six trials" at the moment with carriers in Europe, Russia, and North America.

Still waiting for the small cell revolution...
Like all the other players in the small cell game, Omnitron is still trying to grok exactly when the small public access radios will become mass market for carriers. "The biggest challenge that they’re having right right of way," suggests Estes.

Which is becoming something of an industry talisman these days. Part of the hold-up on small cells, it is suggested, is dealing with local authorities and utilities to get access rights to deploy small cells on buildings and poles.

Unlike the macro network cell sites, the operators themselves don't own the land that they deploy small cells on, so they have to deal with the people that do.

In short, the small cell deployments may be getting all wrapped up in red tape.

— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading

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