Packet core

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

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DanJonesLRMobile 8/5/2013 | 5:22:00 PM
re: SpiderCloud: Cisco 'Naïve' on Small Cells Yeah, the existing players are going to be the biggest block to new players. We've already seen operators pick their macro providers for initial small cell deployments.
hbajwa 7/31/2013 | 3:19:40 AM
re: SpiderCloud: Cisco 'Naïve' on Small Cells Hrmm, I can't really tell if Ronny's comment is intended as a challenge, or simply a reflection on Cisco's hubris in believing that a strong EPC (Starent) and a somewhat strong SON portfolio (Intucell) can transform a middling femto (Ubiquisys) into an enterprise small cell contender. Either way, Cisco's bigger problems in this space seem to be coming from the dominant RAN players; they would likely allow SpiderCloud to succeed far before ceding any turf to Cisco.
hbajwa 7/31/2013 | 2:30:30 AM
re: SpiderCloud: Cisco 'Naïve' on Small Cells Enterprise small cells are somewhat different from residential small cells, especially in the 3G field. I think the comment was reasonable in the context that hand in to the small cell from the macro is a non-trivial exercise, but pretty much a must for enterprise settings.
Atlantis-dude 7/30/2013 | 2:05:09 PM
re: SpiderCloud: Cisco 'Naïve' on Small Cells Cisco is going to wash away this itsy bitsy before they realize what hit them.
DKelley 7/30/2013 | 1:24:29 PM
re: SpiderCloud: Cisco 'Naïve' on Small Cells "Cisco is a relatively new player in the small cell market..." umm, really? I was under the impression that Cisco has the largest small cell deployment in the world - the ATT Microcell? Perhaps they have learned just a bit from that?
ATARIstar 7/29/2013 | 9:16:55 PM
re: SpiderCloud: Cisco 'Naïve' on Small Cells Qualcomm and Alcatel-Lucent in ‘small cell’ mobile tie-up

Qualcomm is to acquire a stake in Alcatel-Lucent as part of a far-reaching partnership agreement to develop the next generation of smaller mobile cell transmitters capable of coping with the rapid increase in mobile data.
The deal between the US chipmaker and the struggling French telecoms equipment group will be worth more than €100m in total research and development expenditure, according to a person familiar with the
Carol Wilson 7/29/2013 | 8:59:08 PM
re: SpiderCloud: Cisco 'Naïve' on Small Cells Is is possible that a large company with deep pockets such as Cisco just has more resources to throw at solving the challenges inherent in doing this, versus a much smaller company with fewer resources.
DanJonesLRMobile 7/29/2013 | 8:58:28 PM
re: SpiderCloud: Cisco 'Naïve' on Small Cells First wave of AT&T small cells in Q3-Q4 2013 can be single mode. Ma Bell wants the next generation after to be multi-mode though. They also want say they want multi-vendor deployments.

They also want the moon on a stick ;-)
Sarah Thomas 7/29/2013 | 3:52:45 PM
re: SpiderCloud: Cisco 'Naïve' on Small Cells I thought he said "eventually" though? It makes sense to make the LTE small cells multimode out the gate. WiFi is a cheap addition and 3G technology is mature.

Update to my comment: Donovan said in 2014 all small cells would have Wi-Fi: http://www.fiercebroadbandwire...
briley85 7/29/2013 | 3:37:16 PM
re: SpiderCloud: Cisco 'Naïve' on Small Cells Anyone who wants to sell an LTE small cell access point to AT&T will end up producing a multi-mode product; keep in mind that AT&T's John Donovan has publicly stated all their small cell access point deployments will include Wi-Fi.
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