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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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Sarah Thomas 7/29/2013 | 1:41:04 PM
re: SpiderCloud: Cisco 'Naïve' on Small Cells This might stir up some debate. I agree that it's going to be a challenging market -- not that it's out of Cisco's reach, by any means, but harder than Partho made it sound perhaps. The fact that Cisco doesn't have an LTE small cell on the market yet should indicate that it's challenging. It's said one is coming for awhile now. Maybe the first LTE small cell will be multimode?
Ray Le Maistre 7/29/2013 | 1:45:52 PM
re: SpiderCloud: Cisco 'Naïve' on Small Cells Well, this sounds like something of a challenge -- I can hear the names of David and Goliath being whispered.... It's going to be a big challenge for everyone, no? having existing packet core capabilities in-house seems like a pretty good place to be coming from, though, and those Cisco/Starent folks have a good track record.
Sarah Thomas 7/29/2013 | 2:04:41 PM
re: SpiderCloud: Cisco 'Naïve' on Small Cells I agree. Plus, Ubiquisis has the LTE small cell smarts. Given the scale we're talking about with small cells, there should be room for multiple players. But, I think operators' existing vendor partners will have a leg up. SON will also become A LOT more important, I think. Cisco has that knowledge, too, with Intucell. AT&T will surely be a big customer for it.
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.
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...
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 ;-)
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.
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
terms.
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?
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.
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