Alcatel-Lucent puffed out its small cell chest Tuesday by announcing that it's in the running to win metro cell deployments with Vodafone as part of the mobile giant's Project Spring network expansion project. (See Vodafone Selects Alcatel-Lucent Public Access Small Cells.)
The vendor has been awarded "Supplier of Reference" status for 4G LTE metro cells "with integrated WiFi," which means it is an approved bidder for any outdoor 4G/WiFi small cell deployments included in the Project Spring network investments across Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia, into which Vodafone Group plc (NYSE: VOD) is pumping up to $12 billion. (See Vodafone Ups 'Project Spring' Capex to $11B+ and Know Your Small Cell: Home, Enterprise, or Public Access?)
That's good news for Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU), naturally, as it's been working hard on developing some killer small cells for indoor and outdoor deployments and signing up big name customers. (See Joint Qualcomm & AlcaLu Small Cells Due Mid-Year and Verizon Deploys AlcaLu's LTE Small Cells .)
But it's too early to get carried away. Even though Vodafone has said previously that it plans to build out 70,000 small cell/WiFi sites up to March 2016 as part of Project Spring, that doesn't guarantee AlcaLu any business -- it just means it's in with a very good chance of landing at least some of the spoils.
Quite what those spoils will amount to, though, is hard to determine, though it's not likely to be the making or breaking of AlcaLu, as the planned investments in the macro cell infrastructure are much greater, and there's likely to be competition for the 4G metro cell deployments from other vendors: Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC), Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. , Nokia Networks (formerly NSN), and Samsung Corp. have already been announced as Project Spring partners, though none of those vendors have been identified specifically as preferred 4G metro cell equipment suppliers. (See Euronews: Ericsson Lands 'Project Spring' Deal, Euronews: Huawei Has Project Spring In Its Step, NSN Lands Project Spring Deal with Vodafone, and Samsung enters into Network Infrastructure Global Framework Agreement with Vodafone.)
Still, it's a decent endorsement for AlcaLu's public access small cells as operators learn from early trials and consider how they might complement their macro cell coverage in urban areas with the smaller radio access elements. (See Lessons From Your Friendly Neighborhood Small Cells, Urban Jungle Is Still Too Wild for Small Cells, AT&T Gets 'Opportunistic' With 4G Small Cells, and Public Access Small Cells: Off to a Slow Start.)
Public access/outdoor small cells have been hyped for years as the next big thing in the radio access network, but deployments to date have been thin on the ground, as Heavy Reading senior analyst Patrick Donegan explained in this video discussion earlier this year:
For the latest developments in the outdooor and indoor micro-cell market market, see Light Reading's dedicated small cells news channel.
— Ray Le Maistre, , Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading