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Small cells

AT&T Exec Leads Small Cell Group

The Small Cell Forum Ltd. said today that it has elected AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) executive Gordon Mansfield to be its chairman and appointed former HP Inc. (NYSE: HPQ) exec Graham Wright to a newly created CEO role. (See Small Cell Forum Elects New Chairman.)

The appointments mark a changing of the guard for the five-year-old industry body as the market for small base stations has evolved from indoor residential femtocells to public access small cells, which can be deployed outdoors as well as indoors for adding capacity to operators' mobile data networks. (See Who's Big in Small Cells? and Small Cell Forum Drops the 'F' Word .)

The group's new chairman, Mansfield, is executive director of small cell solutions and RAN delivery at AT&T. So it's fair to say that he is the big guy in small cells at the U.S. operator, and he has participated in the Small Cell Forum since 2008.

As a representative of a mobile operator, Mansfield said he aims to help the industry address the challenges that carriers face when it comes to small cell deployment and service strategies. Among those issues are backhaul and interoperability. (See Small Cell Backhaul Options Are Wide Open.)

"Getting appropriate backhaul to [small] cells is an important challenge to overcome," he said. "We have to drive beyond a scenario where we're putting cells where the backhaul is [and arrive at] getting backhaul to where your need the cell."

Mansfield said that openness was another important challenge. He said he wants the Forum to "drive a full ecosystem -- an open, inter-vendor, multi-operator environment."

Also, Mansfield sees another part of his role as chairman as promoting the benefits of small cell technology to national regulators.

In the new CEO position, Wright -- who was previously with HP -- will take on the day-to-day running and management of the Forum.

Mansfield replaces outgoing chairman Simon Saunders, who has chaired the Forum since it was founded in 2007. The Small Cell Forum has 140 members, of which 67 are operators.

Why this matters
With a representative from AT&T at the helm of the industry group for small cells, it suggests that operators are more committed to exploring the potential for shrunken base stations to add capacity and improve performance on their 3G and 4G mobile data networks -- more so than they have been for indoor residential femtocells.

AT&T has long been a supporter of residential femtos as well as small cells. As Mansfield stated in today's press announcement, "Small cells are no longer a new mobile technology on the horizon, they are now an essential tool in an operator’s toolkit." (See AT&T Defends Data Caps on Femtos and AT&T on Track for Femto Launch.)

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— Michelle Donegan, European Editor, Light Reading Mobile

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