Ericsson is currently working to meet operator demand for Radio Dot in order to begin trials in the second quarter, but -- once they start -- it's expecting an easy ride on the certification process for its new enterprise small cells.
Where Radio Dot won't get an easy ride is when it crops up in competitive conversations, as the specialist enterprise small cell vendors are less than complementary about Ericsson's approach to the market.
In an interview after the Swedish giant's fourth-quarter earnings, Johan Wibergh, head of Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC)'s Network business, told Light Reading that the Radio Dot system is on track for trials toward the end of the second quarter. All of the infrastructure vendor's operator customers want to do trials, he claims, it's just a matter of meeting demand rather than choosing one or two. (See Ericsson Flatlines in 2013, Trails Huawei, Ericsson Boasts Small Cell Breakthrough, and Top 6 Small Cells Movers & Shakers.)
Trials in North America will be among the first, Wibergh adds. Both AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) and Verizon Wireless have expressed interest in the small cell system, which supports LTE and connects through a building's local area network cables to a radio unit connected to a macro base station. (See Verizon Welcomes Ericsson's Radio Dot.)
Besides the general support, what gives Wibergh the confidence that getting certified with the carriers will be a breeze is that Radio Dot runs on the same architecture as its macro radio access network (RAN) products. He says that one of the biggest components of the process is certifying the software running in the base station.
"From a network management viewpoint, the Radio Dot works just like any base station when it comes to managing and provisioning the network," he says. "It will be a smooth ride on those aspects. Overall, I believe the certification will be easier for us than usual."
That's also why he expects Radio Dot to work smoothly in actual deployments. Unlike other solutions that are based on new software stacks, new hardware, or new ways of connecting, Ericsson isn't reinventing the wheel -- which, of course, is also a criticism of its new small cell system, which some have called a repackaging of its DAS (distributed antenna systems) radio head. (See Ericsson's Radio Dot Receives Mixed Reception.)
"We do expect to see quite rapid development," Wibergh says. "Attention is really high."
Attention is high not just amongst the operators, but also Ericsson's competitors. SpiderCloud Wireless , for one, doubts just how breezy the certification process will be for the big vendor. And, CMO Ronny Haraldsvik criticizes it for -- as he puts it -- slowing down the market for enterprise small cells.
"Inevitably there will be large companies coming in and promising to have something similar and slow down the market in order to catch up," Haraldsvik says, citing Radio Dot as one such example. "It's a classic strategy that sometimes works, sometimes backfires.
It'll be a while before the industry can tell whether the strategy has backfired or not since Ericsson isn't planning commercial deployments until the end of the year. SpiderCloud, meanwhile, has promised LTE/3G small cells in the second or third quarter. Haraldsvik also hinted that multimode 3G/4G/WiFi small cells are forthcoming. Both companies will be showing off their wares at next month's Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. (See SpiderCloud Eyes LTE Enterprise Small Cells in 2014.)
— Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, Light Reading