Small cells

ESDN: Verizon Wants Fast, Cheap Small Cells

NEW YORK -- Ethernet & SDN Expo -- Verizon Wireless CTO Nicola Palmer is on the hunt for small cells, but she wants them fast and on the cheap.

David Howson, president of sales and customer management at Zayo Group Inc. (NYSE: ZAYO), a national broadband infrastructure provider, let this slip in a presentation Wednesday at the Ethernet and SDN Expo. He said that he met with the CTO of a major US wireless operator, and that she said small cells have to be cheap.

It stands to reason that he was referring to Verizon Wireless , because Palmer is the only female CTO of a major US wireless operator. (How is that for deductive reasoning?)

"We still have lots of figuring out to do in terms of how exactly how this will play out," Howson told the crowd at the mobile backhaul panel.

[Update: Verizon reached out to Light Reading to note that this is speculative. A spokesman says: "Verizon Wireless is not in a position to comment about elements of our business strategy which have not been publicly announced."]

As a fiber provider, Zayo believes fiber, not microwave, will connect most small cells. However, he said it'll require building a new network, acquiring sites and licensing, RF planning, the ability to coordinate multiple sites at once, and more investment. This is something the backhaul provider is trying to balance against demand by operators like Verizon for fast and cheap action.

Howson said that most wireless providers are still in the test and pilot stage. The overwhelming feedback indicates that a moderate number of small projects will be tested and deployed in 2014, and 2015 will be be the year operators go into mainstream deployments.

"It's becoming a smorgasbord of how do you get that fast and cheap deployment around small cells in particular areas and do it in the right turnkey ways," he said. That will mean different things to different operators, but the small cell challenge is forcing them to collaborate more. (See: Are Small Cells a Hard Sell?)

The Zayo man also conceded that AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) and Verizon Wireless are the farthest ahead in finalizing their small cell plans. However, AT&T has been a bit more vocal on the subject than its biggest rival. It has talked up the need for WiFi in small cells, and it has said it plans to have multimode small cells packing in WiFi, 3G, and LTE in 2014. (See 3G, 4G & Wi-Fi: AT&T Plans Small-Cell Threesome.)

Verizon is just now starting to talk up its plans. It recently picked its macro vendors Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU) and Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC) to build out its small cell plans beginning in the second half of this year. (See: Verizon Taps AlcaLu & Ericsson for 4G Small Cells and Ericsson's Radio Dot Receives Mixed Reception.)

— Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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Sarah Thomas 10/7/2013 | 11:09:33 AM
Re: Small cell advantage Good point, Chuck. Any indoor location-based service fit very well with small cell plans. This is all Cisco wanted to talk about when I visited with them.
DOShea 10/5/2013 | 2:44:23 PM
Re: small, cheap, & fast It's not so much a statement to take literally and entirely at face value. As some of the dialogue in the session and on the message board here suggests, a big carrier saying anything about small cells, or even showing incremental forward movement, sets the rest of the ecosystem in motion figuring out how they are going to deal get that business or stay competitive with the companies that get do get it, as well as how they will deal with the ongoing challenges of deploying small cells.
chuckj 10/4/2013 | 10:09:23 PM
Small cell advantage Telcos only think of small cells as tools to address coverage gap and not a business and ad broadcasting tool. The business case is being developed in South Korea, a small cell will easily pay for itself if it is properly used to broadcast ads.
MordyK 10/4/2013 | 7:20:40 PM
Re: small, cheap, & fast Sarah, We've come to expect things to move super-fast but in context small cells have taken the market by storm. I was speaking to one of the earliest small cell players and he said that were only 2-3 years behind their optimal projections.

One also needs to take into account some of the issues that are beyond the pure small cell but have to be resolved for large deplyments. The interference and other interoperability issues are well on their way to be addressed, but business models and deployment requirements such as new backhaul methods, siting, powerand regulatory toname just a few are also required, and all are well on their way to being addressed.
Sarah Thomas 10/4/2013 | 2:47:44 PM
Re: small, cheap, & fast I agree, although I just got a call from Verizon PR that he spoke out of turn and that's not information they're releasing. I'll update when/if I get an official response from the carrier (like that they want them to be expensive and take forever...). 
DanJones 10/4/2013 | 2:45:45 PM
Re: small, cheap, & fast Very true!
wanlord 10/4/2013 | 2:44:55 PM
Re: small, cheap, & fast doesn't sound like he let much slip. What carrier says take your time and make them expensive?
Sarah Thomas 10/4/2013 | 1:59:20 PM
Re: small, cheap, & fast He did say CTO though, but I bet both carriers share the sentiment. AT&T has set out an aggressive timeline on small cells too. 
manorjohn 10/4/2013 | 1:57:13 PM
Re: small, cheap, & fast The Zayo speaker could have also been referencing Kris Rinne of AT&T. Although not technically a CTO she is the decision maker for Small Cells @ AT&T.
Sarah Thomas 10/4/2013 | 1:46:12 PM
Re: small, cheap, & fast Ah yes, that makes sense. The cost of the device is probably going to pale next to the cost of licensing, backhaul, and installation.
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