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Small cells

Small Cells: The Battle for the Lamp Post

NEW YORK -- Future of Cable Business Services -- Will mobile operators cede control of small cells and spectrum if MSOs can more easily deploy these tiny distributed radio networks across lamp posts around the US and rent the connectivity back to them?

It was an important question here at the Light Reading cable business services event on Wednesday.

Here's the cable thinking behind offering "small cells as a service." The MSOs already terminate fiber at lamp posts and buildings in towns and cities and so can provide backhaul to the small cells. Because cable operators typically have better building and licensing rights to install metal boxes on poles and walls than mobile providers, the logic follows that it makes sense for them to install and run the small cells and rent the connectivity back to the wireless carriers. (See TW Cable Eyes Small Cells Too and Comcast Testing Small Cells – Sources.)

"Small-cells-as-a-service is a home run for MSOs," stated Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO)'s Todd Nightingale on a show panel. He suggested that mobile operators are set up to run their private macrocell sites, not deploy a distributed network in towns or cities in the US.

The one snag is the question of which company owns the small cell and the associated spectrum over which the wireless data is broadcast.

"From a cable MSO perspective, we would want to own it,"¯ said Jitesh Bhayani, VP of marketing for business services at Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC). He added, however, that this is something that the MSOs are talking to mobile operators about at present.

Whatever happens, cable operators are now gearing up to at least test this new service model. "There are several trials that are being lined up right now," said Bhayani.

All the panelists agreed that the major MSOs are now eyeing this model. Cisco's Nightingale further suggested that the eventual goal is "coverage and capacity as a service," tying together wholesale small cell service and the tens of thousands of WiFi hotspots that the industry has been deploying.

In his keynote earlier in the day, Phil Meeks, COO and EVP of the Time Warner Cable's business unit, suggested that small cell deployments could start in late 2014. (See Meeks Sees Business Boom at TWC.)

— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading

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Carol Wilson 12/5/2013 | 7:33:43 AM
Network power also an issue Cable can also offer network powering of the small cells as part of the managed service, over their HFC networks. They are counting on the mobile operators deciding that getting small cells in place more quickly and more cheaply will outweigh the spectrum control issues. We'll have to see if that argument flies.
DanJones 12/5/2013 | 9:20:37 AM
Re: Network power also an issue Yep, hence Omnitron:

http://www.lightreading.com/mobile/backhaul/omnitron-give-me-poe-quoth-the-small-cell/d/d-id/706765
DanJones 12/5/2013 | 9:34:54 AM
My take on this I suspect that this will be more interesting to the smaller carriers than AT&T & Verizon. The big 2 hate to cede control of anything.
sineira 12/5/2013 | 12:56:10 PM
Re: My take on this Why not?
Same model as the MLAs now (Crown Castle et al).

I doubt they have an easier time to get thru the jurisdictions though.
Why would they?
DanJones 12/5/2013 | 1:09:52 PM
Re: My take on this The way the MSOs put it is that they already have those juridstications squared away with authorities because they've been deploying a distributed network of metal boxes on poles and buildings for years, the MNOs haven't.
sineira 12/5/2013 | 1:15:54 PM
Re: My take on this The question then is if you buy that.
A jurisdiction is never squared away and the process in the same for all.
They might have better knowledge initially, but that's about it.
Any good Site Acquisition company could handle that just as well.

But it could make sense from an Operator cost perspective.
DanJones 12/5/2013 | 1:22:40 PM
Re: My take on this Sure, that's why I put in terms of the 'cable logic ' of the situation.

:-)

I've talked to CTOs of mobile operators and it isn't as if they have no public building access rights either. So its not an entirely black and white situation.

Obviously I need to find some NYC local govt people that can talk to me next about how they are approaching the licensing situation of small cells since they are a new technology. I'll put that together and report back soon.

Hard to have the last word on this topic yet when its so fluid and new.
MordyK 12/5/2013 | 2:47:56 PM
Re: My take on this This is in effect a discussion of repeating the Transit Wireless Neutral host but carrier managed model we've been discussing.

Even carrier's like Verizon have done it elsewhere in the network, so there's really no reason why they should be against it if they can still control the RF management in their respective frequencies.

However supporting every all the hosted carrier's required frequencies in a single device will likely require SDR, as the traditional antenna approach would consume significant device real estate and overhead cost. This will have an inetersting effect on power requirements, although SDR has come a long way.
DanJones 12/5/2013 | 3:03:14 PM
Re: My take on this 60 Watts is not going to cut it? ;-)
MordyK 12/5/2013 | 3:22:02 PM
Re: My take on this It obviously will, but in the nature of small cells there will be deployments where optimal conditions aren't possible, yet for usage reasons it requires deplyment so power is an issue, along with the backup power issue in case of failure. plus the cost of power across all cells means that just because its there doesnt mean you want to use it if you dont have to.
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