Small cells

Top 6 Small Cells Movers & Shakers

It's safe to say that small cells have become an integral part of most wireless operators' network strategies, but right now, a lot of those operators are still in the planning stages.

While it's early days for small cells, Heavy Reading says the market will grow to include 700,000 public access small cells requiring dedicated new backhaul in live service by the end of 2017. In addition, there will be thousands of more private-domain consumer and enterprise femto or closed user group deployments, as well as some public access small cell deployments that leverage pre-existing transport infrastructure. (See: The Tall Order for Small Cell Backhaul.)

Operators are using the low-power base stations to bolster their network density, increase data speeds, plug coverage holes in their voice networks -- both indoors and outdoors -- and to manage spectrum more efficiently. While most have 3G femtocells deployed already, attention is now turned to developing and deploying LTE small cells that also pack in WiFi.

That's what makes now the perfect time to highlight a few of the more instrumental small cell proponents -- those helping to move the industry along, diffusing the hype, and pushing small cells out of the labs and into deployment.

Check out our list of six people to keep an eye on as the market continues to shape up in the next 12 to 18 months. Some are the heads of small cell practices at their respective companies and are "faces" in the industry, while others are less well known (and don't get out of the labs much).

This is the way we see the market currently, but we also know there is a lot of brainpower, and many influencers, making this important segment of the wireless industry possible. So please, suggest any additions (or make a case for deletions) on the message boards below.


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  • MikeP688 12/28/2014 | 5:18:36 PM
    Re: How'd we do? We as analysts and observers & "glorified geeks" need to have a broad sense of the technology at hand.   Having just caught up on this analysis leads me to realize that we are yet to truly scratch the surface--and everyone's opinion ultimately matters since I don't think anyone has a monopoly on wisdom per se.   It will be an interesting year, though..that's for sure :-) :-) 
    geneonlbk 12/22/2013 | 7:56:25 AM
    MDI I am wondering if small underserved communities can profit from investing in a Municipal Digital Infrastructure - fiber presence - and offer low CapEx/CapEx to the carriers for small cell deployment?
    DanJones 12/17/2013 | 5:57:21 PM
    Re: How'd we do? Heavy Reading's 700,000 public access small cells in service by the end of 2017 is a pretty conservative prediction compared to many other analyst's expectations. Vendors are not going to be happy if the actual totals are so much less than that.
    solucomp 12/17/2013 | 5:43:25 PM
    Re: How'd we do? Interesting topic as we are directly involved in the deployment of small cells in various markets as well as Wifi for utility companies.

    One key aspect has been missed in this article. Todays backHaul is nowhere close to addressing the demand of small cell traffic and the desired network architecture.

    Most service providers want to use dark fiber to Backhaul Small cell traffic, however less than 20% of targetted small locations can get dark fiber today if you are lucky. keep in mind the top 5 Tier 1 and 2 operators are fighting for available dark fiber. Looks like the landlords have won the lotto 6/49 finally :)

    Microwave and others means are not cost effective and reliable. Lit fiber is an option but Tier 1 operators don't want to entertain such ideas for small cell due to security, and traffic management issues associated with it.

    Latest discussion we had with some major dark fiber providers reveals that besides dense metro areas, it is not cost effective to deploy dark fiber to small cell site location as the ROI just doesn't make sense to the fiber providers.

    700,000 deployments sounds good as marketing campaign but in reality less than 25% can be really deployed in next 2 years.

    Sarah Thomas 12/9/2013 | 1:13:25 PM
    Re: How'd we do? Rupert Baines has a long history in small cells at picoChip, later acquired by Mindspeed, and is now an independent analyst at Real Wireless. He was a great resource for this list, so I think it's also worth including his thoughts on a few of our "other people to watch." Here's what he had to say about Saunders, who works with him at Real Wireless, and Mishra from Cisco:

    Dr Simon Saunders, Technical Director, Real Wireless,  "Dr Saunders was the founding Chair of the Forum from 2007 till last year, and was one of the most visible and respected figures in the small cell eco-system. Simon is also Technical Director of Real Wireless, a specialist advisory firm,  and is now working behind the scenes with regulators, investors, key operator groups and OEMs to develop and refine their small cell strategy. While no longer as high-profile, he is probably more influential than ever: the eminence gris of the small cell world"

    Partho Mishra, VP GM Service Provider Access Group. "Cisco's history in small cells is remarkable. Who would have thought that a company that swore it would never do licensed wireless would, almost by accident, become the #1 supplier of base stations in USA. That is by volume, admittedly, but Cisco's ambitions are now clear: they want to be top dog in revenue terms too. And it is logical: small cells ally well with their dominance in enterprise WiFi, and with the IP-isatioon of everything. Responsible for the acquisitions of Intucell, Ubiquisys (as well as Meraki) that challenge is Partho's to deliver"
    Sarah Thomas 12/9/2013 | 1:10:21 PM
    Re: How'd we do? Thanks for the additional suggestions, DAO. Verizon hasn't made as much noise about small cells, but I know they're in its near-term plans, as with AT&T.

    I would argue for both Tarazi and Nick Johnson. Tarazi made the list because of its work with 3G femtocells, primarily, but also because it'l be interesting to watch how he tackles LTE picocells. No carrier has a more complicated network situation than Sprint. If Tarazi can pull it all together with small cells filing the gaps, that'll be a significant accomplishment. We'll see...

    Also, here is what Baines had to say about Johnson: 

    "One of the first companies founded purely to deliver small cells, Dr Johnson can genuinely claim to be a pioneer of this industry. His experience, from GSM to 3G and LTE small cells, supplying ATT and  a host of other operators is unparalleled. Plus, he is one of the best speakers in the industry: it must be the Cambridge influence, but if Stephen Fry were to present on interference mitigation in self organising networks you couldn't hope for a wittier, more insightful talk than Dr Johnson gives."

    DAO 12/5/2013 | 2:15:43 PM
    Re: How'd we do? Sarah - the names are certainly relevant and a good cross-section. That said there are two Bill's worth watching their coming influences. 

    Bill Stone VzW, Exec-Director, Network Strategy

    Bill Hogg, AT&T, SVP Network Planning and Eng.

    No disrespect but Mr. Tarazi's influence in small-cells has been mainly in selecting suppliers and integrating their products. Not a real mover & shaker. 

    Good topic! 


    PS. Nick Johnson - really? 
    Sarah Thomas 12/3/2013 | 9:11:20 AM
    How'd we do? So, how did we do? I am sure some of the vendors will be unhappy about being left off or that their competitors weren't, but I'd love to hear from everyone about the inclusions and exclusions on the list.
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