Time Warner Cable Business Services believes that it's well-placed to deploy and run small cells, but it still has to sort out ownership and other issues with the carriers before that happens.
The Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC) operation has been considering how it could use its position in the industry to eventually offer "small cells as a service," said Greg King, SVP of business services product and strategy at TWC, speaking in a briefing in New York City last week.
Small cells are tiny basestations that are supposed to serve as a complement to the macro network, extending the speed and range of 3G and -- eventually -- 4G services. Much of the early action in the market has involved 3G home basestations (femtocells) but is expected to extend to picocells and metrocells that can serve public access needs indoors and outdoors over the next few years. (See Sprint Has Samsung 4G LTE Small Cells: Analyst.)
The second-largest US MSO believes that the backhaul capabilities it already has -- passing 10,000 towers in the US -- coupled with the building licensing and pole mounting rights it has as a cable operator, put it in a premier position to mount, power, and maintain these tiny basestations.
"We would like to have the opportunity to provide the entire service," King said.
There are one or two issues, however, to be resolved first. Key amongst these is the fact that TWC doesn't have the wireless spectrum on hand to support small cell deployments.
In which case, the cable representatives were asked during the briefing, do you own the asset?
"We could," offered Phil Meeks, EVP and COO for business services. "That is a topic of discussion with our partners."
A wider problem is that the expected dates for widespread small cell deployments have been slipping, with many now expecting that large rollouts won't happen until sometime in 2014 or 2015. (See ESDN: Verizon Wants Fast, Cheap Small Cells.)
"We're in a lot of discussions about it, there hasn't been much doing yet." Meeks said.
"I think it'll happen fast when it happens," King added.
TWC isn't the only cable company trying to understand the small cell market and potentially stake a claim in the deployment of these tiny indoor and outdoor radios. Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) is also believed to be testing small cells now. (See Comcast Testing Small Cells – Sources.)
— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading
Interested in learning more on this topic? Then come to a Light Reading Live event that takes place Wednesday, December 4, 2013 at the Westin Times Square in New York City. Back by popular demand for the seventh straight year, The Future of Cable Business Services 2013 is a one-day conference that will examine the progress that cable operators are making in the roughly $140-billion US business telecom services market and the challenges they face in keeping up the momentum. For more information, or to register, click here.