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Small cells

TW Cable Eyes Small Cells Too

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.


daily_leonard 12/3/2013 | 10:59:19 AM
Re: TWC and Small cells Managed services is again a tried and true business model.  My first exposure to DAS was actually thru IBM trying to push a business solutions model that included, phone, internet, wireless, etc. all on a neutral hosted platform that IBM would own.  The carriers weren't prepared at the time to give up a monthly fee to them but given the outsource model today its whole new ball game.
daily_leonard 12/3/2013 | 10:55:37 AM
Re: TWC going wireless To provide backhaul, which is all the cable providers and other long haul fiber operators would need to do,  there is no need to own any spectrum.  Forming partnerships to transport these packages of voice and data to the hubs is all that required and nothing new.  Operators like Comcast, TWC, Zayo, etc. are currently providing fiber-to-the-cell (FTTC) for several of the larger wireless carriers now and providing this same service to a utility pole is no different.  Its a proven business model.
DanJones 11/6/2013 | 5:39:51 PM
Re: TWC and Small cells They wouldn't name names but they say they are talking to several. This seems like its going to take a while to play out, if it ever does, just like everything in the world of small cells!
JerryW805 11/6/2013 | 5:36:16 PM
Re: TWC and Small cells I saw that but they would have to have a small cell vendor that was approved and supported by the carrier to intragate into thier network. How could the carrier moniter network quality, hand offs, capacity, etc., unless TWC wants to provide SCaaS with SLAs and with a vendor supported by the carrier... It just might be that TWC is working on this with a carrier now and they want to vet the strategy by putting it out in pulbic...good article Dan!
DanJones 11/6/2013 | 5:04:43 PM
Re: TWC and Small cells Sounds about right, except that TWC was clear that they want to install and manage the small cell itself too. Hence "small cell as a service." Worth a mention I thought. 
JerryW805 11/6/2013 | 4:34:47 PM
TWC and Small cells Hey everyone this is a backhaul strategy for the TWC carrier partners. TWC wants to sell backhaul to the wireless carriers small cell locations and also provide them access to thier locations on poles and buildings.

The issue for the carriers and for TWC will be pricing for that backhaul transport for these small cells. If its priced the same as a marco cell site, the businss model for small cells will not work for the carriers. A 100Mg ethernet circuit cannot cost >$2000/mo per small cell location. As a former C-Level in the wireless industry this is an economic issue that the MSO all will have to deal with for these carriers.
DanJones 11/6/2013 | 12:36:37 PM
Re: TWC going wireless Its basically the table stakes for any MSO that wants to get in the small cells game. My sense form the TWC execs is that they're eyeing 2014 for small deplyments and 2015 as the inflection point if it happens.
MordyK 11/6/2013 | 12:32:08 PM
Re: TWC going wireless This a rehash of the same conversation we had when it was Comcast.
DanJones 11/6/2013 | 11:37:02 AM
Re: TWC going wireless Their counter would be that they can much more easily deploy boxes on poles in cities because they already have the licensing rights squared away with local govt.
Sarah Thomas 11/6/2013 | 11:00:05 AM
TWC going wireless TWC deploying small cells sounded all well and good until you get to the part that they don't own any wireless spectrum. I'm sure they could acquire or partner for it, but that seems to be a lot more complex and expensive than just sticking with its WiFi strategy. The cable companies do want a wireless strategy though, so maybe the economics work out?
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