For now, Telefónica's small-cell network in the UK supports only Wi-Fi, and it's looking to add cellular support

Michelle Donegan

July 30, 2012

2 Min Read
Telefónica Goes Wi-Fi for Small Cells

When Telefónica UK Ltd. 's O2 set out to deploy a small-cell network in London, the operator wanted the tiny base stations to support both Wi-Fi and cellular but it found that such integrated products were just not ready. (See Ruckus Sticks One on Cisco.)

The U.K. operator has deployed Ruckus Wireless Inc. 's SmartCell 8800 access points in busy parts of central London to supplement its free O2 WiFi service offering. Light Reading Mobile saw these access points on lampposts in the U.K. capital last month.

See Small Cell Spotting in London to get the picture.

According to Gavin Franks, managing director of O2 WiFi (which is a separate business unit within Telefónica UK), the operator originally looked at having integrated Wi-Fi/cellular access points from the start of this network rollout. But it turned out that this wasn't an option for them.

"The industry isn't quite there with integrated Wi-Fi and cellular capability," says Franks. "We decided to go with the best solution that we thought was future proof. But what we have is the capability of going back and retrofitting the boxes or locating another vendor on those sites."

To meet Telefónica's timeline, the lack of products that support multiple wireless access technologies and that are ready to be deployed may come as no surprise. Indeed, in Light Reading Mobile's list of small-cell products, many of those that are designed for outdoor use and that support 3G or 4G as well as Wi-Fi are scheduled for commercial availability around the middle of this year or by the end of this year. A couple of them are even slated for early 2013. (See Who's Big in Small Cells?)

So that means Telefónica in the U.K. is still looking for outdoor metro small cells that can support its 3G and possibly future LTE networks and that can go on the lampposts in London it now has the right to use. (See Mobile Capacity Crunch Looms for O2.)

"We haven't chosen a vendor yet," says Franks. "We're speaking to multiple vendors."

Franks didn't name which suppliers O2 is talking to, but a couple of them are highly likely to be Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU) and Ruckus. And here's why: Telefónica has a framework supply agreement with Alcatel-Lucent for residential and enterprise 3G femtocells and the operator has deployed 1,200 Alcatel-Lucent indoor femtocells in the Olympic village; and when Franks referred to "retrofitting" the access points deployed on London's lampposts, that most likely means going back and adding cellular support from Ruckus, which is part of the vendor's product offering. See Euronews: AlcaLu, Telefónica Are Femto Friends, Telefonica Picks AlcaLu Femtos and Ruckus Packs Wi-Fi & LTE Into Small Cells.)

— Michelle Donegan, European Editor, Light Reading Mobile

About the Author(s)

Michelle Donegan

Michelle Donegan is an independent technology writer who has covered the communications industry for the last 20 years on both sides of the Pond. Her career began in Chicago in 1993 when Telephony magazine launched an international title, aptly named Global Telephony. Since then, she has upped sticks (as they say) to the UK and has written for various publications including Communications Week International, Total Telecom and, most recently, Light Reading.  

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