Small cell technology appears to be a potent tool as service providers and enterprises battle to keep ahead of the inexorable increase in data traffic. This class of technology can fundamentally change the operational and financial structure of an enterprise approach to on-premise mobility.
Small cells include picocells, metrocells and others, according to John Spindler, the vice president of product management for TE Connectivity’s Wireless Business Unit. Spindler begins his LightReading article by citing research indicating that businesses are willing to pay more to service providers who offer higher quality on-premise mobility.
The question, quite naturally, then becomes how to achieve this goal. Spindler creates what could be a tremendously attractive picture for enterprises. By using service providers that feature small cell technology, the edge of the carrier network moves inside the enterprise. In addition to the basic technical advantage of better coverage, the fact that the cells are part of the telecom network transfers costs from the capex to opex. The care and feeding of the small cell network is the service provider’s problem. All the enterprise has to do is send a check.
Infonetics Research released numbers last month that suggest an increase in the enterprise use of small cells. Unfortunately, the small cell results are mixed with more general femtocell growth numbers. This makes it difficult to get a direct indication of how enterprise cells are progressing. Nonetheless, the numbers are interesting. The overall worldwide market including enterprise small cell and femtocell equipment grew 6 percent in the first quarter of this year compared to the fourth quarter of 2013. Total revenue reached $144 million. Much of the analysis addresses the femtocell category, but the implication is that enterprise small cell category is growing.
Three companies, including two vendors and a service provider, made announcements in June regarding the use of small cells for enterprises:
- Cisco sees the benefits of enterprise use of small cells. The vendor introduced the Small Cell Enterprise Select program. The idea, according to eWeek, is for certification of Cisco channel partners for collaboration with mobile operators in the sale of 3G, LTE and related small cell technology to enterprises.
- Airvana, which Infonetics says is one of the femtocell/enterprise small cell revenue leaders, last month introduced OneCell. Essentially, OneCell is a robust, end-to-end LTE small cell platform.
- Cox Business is preparing small cell services for both indoor and outdoor use, according to CED. The indoor element will launch this year and “initial elements” of the outdoor service will be available late this year and the first half of 2015.
In-building wireless has traditionally depended upon distributed antenna system (DAS) platforms. The HetNet Forum, formerly The DAS Forum, offers a white paper that describes the approaches and distinguishes between them.