As carriers bring 5G to market, delivering a consistent, monetizable service is largely dependent on network densification–beyond upgrades at the macro level, this ongoing investment will include large-scale deployment of small cells.
For operators looking to harness millimeter wave spectrum, this is particularly important given the limited nature of high-band frequency propagation. In terms of enterprise investment in small cells, private networks, both LTE and 5G, will help to open up a large market for in-building and campus-type connectivity, which is also boosted by movements around shared spectrum like the 3.5 GHz Citizens Broadband Radio Service band in the United States.
CommScope’s Mike Guerin, vice president of integrated solutions, and Luigi Tarlazzi, director of product line management for small cells, recently shared their perspective on the small cell market in an interview with RCR Wireless News.
Q: Blending small cells into the urban landscape via smart poles has proven successful in not just helping operators densify networks, but also serving the purposes of smart city-type applications. Are you seeing demand from city-level decision makers to foster smart pole innovation as they upgrade municipal infrastructure? Is providing a smart pole as a service a viable business model?
A: Guerin: “At CommScope, we have seen a broad spectrum of business models. Cities are trying to find smart poles with Wi-Fi, trying to fund those, leasing models, etc. But, they have to be careful because they want to avoid looking like a utility or service provider. It’s a fine line they have to walk. But they are looking for creative ways to support these initiatives. Large carrier[s]are motivated to get their small site and densification project built out, so it makes sense for them to work with cities and smart poles. But funding is still needed outside service providers – that’s the challenge. That’s where you have to look at other business models for it to make sense. However, it gets more complicated when cities own their own fiber rings.”
Q: Have the FCC’s moves to streamline small cell deployment via top-down regulations led to an increase in shipment volume or accelerated deployment timelines?
A: Guerin: “Yes, it’s a mix of all of the above. The incidents of small cells are absolutely in increasing. How much of this activity is tied to this and spite of is the real question. Customer interpretation has been pretty broad around the rules. As it pertains to the dictated leasing models, these are being fought more vigorously – state by state, county by country (the fair market value is often higher than what the FCC legislation states). That issue has been a bit more contentious. Regarding the shot clock, it’s less of an issue; carriers are following this pretty well.”
Q: What’s the demand for concealment solutions looking like and are concealment solutions helping speed up deployment?
A: Guerin: “Increasing, most definitely. Our experience is, when we get a system approved with the aesthetic characteristics (concealment) and specifications for a site, that becomes a widely accepted model – especially when there are multiple sites in the surrounding city. The next site tends to get installed much more quickly, because they are working off of an approved design, and that helps speed the overall adoption and approval process.”
Q: Help me understand the relationship between small cells and edge computing. Given the importance of edge compute to 5G, it seems like there’d be excellent deployment efficiencies if you consider the two simultaneously.
A: Tarlazzi: “Edge computing is key to driving small cell opportunities in the enterprise space. For service providers, deploying in-building LTE has been an expensive endeavor, where they haven’t always seen a return on investment. With edge computing and 5G, that all changes; it opens up many new applications and many more benefits to the provider. Mobile edge computing tracks to a lower level latency, which is more efficient for in-building environments with lots of customers and devices to process. Hospital and health facilities is a perfect example of this, where facility owners want to keep the data local. MEC reduces network congestion, where latency dependent devices are critical. With 5G technology, MEC becomes an even more efficient means for delivering in-building wireless. As the core network functions moves closer to the facilities edge, MEC provides better localization of services and processing for future 5G and IoT applications.”
The post The state of the small cell market: A Q&A with CommScope appeared first on RCR Wireless News.