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Have small cells finally arrived?

Ajit Deshpande - - 0 Comments

Last week saw a couple announcements about carrier giants AT&T and Verizon rolling out small cells in a few locations in the United States. AT&T announced that it had completed rollouts of Distributed Antenna Systems (DAS), small cells and repeaters across multiple theme parks for Disney. As for Verizon, supplier Alcatel Lucent announced that its small cells are now being deployed in the Verizon Wireless network to boost coverage and capacity in busy areas such as shopping malls, sports stadia, and high high-traffic areas. These announcements indicate continued momentum within the small cell space, and the actual deployments follow well from last year’s multi-year plan announcements from the carriers on this front.

There are only a few ways to deal with the cellular spectrum crunch: DAS deployments, or small cell deployments or Wi-Fi offload infrastructure. DAS involves more complex deployment, and wi-fi offload depends on VoiP smartphone adoption, which leaves small cells as the default solution for consumer cellular coverage. In this context, the fact that the carriers are moving forward essentially means one or both of two things – that the time has come to deal with the spectrum crunch, or that the consumer geo-targeting-driven ROI from these small cells has finally become interesting enough for the carriers.

As for enterprise-grade small cell solutions, things keep moving forward. Self-organizing small cell networks within the enterprise (such as from Opus portfolio company Spidercloud) make even more business sense for carriers than do consumer small cells, because the enterprise has far more willingness to pay for business services offered through such small cells (e.g. cloud access, security), and because aside from the more complex DAS, small cells are about the only way for pure-play wireless carriers to even have a device node within the enterprise. So, likely, the time for small cells has finally arrived…

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