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Small cells: enabling unified communications for the post-PC era

Enterprise small cell networks could drive uptake of UC services

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The focus of enterprise Unified Communications (UC) manufacturers on WiFi has resulted in a quiet lack of UC usage on mobile devices, according to small cell vendor SpiderCloud Wireless.

This is because UC strategies are still very much a way to move telephony from desk phones into computers, and do not fully factor in the cultural shift to mobile devices and Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) that has occurred over the last few years.

People don't use UC on mobile because it overlooks the usability of the system. Mobile devices have a native dialer subsystem built into them that the device owner uses every day, and having to access a separate app to make and receive calls is simply too much hassle.

In Spidercloud's pilot testing, every vendor’s UC platform was abandoned by business customers in favour of using the native dialer on the iPhone. Complaints included dropped calls, poor network coverage, clunky interface, inbound PSTN calls disrupting UC and overly complex software.

However, Spidercloud believes that enterprises can enable UC to be more successful and reduce the burden on device owners by incorporating 3G and, eventually, 4G LTE support into their strategies.

This can be achieved by deploying scalable small cells within the enterprise that support integrated radio access technology (RAT) UC in addition to legacy WiFi-only UC.

“UC is probably one of the biggest secrets out there, in that it doesn't work,” said Ronny Haraldsvik, CMO of SpiderCloud. “A scalable small cell system can make the complexity and the cost of UC go away.

“What Aruba did for wireless is what we're doing for mobility. So we're helping the enterprise go from being a wireless enterprise to being a mobile enterprise, and there's a role of the operator in that transition.”

Haraldsvik said that a new and more important role is emerging for mobile operators, whereby enterprise mobility and value-added IP services become “part of the package”. In this way, they can bridge the gap from their networks into the enterprise UC architecture.

“You can decide – buy all of the equipment from Cisco and try to push voice-over-WiFi and buy MobileIron device management directly from the vendor, or ask the operator to provide the whole lot as a service,” said Haraldsvik.

“It won't hurt Cisco and MobileIron; the service will just be coming through a different channel, meaning a go-to-market partnership.”

SpiderCloud Wireless enables mobile operators to build very dense small cell networks to address their own network coverage and capacity needs and offer enterprise customers with reliable mobile, application and cloud services.

The company's scalable small cell Enterprise Radio Access Network (E-RAN) systems support 3G, WiFi and – from today – LTE will also be part if the platform. They work in a mixed indoor/outdoor environment, and can be deployed in four to five days for an enterprise of 2,000 to 4,000 people.

The E-RAN system consists of a services node that can control over 100 self-organising and multi-access 3G, Wi-Fi and LTE/4G small cells that can be installed using an Ethernet Local Area Network (LAN). One E-RAN can support over 10,000 connected smartphones and tablets, with just one connection to the mobile operator’s core network.

“The services node takes the role of a radio network controller, that normally sits in an operator's network. We put that on the enterprise premise, along with a WiFi controller and an open API services module so we can pull through applications and services,” said Haraldsvik.

“This is a clientless, effortless UC environment. Our system doesn't require you as a user to do anything. It will sense the best signal, it will sense the application, and more importantly it will make sure that it doesn't drop a call.”

Greg Collins, founder of market intelligence firm Exact Ventures, said that the introduction of a common, multi-access mobility platform for indoor systems gives mobile operators the capability and flexibility to offer reliable 3G and Wi-Fi coverage and capacity for years to come.

“Indoor multi-access capitalises on the coming architectural shift to small cells and will provide operators a platform for offering managed application and cloud services,” said Collins.

“And, when subscriber penetration requires indoor LTE access nodes as part of the indoor system, operators also have investment protection since the services node can support LTE via a software upgrade.”

SpiderCloud’ Wireless’s services node and the 3G and 3G+Wi-Fi small cells, are available now. The LTE small cell will be available starting end of the second quarter of 2013.


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