January 26, 2016 — SOLiD Inc., a South Korean-based manufacturer of wireless equipment, has purchased the assets of REACH Holdings related to REACH’s role as SOLiD’s exclusive North American partner.
At first blush the SOLiD’s purchase of REACH, which has been doing business very convincingly as SOLiD since 2010, might not seem like such a big deal. REACH has enjoyed a tight, exclusive long-term relationship with SOLiD, and REACH’s first employee and executive vice president Ken Sandfeld, has been named SOLiD’s president in North America. But the purchase opens the door wide open to the hotbed of wireless innovation happening in South Korea.
“In the short term, it will be uneventful,” Sandfeld said. “We plan to take advantage of SOLiD’s resources even heavier as one organization. We will have an enhance ability to communicate with each other, which will give us a better ability to deliver what our customers currently expect.”
What will change, according to Sandfeld, is the availability of new products and specialized products in the U.S. market faster through stronger product management.
“Being one organization instead of two simplifies a lot of things,” he said. “We plan on immediately having additional product line that was not yet being offered in the United States. We plan on offering an array of passive coarse wavelength division multiplexing [CWDM] and active tunable dense wavelength division multiplexing [DWDM] products to address the densification market. We are trying to solve problems that carriers have serving the edge small cells, DAS and RRH’s with more innovative optical products.”
Additionally, domestic SOLiD customers will have access to an expanded line of Interference Canceling System (ICS) repeaters.
SOLiD has been expanding its capabilities in other ways. Because of an acquisition last year of Pantech, it is now a radio manufacturer, producing cell phones and modems and other equipment. The acquisition increased its IPR portfolio in LTE and boosted its size to 1,000 people globally and now 75 in the United States.
The C-RAN and optical LAN products that SOLiD has deployed in South Korea are going to be required in the United States in the future, Sandfeld said, because densification requires more fiber in more places and more aggregation points.
“The optical products are going to make their way here. That is a key part of 5G – aggregating the bandwidth and communicating between nodes requires a lot of infrastructure,” Sandfeld said.
The inclusion of REACH into SOLiD also provides more access to lessons learned through densification in South Korea with direct access to the engineering and R&D department at SOLiD in Korea.
“We have realized in Asia that the emphasis on power consumption and size of the solution as well as the amount of RF that we can generate is paramount,” Sandfeld. “When you have nodes on every block the problem of power consumption gets a lot larger and size of the equipment continues to plague the industry.”
Sandfeld said additional radio head products will come out in 2016 with various power levels and lower prices in the industry, but does not expect it to be a breakout year for C-RAN.
“CPRI isn’t a problem solver for the majority of the networks. It is a problem creator. It is inefficient and OEM focused,” he said. “In the United States dedicated fiber is run and limited it to one thing such as CPRI or Ethernet. The C-RAN solutions that we make in Asia not only transport CPRI, but they also digital RF, Ethernet and PON [passive optical networking]. There is a lot more going on in Asia than here.”
The real problem that must be solved in the enterprise or “middle-prise” market segment, as SOLiD refers to it, has more to do with the signal equipment, than with a cheaper, simpler DAS. The killer app is going to be a solution that combines the enodeB radios into the solution.
“As long as we are selling a DAS to an enterprise that has to, in turn, call the carriers and to ask them to connect their BTS, the business model is completely broken,” Sandfeld said. “Even if a carrier agrees to supply a BTS, enterprises work on schedules of days or weeks, carriers’ schedules look out six months to a year.” As a result, the growth of integrators is limited, because they can’t complete their sales cycle.
With signaling equipment that is pre-approved by the carrier built in to the DAS, the carrier would only have to sign a signal re-transmit agreement.
“What I have been waiting for my entire career in DAS is to put the two pieces together that we can sell to the enterprises as a single solution. That is the Achilles’ Heel of the DAS coverage business. SOLiD is working on solving this problem,” Sandfeld said.