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Verizon, AT&T Roll Out Small Cells

Ballyhooed by some, feared by others (DAS providers) and a source of confusion for most, small cells continue to move from concept to reality, allowing carriers to fill in dead spots, beef up congested areas and provide coverage for enterprises.

During the second half of 2013, Verizon Wireless will begin deploying small cells in its LTE network, which totals 497 markets, using access points from network vendors Alcatel-Lucent and Ericsson.

“As part of an overall 4G LTE network, [small cells] help deliver the quality, reliability, footprint and capacity to accommodate new applications, the burgeoning use of video and the popularity of smartphones and tablets with larger screens and sharper images,” according to a Verizon Wireless blog.

More than 200 LTE small cells will be deployed in the next six months to enhance localized capacity and coverage in business districts and shopping malls, wherever there is concentrated traffic. Because they are only the size of a mini refrigerator, small cells can be deployed on lampposts, utility poles and building walls.

“Like macro cells, they must be connected to the core wireless network and may pose operational challenges ranging from site acquisition and leasing to regulation and permitting by local authorities. While not a panacea, they are a valuable addition to a 4G LTE network, part of a balanced network strategy,” according to a Verizon press release.

Ericsson will be providing its micro remote radio unit small cells (RRUS) for Verizon’s LTE network, which can be easily integrated into the overall network because it works with any baseband unit as part of the RBS 6000 product line. It is the first commercial deployment of Ericsson’s micro RRUS.

Later this year, Ericsson will also provide Verizon with the micro RBS 6501, which is a multi-standard base station supporting 3GPP 37.104 and provides local-area and medium-range coverage in a heterogeneous network environment. The micro RBS delivers high-capacity coverage in a small form factor.

Small Cells Already Seeing Action for AT&T

AT&T has been rolling out HSPA+ small cells since the beginning of this year as part of its Velocity IP program and is planning to deploy a multi-technology (UMTS, LTE and Wi-Fi) version of the small cell in 2014. Jim Parker, AT&T spokesman, told DAS Bulletin that small cells would complement DAS deployments.

“It is interesting to see where small cells play,” Parker said. “In vertical markets where they demand neutral host access points, such as airports, shopping centers, major hotels, that is where DAS still has a play. This is not the death knell for DAS.”

Small cells will be deployed in distinct verticals where there is an unmet need and DAS is not a cost-effective solution, such as the enterprise, where it is easy to install the access points above ceilings and to use the company’s backbone to backhaul the signal, Parker said.

“We are really going after the enterprise market and other public venues, such as smaller hotels,” he said.

AT&T is deploying small cells outdoors where they have a need for additional capacity. To gain real time on where the network is suffering from congestion, the carrier uses feedback directly from its phones, which record the location of a dropped or blocked call and then transmit it back to the carrier.

“I can pull up a map of the United States on a computer that shows all the cell towers and, in real time, check to see which towers are under a heavy load,” he said. “Using these diagnostics, we are able to develop a strategy for small cell deployment.” 

Missouri Cell Tower Law Lands on Governor’s Desk

A law facilitating the deployment of wireless communications infrastructure has passed the Missouri legislature. The bill, known as HB 331, includes laws to restrict localities from implementing laws that discourage cell site development. The measure is now on the desk of Gov. Nixon awaiting his signature.

The cell siting language was originally in HB 345, but was moved to HB 331 to separate it from pole attachment language, which was seen as more controversial. HB 345 also passed the legislature.

HB 331 proposes to prohibit municipalities from evaluating a cell site applicant’s business decisions with respect to the design of its service, customer demand for service, or quality of its service in a certain area. A municipality would also not be allowed to evaluate a cell tower application based on the availability of other potential locations for wireless site placement. Additionally, the type of wireless infrastructure, such as DAS, could not be dictated by the local authority.

The measure outlaws unnecessary environmental testing requirements, charging extraordinary consultant fees and imposing surety requirements, among other things. Additionally, it codifies the FCC’s 150-day new application, 90-day collocation shot clock.

Even though the federal government has acted to speed wireless infrastructure deployment, local government and wireless carriers still deal a patchwork system of ordinances, terminology and processes that differ among various communities, Molly Kocour Boyle, AT&T spokesperson, told AGL Bulletin.

“This lack of uniformity slows investment, deployment and construction of wireless infrastructure, denying Missourians timely access to new technologies,” she said. “These bills create reasonable approval timelines and building permit fees to ensure timely investment for Missouri consumers.”

Parallel Bill Supports Siting on Public Land, on Electrical Infrastructure

HB 345, among other things, limits cell tower moratoria to six months in duration. Additionally, a moratorium could not be put in to place and retroactively hold up pending applications.

To encourage the development of cell sites on on public lands, the bill said an authority would not be allowed to charge a wireless service provider a fee to locate a cell site there or to propose a lease that is less than 15 years. It also set up a process for resolving disputes concerning fair market value of public lands.

The bill seeks to promote the use of the electrical infrastructure for siting antennas. Pole owners would be required to set rates for attachments that have been agreed to by all parties and are “just and reasonable,” which the measure defined as no more than the federal cable rate. It also set up arbitration processes for disagreements concerning pole-attachment rates.

Boyle said AT&T supports HB 331 and HB 345 because they represent a balanced approach to speeding broadband and wireless deployment, while considering the interests of local cities and counties.

“In previous sessions, the General Assembly has taken steps to modernize Missouri’s communication laws to encourage broadband deployment and competition,” she said. “These bills build on that foundation by simplifying and streamlining the broadband deployment process with consistent rules while maintaining political subdivisions and private property owners’ control over their public and private lands.”

Carriers Bolster Networks for 2013 Presidential Inauguration

With an estimated 600,000 to 800,000 people expected to attend this week’s inauguration of President Obama, carriers completed exhaustive system enhancements to prepare for the influx of people.

Final preparations for Sprint included deploying three cell sites on wheels (COWs) at key locations on the National Mall and installing in-building repeaters at the Capital Hilton hotel, the Washington Marriott Wardman Park hotel, and The Mayflower Renaissance Washington D.C. Hotel to boost wireless coverage. Sprint has been preparing for the inauguration since April 2012, boosting wireless voice capacity by 25 percent and increasing data capacity by 37 percent for numerous cell sites around the National Mall and the downtown area.

AT&T has spent $4 million beefing up capacity along the parade route. Nine COWs were deployed, which will increase capacity on the Mall by 200 percent. In-building systems have been upgraded and temporary rooftop antennas have been implemented with high-power amplifiers along the inaugural parade route, according to a report in the Washington Business Journal.

In total, AT&T spent $850 million on wireless infrastructure in the Washington area in the last four years. Between the last inauguration in 2009 and the end of 2011, Sprint invested $300 million in its wireless network in the Washington, D.C. market. Not much has been released about Verizon Wireless’ inaugural wireless preparations, but in 2010 the carrier did turn on its LTE network in Washington, D.C., which increased speeds 10X.

Sprint’s  Emergency Response Team (ERT) is also assisting public safety communications, supplying a satellite cell site on light truck  for dedicated wireless network coverage, as well as interoperability among private radio networks completely independent of the local power, telephone, and terrestrial IP infrastructure.

Additionally, ERT will provide Direct Connect handsets and services to first responders for redundant, interoperable communications between the various agencies. Law enforcement personnel will also be given access to remote, high-bandwidth satellite IP data services and GPS tracking systems will be available for ambulances and para-transit vehicles.

Since its creation, Sprint’s ERT has conducted more than 5,200 deployments, and provided emergency wireless support for more than 1,250 events.

Small Cells Gain Spotlight

Common wisdom now says that small cells will represent a big opportunity for the wireless infrastructure industry. With AT&T’s announcement that Project Velocity IP (VIP) would bring 40,000 small cells online, the technology was placed front and center stage. But there were other signs of mainstream acceptance of small cells, like NEC’s agreement with SpiderCloud. But in 2012, small cells found a niche beyond the “densification” of urban networks. New small cell networks began to grab a foothold in rural areas, chiefly because of their low cost. Here are some of the stories that illustrate these trends.

AT&T’s Investment Provides Validation for Small Cells

“We are `densifying’ our wireless grid,” John Donovan, senior executive VP, AT&T Technology & Network Operations, said. “High traffic metro areas require denser, cell-site grids to help capacity and improve quality. During the next three years, you are going to see a shift in our investment to use more small cell technology. By 2015, we expect more than 50 percent of the planned densification will use small cells.” Densification will result in more network usage, better revenue opportunities, improved in-building coverage and support for launching voice over LTE, he added. MORE

Partnership Opens NEC’s Universe to SpiderCloud Technology

NEC is partnering with SpiderCloud Wireless to provide the SmartCloud system to its existing and new customers as part of an end-to-end small-cell solution, the companies announced at the Small Cells World Summit 2012, held June 26-28, in London. SpiderCloud’s emphasis on medium to large size enterprise deployments, which demand hundreds of radio nodes serving thousands of users, complements NEC’s current smaller scale approach, deploying femtocells in the residential small office market. MORE

In-Building DAS Will Share the Stage with Small Cells: ABI Research

In mobile ecosystems where DAS has reigned supreme for coverage fill-in and capacity growth, small cell equipment sales are expected to catch up quickly to DAS and disrupt that dominance. The two technologies, however, are more likely to complement each other rather compete, according to an ABI Research report entitled, “The Future of Active vs. Passive DAS, Repeaters, and Threat from Small Cells.” MORE

ClearSky, NEC Team to Offer Femtocell as a Service to Carriers

ClearSky Technologies, a regional wireless data provider, is working with NEC to offer Femtocell as a Service (FaaS) to regional wireless carriers that use GSM and UMTS. FaaS, where the femtocells are hosted on a third-party infrastructure, is an alternative, economical approach to launching services for many smaller carriers. ClearSky will use NEC’s femtocell gateway and corresponding plug-and-play residential, enterprise and outdoor femtocell access points. MORE

Thanks to Small Cells, Coverage Coming to Rural Vermont

The Vermont Telecommunications Authority (VTA) has signed a contract with CoverageCo to provide cellular coverage in parts of northern Vermont previously unserved by carriers. CoverageCo will start deploying the small cells this summer, and commercial service is expected to begin by the end of the year. “CoverageCo’s small-cell approach allows it to provide service where it was previously not economically feasible,” said Richard P. Biby, CoverageCo CEO. “Because the sites are small and completely IP-based, a standard Internet service over a virtual private network can be used to connect to the core network.” MORE

Small Cells Gain Spotlight

Common wisdom now says that small cells will represent a big opportunity for the wireless infrastructure industry. With AT&T’s announcement that Project Velocity IP (VIP) would bring 40,000 small cells online, the technology was placed front and center stage. But there were other signs of mainstream acceptance of small cells, like NEC’s agreement with SpiderCloud. But in 2012, small cells found a niche beyond the “densification” of urban networks. New small cell networks began to grab a foothold in rural areas, chiefly because of their low cost. Here are some of the stories that illustrate these trends.

AT&T’s Investment Provides Validation for Small Cells

“We are `densifying’ our wireless grid,” John Donovan, senior executive VP, AT&T Technology & Network Operations, said. “High traffic metro areas require denser, cell-site grids to help capacity and improve quality. During the next three years, you are going to see a shift in our investment to use more small cell technology. By 2015, we expect more than 50 percent of the planned densification will use small cells.” Densification will result in more network usage, better revenue opportunities, improved in-building coverage and support for launching voice over LTE, he added. MORE

Partnership Opens NEC’s Universe to SpiderCloud Technology

NEC is partnering with SpiderCloud Wireless to provide the SmartCloud system to its existing and new customers as part of an end-to-end small-cell solution, the companies announced at the Small Cells World Summit 2012, held June 26-28, in London. SpiderCloud’s emphasis on medium to large size enterprise deployments, which demand hundreds of radio nodes serving thousands of users, complements NEC’s current smaller scale approach, deploying femtocells in the residential small office market. MORE

In-Building DAS Will Share the Stage with Small Cells: ABI Research

In mobile ecosystems where DAS has reigned supreme for coverage fill-in and capacity growth, small cell equipment sales are expected to catch up quickly to DAS and disrupt that dominance. The two technologies, however, are more likely to complement each other rather compete, according to an ABI Research report entitled, “The Future of Active vs. Passive DAS, Repeaters, and Threat from Small Cells.” MORE

ClearSky, NEC Team to Offer Femtocell as a Service to Carriers

ClearSky Technologies, a regional wireless data provider, is working with NEC to offer Femtocell as a Service (FaaS) to regional wireless carriers that use GSM and UMTS. FaaS, where the femtocells are hosted on a third-party infrastructure, is an alternative, economical approach to launching services for many smaller carriers. ClearSky will use NEC’s femtocell gateway and corresponding plug-and-play residential, enterprise and outdoor femtocell access points. MORE

Thanks to Small Cells, Coverage Coming to Rural Vermont

The Vermont Telecommunications Authority (VTA) has signed a contract with CoverageCo to provide cellular coverage in parts of northern Vermont previously unserved by carriers. CoverageCo will start deploying the small cells this summer, and commercial service is expected to begin by the end of the year. “CoverageCo’s small-cell approach allows it to provide service where it was previously not economically feasible,” said Richard P. Biby, CoverageCo CEO. “Because the sites are small and completely IP-based, a standard Internet service over a virtual private network can be used to connect to the core network.” MORE