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Tag Archives: Dean Fresonke

ClearSky Takes on Enterprise Market with Multi-Carrier Small Cells

June 6, 2017

By J. Sharpe Smith

Senior Editor, AGL eDigest

ClearSky Technologies, a hosted infrastructure company, has deployed a a small-cell, in-building wireless system for mid-sized enterprises  at a beachside resort in Clearwater, Florida. Unlike other small cell systems, the system, known as FORTÉ, supports all four major carriers.

We spoke with Dean Fresonke, senior vice president of ClearSky, about the company’s experience with providing back office services to carriers, the challenges of the enterprise market and how FORTÉ was designed to meet those companies that don’t warrant a wireless deployment funded by a major carrier.

What is ClearSky’s background?


ClearSky has been running infrastructure as a service for 15 years. We have two data centers, one in Denver and one in Orlando running back office services for wireless operators. We were providing “software as a service” before it became known by that name.

What led you to provide small-cells-as-a-service?

About three years ago, we quietly built a turnkey service that could be used by rural operators. We began with residential femtocells-as-a-service for 100+ rural operators. That experience taught us a lot about small cells. There was a direct path from there to mid-size enterprise small cells. We turned our attention to the big four carriers, which are very busy keeping their networks up and running and really haven’t had much time to concentrate on mid-size buildings.

What informed your decision to target mid-sized enterprises?

There is a certain category of mid-size properties that badly needs cellular service to take care of the tenants or customers inside that building. The poster child is mid-size business hotels and hospitality in general. They have a transient population that vote with their feet and wallets. Businesses are very demanding about having cellular coverage for their employees in the hotels where they stay.

The carriers simply don’t have the bandwidth and capital to put $150,000 radio base stations into the telephone closet of a 150-room hotel.

We figure that out of the 55,000 hotels in the United States. If 10 percent, or 5,500 hotels, have the money and can justify deploying a small cell system, that would be a pretty good market.

Who builds the small cell?

We have worked hand in glove with the equipment manufacturers, SpiderCloud, CommScope, Ericsson and Nokia, that see this need and have been building these products and have gotten them approved by the carriers. It is much less time consuming [when compared with DAS] and the odds of success are radically increased, because radios are included in the deal. In fact, we will not do an install unless the radio design is approved by the carrier.

How does your installation compare with previous small cell deployments?

Before, if there were going to be four operators with small cells in building, there had to be four sets of Ethernet cabling, four sets of routers, four sets of switches, but now there is one ClearSky network that the operators’ small cells run over.

We take the radio gear, install it in a building and light it up with enterprise-class small cells, which do all the heavy lifting for both the antenna system and the radios, and then they connect to the carriers’ cores through a standard internet connection.

Is it unsightly having multiple carrier nodes located throughout the enterprise?

That is a misnomer. The small cells are about the size of a Wi-Fi access point. Hotels are putting a Wi-Fi access point in one of every four rooms. Some deploy on access point in every room. Even with all the providers included, the density of small cell access points would be equal to the Wi-Fi access points. The small cell deployment is visually almost unnoticeable.

What was the biggest technological challenge you had to overcome?

It took a major systems integration task to pull these separate systems together into a coherent whole. The small cells run on CAT 5 cabling over a standard Ethernet LAN. ClearSky software is used to monitor the performance of each cell. To coordinate multi-carrier deployments, we structured a program where we each of the operators can be involved but not too involved.

What is the play for the wireless infrastructure industry?

ClearSky plans to work with the integration community to deploy the small cell networks, but it will deploy turnkey systems itself as well. We have signed service level agreements with the carriers, so ClearSky has to own and operate the networks and does all the monitoring and maintenance. We can work with different models and different integrators so the property gets what it needs.

How about DAS equipment providers? Is there a play for them?

Yes. The problem in the past has been how to get a radio source to the DAS. Our small cell systems can also be used as a radio source for a DAS in a smaller venue, less that 300,000 square feet.