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Axiom Acquisition Gives ExteNet Another Foothold in Enterprise Space

By J. Sharpe Smith

Felipe Alvarez

ExteNet Systems’ acquisition of MetroFiber d/b/a Axiom Fiber Networks, adds 20 miles of 864-strand fiber-count network in lower Manhattan, supplementing the fiber-optic network that supports the firm’s +2,000 nodes constructed or under construction in the New York metropolitan area.

“Clearly one of the major components of our Manhattan build is the fiber plant,” said Ross Manire, ExteNet president and CEO. “Axiom’s fiber is going to allow us to move forward with our distributed network deployments, which require a lot of fiber. We pull multiple strands to each node, so we need a lot of fiber in Manhattan. That is what originally got us interested in them.”

But there was more to Axiom Fiber Networks than just fiber. The firm provided high performance telecom infrastructure services over its dark fiber network to enterprise customers including, financial firms, government agencies, healthcare providers, educational institutions and media organizations.

“As we got further into the due diligence process, we decided to take advantage of the expertise of Felipe Alvarez [previously CEO of Axiom] and his team to help us monetize the fiber plant in our existing build areas with New York as the priority. That was the added benefit that we saw in this opportunity.”

Axiom goes deep inside the enterprise to provide companies with dark fiber and custom network solutions. With the deal closed, ExteNet can pursue new vectors in the enterprise space.

“As it pertains to optical network solutions, which are focused on the enterprise space, we weren’t doing it with the focus it requires,” Manire said. “The benefit of having Felipe and his team on board is that they come from this environment and they know what it takes, they know the system requirements. They will do it on a focused basis.”

The Axiom network, which has online five major carrier hotels, allows interconnection and connectivity to the cloud. It also gives the firm the ability to put together solutions that interconnect buildings with edge devices at the carrier hotels.

“We have been looking at the convergence of the wireless infrastructure providers and pure telecom. The line is completely blurred,” Manire said. “There is a drive to use fiber, to densify; to push fiber deeper and deeper into buildings. It is an interesting time to further drive that convergence.”

ExteNet began deploying providing cellular coverage with outdoor DAS technology in 2005 and in 2008 moved into in-building wireless. In 2016, it expanded into enterprise communications infrastructure with the purchase of Telecommunications Properties Inc. and began to manage the fiber network inside the building. Additionally, micro data centers to facilitate tenants moving to the cloud, or third parties moving content to the edge of the network were added to the portfolio.

The wireless industry has been wrestling with the challenge of providing services to enterprises too small to warrant a carrier-funded DAS or small-cell system. The acquisition of Axiom is another evolution for ExteNet, adding more products targeted at the enterprise.

J. Sharpe Smith is the Senior Editor/eDigest. He joined AGL in 2007 as contributing editor to the magazine and as editor of eDigest email newsletter. He has 27 years of experience writing about industrial communications, paging, cellular, small cells, DAS and towers. Previously, he worked for the Enterprise Wireless Alliance as editor of the Enterprise Wireless Magazine. Before that, he edited the Wireless Journal for CTIA and he began his wireless journalism career with Phillips Publishing, now Access Intelligence. Sharpe Smith may be contacted at: [email protected].

Wireless Future Depends on Hyper-densification, IoT, Connected Real Estate–Manire

By J. Sharpe Smith

The “hyper-densification” of small cells, the Internet of Things and connected real estate are all essential to make 5G and smart cities a reality, Ross Manire, president and CEO, ExteNet System, told an audience in a keynote address at the HETNET Expo 2017, Oct 10, in West Palm Beach.


ExteNet, which is involved in commercial office space, healthcare, hospitality and sports/entertainment, is seeing the in-building wireless market evolve away from the carrier-funded model.

“There are some very interesting changes going on in the indoor market,” he said. With respect to venues there has been a significant change in terms of how wireless networks are funded and deployed.”

Because of downward pressure on revenues from users, the ability of the carriers to fund smaller venues has been limited, leading to sales efforts directed straight to the venue owner.

“Our pitch to the venue owner is they need to think about wireless coverage as another utility. It is that important. It’s like water or electricity, heat or air conditioning,” he said. “Your tenants want to have connectivity anytime and anywhere. Studies have shown that if you have wireless connectivity it enhances the value of the building.”

ExteNet chose HetNet Expo 2017 to announce a new indoor deployment at the Columbia Center, the tallest skyscraper in Seattle. The company owns and operates more than 350 outdoor and indoor distributed networks in the United States.

Separately, Katarina Kueber, general manager at Urban Renaissance Group, said, “Building tenants and visitors expect wireless service to work flawlessly inside, irrespective of the size of the building. Today, wireless infrastructure is deemed critical for enhanced business performance and operations, with building owners and managers risking loss of business without adequate investment in indoor wireless coverage. We are extremely glad to be working with a proven leader like ExteNet in our network design and build.”

Buildings, especially older buildings, are a key growth segment, according to Manire. Building owners need to enhance their communications infrastructure to support tenant services and building management systems, because the current wiring is far below acceptable.

“Sometimes the wiring in buildings looks like a bowl of spaghetti,” he said. “It is an area we think deserves a lot of attention, so we are starting to spend more resources looking at combining the building of our wireless network infrastructure and the broadband infrastructure to support tenant services and building management services.”

ExteNet’s “New Distributed Network Vision” focuses on hyper densification of the distributed network architecture, functionality at the edge and the Internet of Things. The future of wireless is going to be less about individual technologies and more about network architecture, according to Manire.

“The focus will be on how to build a robust architecture that will support the applications and IoT that we see coming down the line,” he said. “We think that distributed networks are going to be an increasingly critical component of the overall wireless topography and hyper densification [of small cells] is going to be a part of that. We see edge functionality, more intelligence being pushed to the edge, and more content being pushed to the edge to enhance services for users.”

Manire noted nodes will reach more than 111 thousand in 2017, according to iGR Research, and the number will reach more than 519 thousand by 2021. Extenet is already involved in hyper densification of small cells in Manhattan, where it has more than 2,000 small cell nodes supporting four carriers, with has rights to 8,000 poles. It is also busy hyper-densifying the nodes in San Francisco.

Industry Airs Small Cell Grievances, Suggests Solutions

March 16, 2017

By J. Sharpe Smith

Editor, AGL eDigest

This is the first in a two-part series covering comments in the FCC proceeding “Streamlining Deployment of Small Cell Infrastructure by Improving Wireless Facilities Siting Policies; Mobilitie Petition for Declaratory Ruling (WT Docket No. 16-421).”  First we examine some of the key problems voiced by OEMs, carriers and small cell providers. Next, we will look at the municipal point of view.

J. Sharpe SmithThe wireless industry voice its frustration with processes in place at municipalities to regulate small cells in the public rights of way in comments filed the FCC’s streamlining small cell deployment proceeding, last week. Procedures that are sometimes confusing and other times duplicative, which extend the approval time for wireless facilities and make it less economical for the carriers, according to the comments.

T-Mobile described the current regulatory environment as a “web” of federal, state and local rules developed based on the macrocell environment. Nokia called municipalities processes “ill-defined and inefficient” said they yield “haphazard” results. Part of the problem, according to the OEM, is that many municipalities have not incorporated Section 6409(a) of the Spectrum Act, into their practices.

“The lack of clear procedures makes the application process much more difficult at the outset – it can be hard to know where to even start – let alone ultimately obtaining the required authorization to move forward,” Nokia wrote.

Jurisdictions’ inefficient processes are exacerbated by a lack of employees to process siting requests, which ends up “clogging the deployment pipeline,” Nokia wrote. Multiple review processes of different agencies within a jurisdiction can also slow the process and sow the seed of confusion.

Small cell deployments have also been delayed by moratoria, Crown Castle wrote.

ExteNet wrote that regulation by many local governments regularly “prohibits or effectively prohibits” the provision of service. The company said its distributed network system applications are subjected to formal zoning process that are not required of other entities deploying on poles in the rights of way.

Unfair Fees Threaten Small Cell Deployments

The wireless industry fully supported Mobilitie’s Petition for Declaratory Ruling, writing that the fees charged for use of the ROW are many times are not in alignment with what they thought was fair.

Crown Castle wrote that while it has cooperated with municipalities on hundreds of small cell deployments, it too has run into instances where it felt discriminated against by what it called unreasonable fees.

“Other jurisdictions, meanwhile, discriminate against small cell installations in the rights-of-way while allowing, if not encouraging, other utilities to install equipment that frequently is larger than small cell equipment,” Crown Castle wrote.

Part of the problem is the fees don’t seem to be based on the costs of approving applications or maintaining the rights-of-way, according to Crown Castle. T-Mobile echoed sentiments by Mobilitie that some municipalities seek to recover the market rate of ROW instead of compensation for their expenses.

As a result, these fees can make small cell deployments expensive. Nokia complained that site “inspection fees” may be charge in excess of $3,000 per-location threaten the economics of small cell deployments.

What’s the Fix?

The Wireless Infrastructure Association offered several ways that that FCC could use existing law to help municipalities to improve their ROW processes.

WIA called on the FCC to guide municipalities in treating small cell providers in a competitively neutral and nondiscriminatory manner by clarifying Sections 253 and 332 of the Telecom Act.

The FCC should state that a municipality must not inhibit a company’s ability to compete in a fair and legal regulatory environment, according to the WIA filing. Local governments should not have “unfettered discretion over applications” and require “lengthy or onerous application processes.”

“Further, the Commission should explicitly declare that imposition of regulations and requirements on small wireless facility deployments that are not imposed on other telecommunications equipment installed on poles in the public rights-of-way are a barrier to entry,” WIA wrote, “and that such discriminatory imposition of requirements is not a reasonable or competitively neutral and nondiscriminatory management of the public rights-of-way.”

Commenting about the Mobilitie petition, WIA wrote that municipal fees imposed on small wireless facilities in the ROW must not be more those levied on other telecom equipment.

“Further, the Commission should declare that municipal fees are limited to recovery of the municipality’s actual cost of managing the occupation of the right-of-way by the small wireless facility network,” WIA wrote.

ExteNet Systems, Carrier Rollout Rural LTE Service

ExteNet System is deploying 4G LTE equipment across rural New England for a carrier, Great Northwest Woods Wireless (GNW).

Under the agreement, ExteNet will function as the lead infrastructure provider for GNW, and will provide a turnkey solution consisting of its Distributed Evolved Packet Core (EPC) integrated with Nokia’s Radio Access Network (RAN) equipment, to support a variety of advanced wireless service applications.

One of the first applications is called “carrier wholesale,” where GNW will offer services on behalf of other carriers to extend their service footprint via the GNW infrastructure. ExteNet’s solution will allow GNW to host multiple carriers on a common infrastructure, which will deliver operational and economic efficiencies. As part of the “carrier wholesale” application, GNW is planning to offer seamless roaming service to Sprint customers across the northern New England region. Voice over LTE (VoLTE) and data roaming services for other carriers are expected to be added soon.

The distributed EPC functionality provides flexibility and enhanced performance to support a number of deployment options and use cases including: standalone rural networks, private and virtual private wireless networks, network expansion and wireless roaming, integrated LTE and Wi-Fi networks, neutral-host small cell networks and networks supporting the Internet of Things (IoT).

Future DAS Growth will be in Commercial Real Estate

Metrocells may have all of the buzz right now, but DAS has the numbers, according to analysts. By 2017, DAS deployments could see more than 300 percent growth, according to iGR Research, a market Research firm, which released a report U.S. DAS Market Forecast, 2012 to 2017 Installations, Tenancy, OpEx and CapEx in November.

DAS will become more important to carriers in the next four years and in-building systems will be the next competitive battleground as more employees are allowed to “bring your own device” (BYOD) to work, Ian Gillott, president and founder of iGR, said during the webcast.

“There are a lot of [DAS] systems out there with a single tenant, a lot with only a couple of tenants and very few with four or five tenants,” he said. “We see more tenants per DAS system later in the forecast.”

CapEx and OpEx will grow by as much as 500 percent in the next five years, according to iGR.

DAS a Require Amenity at Empire State Building

It might be hard to believe, but a huge swath of what is known as Class A commercial real estate or the highest-quality buildings on the market has yet to be penetrated by in-building wireless systems. ExteNet System identified real estate venues as ripe for implementation of indoor DAS three years ago. Two years ago, ExteNet deployed a DAS in the Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower) in Chicago.

“We see a lot of Class A buildings without in-building coverage, similar to the Willis Tower before we deployed there,” Ross Manire, ExteNet president and CEO, said.

Soaring 1,454 feet above Midtown Manhattan, the iconic Empire State Building also did not have an in-building wireless system. Until now. ExteNet Systems signed an agreement with Malkin Holdings to design, own and operate the distributed antenna system that will enable wireless access on each of the building’s 102 stories. The new DAS will serve as the crown jewel in the building’s makeover, which includes energy-efficiency, buildingwide energy infrastructure upgrades and the restoration of the art deco lobby at a cost of more than $550 million.

ExteNet is currently deploying its network, which is slated for completion in the second quarter 2014. SOLiD is the vendor for the hardware, and 15 miles of coax and fiber will be required to wire the building.

Connectivity just as Important as Location

Telecommunications networks and power infrastructure cannot be an afterthought when it comes to master planning new business development, James Carlini, president and certified infrastructure consultant, Carlini & Associates, told an audience at the Building Industry Consulting Service International’s Winter Conference & Exhibition, Jan. 22, in Tampa, Fla.

“For example, if I was planning to build a business park, I would wait until I got my corporate tenants in to really decide what to do from a power and network infrastructure standpoint,” he said. “That is not the case anymore. Today, you have to have those issues taken care of upfront.”

In the last couple of years, broadband connectivity has jumped into the top three criteria of corporate site selection committees, Carlini said.

“Most corporate site selection committees are looking for power and network infrastructure when choosing a business park to place a corporate facility,” he said. “Broadband connectivity and redundant power supplies equal intelligent amenities, which equal economic development.”