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.
Ever since the first implementation of a smart city was proclaimed with the installation of the smart meter, there have been a lot of liberties taken with the term “smart city” (in fact, the concept has been around for 10 – 15 years). I have seen stories that claim cities were smart because they have their street lights or a water system wired to respond to environmental or usage changes. It was more about how the central city government used technology to optimize existing systems, such as these street lights and water management.
While these early systems certainly qualify as a component of smart cities, the real definition of a smart city is one that can dynamically respond to the changes in all of the systems that affect the lives of the citizens. I have scribed about this, in detail, in past writings, but this is not what I want to rehash at this time.
What this missive is about is the next iteration of smart cities – smart cities 2.0, to borrow a tradition from the software industry.
Smart cities 2.0 is a paradigm shift in how smart cities are perceived. With the evolution of Internet of Everything/Everyone (IoX), next-generation sensors, wireless platforms, power platforms, semiconductor technology and much more — smart cities 2.0 involves every element and segment of the city.
More specifically, these innovative and evolutionary systems can be used to capture data from virtually everything and everyone. Supported by massive computing resources, evolving artificial intelligence and machine learning and complex software, this data can, literally, provide intimate information about every component of the city.
That is what we have been waiting for. The end result is obtaining secure data that improves everything from greenbelt maintenance to traffic management, public safety response and parking. Smart cities 2.0 is a proactive overlay that is capable of predictive versus reactive behavior.
However, just because we have a next-generation does not mean we have a plan. In fact, there is much debate about how this next-generation model will be deployed, especially considering the fact that the governments are the major players. We all know the difficulties in getting governments to adopt a standard model and, thus far, there is not even a well-understood, replicable model on the table that city management can discuss. So the implementation of smart cities 2.0 will have a bumpy road ahead.
However, at least there is a direction. How long it will take to gain traction is anybody’s guess. There is also incentive. Smart cities are a win-win for both sides – government and citizen. Perhaps that will put some fire into the process.
UK wireless operator O2 has selected Cambridge Communication Systems to provide the backhaul for the new Wi-Fi system serving the Coca-Cola London Eye, a high-profile, cantilevered observation wheel. A Metnet self-organizing network (SON) microwave backhaul will provide backhaul connections to the tourist attraction’s thirty-two closed capsules as the rotate above the London skyline.
The high-tech Farris wheel is a novel communications challenge, but it is as a good showcase for the use of SON and mesh architecture in the backhaul of wireless signals. The 28-GHz network, using eight CCS nodes installed around the edge of the wheel, connects to 16 Cisco Wi-Fi access points, which provide coverage across the thirty-two capsules. The CCS nodes connect back to two nodes at the central hub, which connect back to the network of Merlin Entertainment, which owns the wheel, and the internet.
CCS developed a new antenna system for the project, giving 360-degree coverage when it rotated around the wheel. The CCS SON algorithm detects the best possible configuration while managing self-interference, and the internal sync mode helps to distribute stable GPS to the other moving nodes.
Metnet Lays Foundation for Backhauling 5G, Smart Cities
CCS is positioning its Metnet nodes to be the backbone of the 5G small cells and the smart cities of the future. Earlier this year CCS began the deployment of a Wi-Fi network in the City of London’s financial district, known as the “Square Mile.”
The network comprises more than 400 small cells deployed on lampposts, street signs, buildings and CCTV columns to provide service for the 400,000 city workers and 10 million annual visitors.
The Metnet system operates in a single frequency channel with no radio frequency planning required. Each node has a wide 270-degree field of view and supports multiple connections, so there’s no need for manual alignment.
J. Sharpe Smith is senior editor of the AGL 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.
December 6, 2016 —
ExteNet Systems is known for owning and operating distributed network systems that are used to enable outdoor and indoor wireless connectivity. Its networks connect workers in the Empire State Building, fans at Barclays Center and users on the streets of San Francisco. Tormod Larsen, VP and CTO, spoke to us about opportunities in smart cities for his company and the wireless infrastructure industry.
Is there a role for ExteNet in the coming smart cities?
Larsen: Absolutely. ExteNet’s role boils down to providing the underlying network that enables connectivity to all these devices, whether it is used for surfing the Web or for cameras or gunshot detection or meter reading. If you don’t have the network, those applications are moot. We want to design and build cost-effective and appropriate infrastructure to support it.
Does your role as a neutral host help you enter the smart cities space?
Larsen: We already have a pretty significant and dense footprint in major metro areas, so using the existing small cell/distributed networks to apply the smart cities applications is where the initial opportunities occur. Using our business model to provide services as a neutral host allows us to economically provide the various smart city services, in addition to the more traditional wireless services. If you look at our infrastructure as the backbone, the product is similar but the use cases and the customers are expanding and evolving.
It becomes a symbiotic relationship between the city and the carriers that is important to how these networks grow over time. Again, in the end, it comes down to having that infrastructure in place to enable city-wide smart connections.
How do you break into municipal communications market?
Larsen: ExteNet, since inception, has had a team in house that has worked closely with municipalities and utilities. We have agreements with a large number of both cities and utilities to attach to their infrastructure: typically light poles, traffic lights and utility poles.
The model is evolving today as a lot of the municipalities are transitioning to a becoming a customer in addition to being the landlord. In our discussions, the city is saying if you are already building out this network in my community what is another way we could benefit from this?
How is it going so far?
Larsen: We have already done some IoT connectivity for cities, connecting schools, providing cameras in the community or meeting other needs where they could leverage our existing purpose-built fiber plant. Going forward, we see that expanding to include connectivity that is specific to those cities and municipalities.
How big will the challenge of connecting smart cities be?
Larsen: It is not like we are starting a new business. We are expanding what we are already doing. We have a strategic siting initiative where we have been working with municipalities for a long time on these types of models.
They have a long wish list in terms of smart city technology. They have pretty lofty ideas on what they want to do in terms of smart cities. One of the challenges I see coming into play is cities beginning to understand all the possibilities and then trying to do everything at once, without doing a business model for each application. In general, if the underlying network is designed appropriately, the ability to support IoT is a natural next step.
What is the answer?
Larsen: It is a case of prioritizing which applications can be met over time. Municipalities need to narrow the scope of their RFIs. We have been working with a few cities in a holistic manner to help with the business model. It costs less to use a shared network than a dedicated network, but there is still a cost and they need to figure out a way to recoup that cost before layering more applications on top of it.
November 3, 2016 — AT&T turned on an LTE-M-enabled commercial site in the San Francisco market last week to support its low-power wide-area network pilot, “starting a process that will transform the Internet of Things (IoT) for years to come.” AT&T plans to make the technology commercially available in 2017.
The pilot will include solutions from Altair, Ericsson, Qualcomm Technologies, Sierra Wireless, Telit, u-blox, Wistron NeWeb, and Xirgo Technologies. The technology is expected to be available to customers outside of the pilot starting in 2017.
“We’ve joined with Altair, Ericsson and technology leaders from across the ecosystem to launch the first LTE-M enabled commercial site in North America,” said Chris Penrose, president, internet of things solutions, AT&T. “Innovations like LTE-M will bring IoT to more end points than ever before. It’s part of our strategy to offer the widest range of IoT network options to our customers.”
LTE-M will combine enhanced coverage and longer battery life (up to 10 years) with carrier-grade security for a variety of IoT solutions, including smart utility meters, asset monitoring, vending machines, alarm systems, fleet, heavy equipment, mHealth and wearables, according to the company.
LTE-M will lower the costs for modules to connect IoT devices to the LTE network and provide coverage for IoT devices underground and deep inside buildings.
Other participants in the pilot will include: Badger Meter smart water devices, CalAmp connected vehicles and assets, Capstone Metering underground smart water meters, PepsiCo smart vending and Samsung wearables or other consumer devices.