SpiderCloud Wireless, the company whose technology combines in-building access points (Radio Node) with an onsite element (Services Node) that acts as a miniature radio network controller, has said that it expects to announce a range of operator deployments this year.
Ronny Haraldsvik, CMO, said that the company is “engaged in many more trials” for its E-RAN solutions that the company says enables operators to move from solutions that provide “only” coverage and capacity to a “services network”.
“In the next coming months you will hear from several operators announcing their deployments,” he added. To date, the only publicly announced operator customer has been Vodafone, with whom Spidercloud has a strategic partnership.
“People know about Vodafone, they know we’ve been working together. Vodafone has made us a much better company,” Haraldsvik said, “made us more ready to do bigger deployments of hardened systems.”
There are enterprise-class femto and pico cell solutions available from the likes of ip.access, but SpiderCloud thinks it sits in a sweet spot for a couple of reasons. First, it can provide coverage and capacity within large buildings and campuses for the roughly equivalent cost of an enterprise-grade WiFi deployment. Secondly, the system gives operators an in-building presence which means operators have a control point from which they can deliver services without having to deliver and control services from within their own core network.
Addressing coverage indoors, Haraldsvik pointed to recent research by the Signals Research Group that showed that up to 88% of spectrum already owned by operators is under-utlised within enteprise campuses and buildings. “You can’t push macro in, and you can’t do it with cheap WiFi access points or femtocells.”
“Operators are coming to us because they have already tested other femto and pico cell solutions and they recognise that there’s too much RF engineering involved if they want to go beyond five to seven small cells. Anything that is beyond a small enterprise you now have a challenge, and the current approach to small cells hasn’t worked,” Haraldsvik concluded.
I think operators have a unique opportunity. This is the moment for the operators to step up.
As for the second point, enterprise services creation and delivery, it is here that SpiderCloud really thinks it has the advantage over other small cell solutions – hence adoption of terminology such as the “services network”. It says that tight integration with enterprise IT departments creates an opportunity for operators, as well as software developers and telecoms managed services providers like Ericsson, to facilitate the delivery of services such as device management as a service, access to cloud for storage, compliance, security and Unified Communications.
“Being able to deploy not just for coverage and capacity, but to sell services needs a tight integration with the enterprise, and you can’t do that by just sitting way back in the network core. It just doesn’t work. It was true for voice Centrex for years, because there’s no anchor point, if you have to take everything back into the core before you do something it won’t work,” Haraldsvik said.
“Operators have been field and lab testing for the past 18 months, and now they are coming to us and saying, for cloud apps, scaleability, yeah, you were right and that’s what we need. And we do soft hand off and that’s also what they need. Then when the services node goes in the rack at the enterprise, they can manage, update and provision that remotely.”
One proposed drawback of SpiderCloud’s approach has been that it is single-operator. That doesn’t necessarily sit well with the increasing BYOD trend within businesses. In other words, if only one carrier’s services is getting delivered with good quality throughout a campus, users of other networks may suffer as a result. That could result in an upside for the operator, however. In fact, SpiderCloud claimed that in one deployment at a major enterprise partner, some users were beginning to replace their existing contract for a contract with the carrier whose services was being delivered within the building. That then becomes a commercial differentiator for the operator whose services is being delivered over the E-RAN.
Art King, Director of Enterprise Services & Technologies, SpiderCloud Wireless, said, “I think operators have a unique opportunity. This is the moment for the operators to step up and say, here’s my set of prepackaged and easy-to-understand services, well operationalised on the back end, and you the enterprise control the architecture, there’s a services governance framework between us, and we’ll deliver this for two bucks per month per device, no capex out.”
“Right now for enterprises capital is hard to get and they are stretching the life of equipment to the point where people are finding their own solutions. This is a way for mobile operators to redeem themselves. Our technology sits in the golden place where the controller node is looking at the mobile core, the internet, inside the enterprise and is delivering three radio planes 3G, LTE and WiFi. Our software developer partners are considering amazing things.”