MEETING RECAP: INDOOR INFRASTRUCTURE

Author: Derek Kerton, Managing Partner at Kerton Group and Chairman of Telecom Council

dsc_0329Our TC meeting in Indoor infrastructure was a panel, but with expert moderation from Jon Metzler, of Blue Field Strategies, it quickly elevated into a room-wide discussion among network operators, technology providers, and startups.

One of the interesting take-aways, I found, was the paradox of Wi-Fi, as it relates to indoor coverage. First, the entire room basically accepted a future in which most mobile phones could roam onto Wi-Fi, and integrate that into their cellular networks as a benefit of IP Multimedia Subsystems and digital migration. That said, what is the best way to cover indoor spaces:

1) Wi-Fi technology

Benefits

  • cheap
  • ubiquitous
  • provided by facility, often at no cost to operator
  • cheap enough to over-provision as a gap-filler strategy, reduces network planning
  • no interference with the macro network
  • multi-carrier, supports all Internet devices, IoT, as well as voice
  • Often can be self-installed by facility or end user

Issues

  • Loss of carrier control
  • hand-over issues will persist
  • No QoS control for carrier, hard to support SLAs
  • Carriers may prefer a single-carrier solution at their frequency
  • Often has login problems, AAA (authentication, authorization, accounting) is an issue

2) Femtocell, DAS, and other cellular technology

Benefits

  • Can deliver QoS to meet SLAs
  • Can drive customer loyalty with single-carrier network (or be multi-tenant if desired)
  • No handover issues
  • AAA seamlessly managed
  • Better battery consumption in some cases

Issues

  • High cost, terrible scalability
  • Network planning required
  • Truck roll required
  • Self-interference with the macro, unless new bands are used (ex: 3.5GHz)

So, in those lists lies the paradox. For carriers, Wi-Fi is cheap and fast, but represents a los off control, both in terms of the quality of the user experience, but also in customer loyalty. And while carrier-deployed indoor solutions are better on both of those counts, they are terribly expensive to install and maintain. We should expect a mix of these solutions to persist, with Wi-Fi dominating as measured by square feet or number of buildings covered.

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