Telecom Signaling Featured Article

Airvana Introduces Small Cell System for Enterprises and Public Spaces

April 30, 2015

When it comes to telecom signaling challenges and opportunities to enable mobile service providers to capitalize on indoors and public space, growth is looming large.  It is why so much industry attention on the vendor side of things has been paid to the development of next generation small cell systems. And, as illustrated by the announcement from Chelmsford, Massachusetts-based small cell solutions provider Airvana this interest is certainly global.

Airvana has recently announced OneCell, an LTE small cell system for enterprise and public spaces which provides what the company says is, “the economics and simplicity of managed Wi-Fi.”

Problems solved

In making the announcement of OneCell, Airvana cited the fact that several studies have shown that as much as 80 percent of mobile broadband usage occurs indoors.  What this means to mobile operators is that there is money being left on the table.  One of the major reasons is that current enterprise small cell solutions are limited to a single wireless provider and suffer from inter-cell interference and cell border issues. Where OneCell addresses these limitations is by providing a multi-operator small cell solution with up to a 10x performance improvement, at a fraction of the cost of distributed antenna systems (DAS).

Airvana has packed a lot of functionality into a small footprint. Based on cloud RAN principles, the OneCell system consists of a Baseband Controller and multiple Radio Points. Together they form a single “super” cell that according to the company delivers consistently high quality LTE service across indoor spaces ranging from 50,000 to 1,000,000 square feet without handovers or inter-cell interference issues.

Simplicity of implementation was also a design consideration as OneCell supports plug-and-play deployment over standard Ethernet cabling and switches, and dramatically simplifies radio frequency planning and integration with wireless macro networks.

“Operators and building owners look for cost-effective, IT-friendly ways to deliver small cell capabilities in enterprise and public space facilities,” said Ken Rehbehn, principal analyst with Yankee Group. “An approach like Airvana’s—which leverages standard Ethernet networks, hides complexity, isolates signaling activity, and aims to make a virtue out of small cell overlap in dense network environments—promises substantial capacity and performance gains.”

The company is also promoting that utility of its solution’s ability to eliminate handovers and interference zones as enabling the low latency needed for voice over LTE (VoLTE) whose deployment is accelerating around the world as operators look for new sources of revenue and competitive advantage for their services.

“There’s a clear interest among operators in serving indoor enterprise environments with scalable, distributed solutions that are also cost-effective. OneCell is well-distinguished from solutions that address this space using macrocell baseband units, and is particularly attractive compared to the cost of traditional Distributed Antenna Systems,” said Ed Gubbins, senior analyst with Current Analysis. “Airvana has an established track record and credibility in small cells, and solutions such as OneCell that use standard Ethernet LANs in these scenarios will be compelling to operators and enterprises alike.”

The benefits Airvana is citing for OneCell include:

  • Consistent, High-Quality User Experience—Eliminates handovers and cell-to-cell interference to ensure uniform, high quality service.
  • Multi-Operator—Common Radio Point hardware, deployed across a shared Ethernet infrastructure, supports all wireless providers.
  • Dynamic Capacity Allocation—As users move around a building, the system automatically allocates capacity where it is needed.
  • Simple and Economical—Plug and play setup over standard Ethernet networks,  and vastly simplified radio frequency planning and network integration.
  • Investment Protection—OneCell will support LTE Advanced features including Carrier Aggregation, CoMP, and multi-user MIMO via software upgrades.

“Providing high-quality enterprise LTE user experience and simple, economical deployments are no longer mutually exclusive,” said Vedat Eyuboglu, co-founder and CTO, Airvana. “Mobile operators can now add 4G to their large base of in-building deployments without having to fund costly upgrades to existing 2G/3G DAS systems. The strong interest we’re receiving from mobile operators and enterprises is testament to the need for this new and better approach.”

The benefits of being multi-operator, standard Ethernet friendly, capable of dynamic capacity allocation and future ready in terms of software upgradeable are all on service provider wish lists as they look to the best means for keeping customers on their networks wherever they may be or roam.  It is why the signaling isolation is an important part of this solution as the foundation for providing a compelling user experience.  

Edited by Dominick Sorrentino

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