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Are Small Cells and Wi-Fi Networks Complimentary or Competitive?

As an industry, we are starting to see a convergence of small cells and Wi-Fi to help solve coverage, capacity, and spectrum issues in our increasingly connected, mobile-dominated world. Today more than ever, mobile operators are increasingly realizing that Wi-Fi and small cells must be part of their traditional licensed network in order to realize the future of mobility.

This topic was especially evident during last month’s Small Cell Americas conference in Dallas, Texas. During the conference, I had the opportunity to discuss how small cells and Wi-Fi can work together, which proved especially timely as the Dallas conference also marked the launch by the Small Cell Forum of their Enterprise Release, comprising  of 25 documents to help overcome barriers to small cell deployment in the enterprise. Release Two: Enterprise is the result of over nine months of hard work by the Forum and its members!

As small cells and Wi-Fi bring corporate networks and mobile networks closer to each other, IT leaders and service providers are increasingly asking questions about how the convergence of small cells and Wi-Fi coexist, from a product, architecture and business model perspective. Some common questions include: Read More »

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Bringing Licensed and Unlicensed Small Cells Together

The mobile market will be vastly different 10 years from today. We will see two and a half billion more people connected to the internet, but also 50 billion more devices. Those devices are going to have a totally different consumption profile compared with the smartphone or dongle user that we have today. We will have a mobile market with mobile internet which has got to have flexibility in terms of how it supports the massive number of devices, signaling events, and bandwidth that will occur in the future.

To manage this exponential growth in mobile data, effective small cell networks need to take advantage of both licensed and unlicensed spectrum. Small cells help operators increase coverage, capacity, and services, effectively and have already proven to be vital element in mobile networks.  To better integrate licensed and unlicensed small cells, we have identified 5 fundamentals that are important to remember: Read More »

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My Global Small Cell Experiences

Traveling has been a large part of my career at Cisco. Over the last few years I have had the opportunity to travel to customer meetings around the world, discussing their innovation and use cases for Cisco Small Cell Solutions.  What’s interesting is when I spoke with operators in Europe, the prime drivers for WIFI has been connecting cities and stadiums for special events….the summer Olympics was a great example.,   While in the US, I have met with operators about connected stadiums, retail malls, museums and more.   The most interesting story was a visit to the Middle East. We were in Dubai, and seeing some of the examples of where they wanted to take Cisco SP Wi-Fi Solution was fascinating. There was one location in particular that I dubbed “Candy Land”, because it had a retail venue, it had an amusement park, it had a stadium, it had a race track — all in one location on an island. This operator was going to talk to the owner of the island about how they could provide SP Wi-Fi for all of those venues. I was talking to another operator in the Middle East, and one of the things they were looking to provide SP Wi-Fi for was The Hajj. There are millions of people that go to Mecca yearly, and they just need connectivity, for a lot of different reasons; I found that absolutely fascinating. Each part of the globe has unique use cases to each of their country’s cultures and people, but they all want to be part of the wireless world. Read More »

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The Mobile Paradox

Today’s world is characterized by what I call the “mobile explosion”—an environment defined by mobile cloud becoming a platform for delivering everything. It is a world of heterogeneous networks, licensed macro small cell networks, and unlicensed small cell networks (Wi-Fi for example), all seamlessly combined. In this world, however, I believe we are facing a mobile paradox: on the one hand, there is a staggering demand for data from our smartphones, tablets, and other connected devices; on the other hand, the telecommunications industry is grappling with business and monetization challenges around profitability, how to build up these networks fast enough, and competition from over-the-top (OTT) operators.  But, operators are struggling with building the business case and understanding how to make Wi-Fi pay.

The much quoted Cisco Visual Networking Index (VNI) predicts that global mobile data traffic will increase 13-fold from 2012 to 2017, reaching 11.2 exabytes per month. In parallel, the use of unlicensed small cell networks (Wi-Fi) for Internet access is exploding as more mobile devices are Wi-Fi-enabled, the number of public hotspots expands, and user acceptance grows. Until recently, most technologists and mobile industry executives viewed Wi-Fi as the “poor cousin” to licensed mobile communications.  And they most certainly never saw any role for Wi-Fi in mobile networks or their business. The explosion of mobile data traffic has changed all of that. Most mobile operators now realize that offloading data traffic to Wi-Fi can, and must, play a significant role in helping them avoid clogged networks and unhappy customers.

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In the “Business Models and Monetization Video” in Big Thinkers in Small Cells, my colleagues and I discuss revenue opportunities and challenges mobile operators face today with small cells, both licensed and unlicensed. Mobile operators Read More »

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Introduction of Big Thinkers in Small Cells

Over the past five years, the adoption of small cells has increased dramatically. At Mobile World Congress (MWC) this year the Small Cell Forum announced that we have now crossed the threshold where there are more small cells deployed than macro cells in the world. Clearly, small cells are playing, and will continue to play a critical role in the global mobile infrastructure.

Over the last 18 months Cisco has doubled-down on its investments in small cells, from dramatic growth and scaling of our Service Provider Wi-Fi solution to our recently announced intent to acquire licensed small cell leader Ubiquisys.  With this opportunity, Cisco has a responsibility to address the challenges we face in small cell deployments. How do we help mobile and cable operators around the world address the issue of cost effective coverage and capacity using small cells?  How do we work with the small cell ecosystem, including mobile partners and thought leaders in this industry, to create successful, and profitable, deployments of small cells by operators around the world? How do we work with enterprise organizations to deploy small cells? Read More »

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