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Small cells roundtable live news blog


Mobile Europe held its annual Small Cells Roundtable disussion on "The role of small cells in a 4G LTE world" with Alcatel-Lucent on Tuesday, 8 May 2013.

The panel consisted of specially invited guests from the operator and analyst arena, discussing the impact of current and future developments in the small cells market on the operator business model.

You can read the comments from the live news blog here.


Small cells roundtable live news blog

Mobile Europe is holding its annual Small Cells Roundtable disussion on "The role of small cells in a 4G LTE world" with Alcatel-Lucent.

Tune in here from 09:30 - 12:30 BST to view live updates from our panel of specially invited guests from the operator and analyst arena, discussing the impact of current and future developments in the small cells market on the operator business model.

We are tweeting live updates on Twitter and you can join in the discussion by using the hashtag #MEsmallcell. You are invited to send in your questions via Twitter to @MobileEurope, email or comment below.

Please include your name, title and company - we will post these details together with the response to chosen questions on this page.

The Small Cells Roundtable coverage has now ended. You can read comments from the live blog below.

The full discussion from the Small Cells Roundtable will be available in the next print issue of Mobile Europe.



12:30 BST

"The landscape is changing. It's an end-to-end play. We're going to see vendors getting together to make solutions work together. Everyone's coming together to work on the small cells capacity problem." - George Noon, Senior Product Director, Alcatel-Lucent

12:20 BST

"Different markets are moving at different speeds and we'll probably end up with different solutions in different places. I can see the Far East is going in a completely different direction and so is the US. I think we will see four or five types of solution type distributed around the world," - Dr John Naylon, CTO of Cambridge Broadband Networks

12:18 BST

"The Small Cells Forum release programme is taking the information from the people who have deployed it. There are so many things we've learnt. Every deployment has it's own situational problems and advantages.

"We're taking them and filtering them down into these release programmes, looking at all the problems operators have faced in working with vendors. Release 2 will be focused on enterprises - there will be updates to open access, all the problems with backhaul, we really want to encapsulate all the problems operators will face," - Graham Wright, CEO of the Small Cells Forum

12:10 BST

"It's not so much what we've learned from others. It's that Europe is on it's own. We're still very much in the evaluation stage. We're trying to understand and get in place all the right building blocks to enable the carrier-grade solutions.

"Until fairly recently, we didn't have the same drivers you see in the Far East and the US as we didn't have the congestion. In some markets we still don't have congestion. Yes we are looking at other parts of the world but things are different here and we're cautious. It isn't just about the equipment, it's about the whole package, we don't want to put something in that doesn't fit, so we're still evaluating," - Alan Stidwell, Senior Technical Specialist, Orange Labs, Orange

12:10 BST

Question from the audience: 

"What are the most important things that you have learnt from other small cell deployments around the world?" - Jorge Wertz, via email


12:04 BST

"Operators have to move away from fixed line to be carrier-grade, they want a box with a whole solution, they want a consultancy transforming the solution to the new operator model.

"We need to advise them on multiple areas, e.g. tools on working out backhaul, strategy for small cells. For us, it's more than just an access point and a gateway, it has to be an end-to-end solution and this is what operators are looking for now,"  - George Noon, Senior Product Director, Alcatel-Lucent

12:00 BST

"There's a lot more crossover in emerging markets between the fixed line operator and the mobile operator. In Africa, the mobile operator will offer the enterprise services, but they will also offer to come in and deploy the infrastructure. You wouldn't expect to buy your enterprise servers through your mobile operator, but in these countries this would be true as they have the channels with the infrastructure providers,"  - Dr John Naylon, CTO of Cambridge Broadband Networks

11:56 BST

"Who pays for the power, for example? Is the power shared between the operator and the vendor? There are so many opportunities for differentiation. We've realised that we need to come up with a How-To guide for operators and vendors who produce products and services for the enterprise,"  - Graham Wright, CEO of the Small Cells Forum

11:52 BST

"[When it comes to enterprise deployments], the corporates are looking for high KPIs and a managed service, whereas residential isn't a managed service. The corporates are looking for the same feature-set. We benefit by providing capacity coverage indoors, but we're actually providing a better competitive macrocell service outdoors.

"All operators we speak to without exception want indoor as well as outdoor coverage. Historically operators are reluctant to jump on shared DAS schemes, getting the solution inside on a high bandwidth is going to be key. There are some deployment differences [between outdoor and indoor deployments], rather than feature-set differences,"  - George Noon, Senior Product Director, Alcatel-Lucent


11:33 BST

"I'm seeing interest in all the categories appropriate to small cells. Millimeter wave is where there's the most activity. Some of the conventional microwave companies are moving up to those bands but it's very immature at the moment.

"There is a lot of interest in getting down to street level and thinking about operators who are focusing on urban hotspots. Some of the trials have been carried out for line-of-sight. How do you get it down to the street level?" - Caroline Gabriel, Research Director, Maravedis Rethink

11:20 BST

"One of the points of view is dropping features to get to the backhaul site. It isn't necessarily going to be mandatory to drop features to get the small cell backhaul product cost right, because including or excluding features doesn't make as much difference as you might think.

"The high volume of product sales is not currently in small cell backhaul, it's in macro and pico backhaul systems and vendors can leverage that product volume to get the product cost to where it needs to be for small cells. I'm of the opinion that backhaul is backhaul, so this is good news because it means you shouldn't need to drop features." - Dr John Naylon, CTO of Cambridge Broadband Networks

11:08 BST

"The debate has really moved on. [Deploying small cells is] still perceived as a huge challenge, we did a survey with operators about what they see as major challenges and backhaul was still the lead issue, but the attitude has changed. Operators are saying solutions are coming, they're not here yet and there are almost too many solutions.

There's been a lot of positivity in the vendor corner at the speed in how the solutions are being deployed. We're seeing the operators trying everything, an openness to trying a whole range of solutions. There's been less resistance on the backhaul side compared to the RAN side," - Caroline Gabriel, Research Director, Maravedis Rethink


10:27 BST

"There's a clear need for flexibility and variation. What we need is a tool kit. If you can find a site with existing fibre, you'll use it. If there's a site without fibre, you'll use other wireless technologies. So we need a product that offers a whole range of solutions," - Alan Stidwell, Senior Technical Specialist, Orange Labs, Orange

10:18 BST

"We're using 3G plus Wi-Fi and in some locations, it will be 3G plus 4G plus Wi-Fi. The products are coming. The vendors are in different stages but they're not that far from offering the solutions.

"If you're going to deploy a small cell, you're going to have a cost, but if you add Wi-Fi, it's not much and the additional capacity it brings is significant. As an operator-managed solution from our point of view, it should be a seamless experience for the user, they shouldn't know if they're on Wi-Fi or 3G." - Alan Stidwell, Senior Technical Specialist, Orange Labs, Orange

10:14 BST

"The CTO of SK Telecom said to the European operators, 'Be careful what you wish for,' as they started seeing spikes in traffic which meant they had to deploy more LTE small cells than they meant to. In Korea, they've always had data so they couldn't raise the prices for data on demand as no one wants to pay for it, but that's not necessarily the case in Europe," - Graham Wright, CEO of the Small Cells Forum

10:10 BST

"There are 43 bands of LTE and the device guys are having a headache handling that. In America, some operators have no 3G spectrum and only LTE. We're seeing that some people are actually getting rid of the fixed lines as the LTE is much better in the home than the fixed lines are," - George Noon, Senior Product Director, Alcatel-Lucent


10:00 BST

"You have to look at the costs. Sometimes the cost of a macrocell can be almost as much as the cost of the metrocell. So we need to look at ways to reduce costs - in some cases, reusing existing infrastructure to try to reduce overall costs.

"With operation and maintenance, we're seeing that SON is going to be very useful to reduce installation costs as you switch it on and it self-configures. The whole thing has to be there before we can see it growing to very large deployments," - Alan Stidwell, Senior Technical Specialist, Orange Labs, Orange

09:58 BST

"In the outdoor environment, you have the physical cost of purchasing the base station from the vendor, then you have the costs of maintenance and acquisitions, so the actual cost, now the metrocell is not the whole cost of the site.

"It's key, from a vendor perspective, we enable operators to deploy these easier. We have transmission units who can support all kinds of transmissions without needing to change cells. We can add Wi-Fi into the cell. If you've got the site, why not put Wi-Fi into it?

"Reducing the cost of the device reduces the cost of the deployment," - George Noon, Senior Product Director, Alcatel-Lucent

09:49 BST

"The largest challenge we see is going to be the deployment of public access small cell backhaul solutions," - George Noon, Senior Product Director, Alcatel-Lucent

09:43 BST

"We are seeing a whole set of new products coming. You're right that we won't rush into deploying small cells until we have the right product at the right price, and that it fits into the architecture. What's changed is that we need small cells, beginning with 3G.

"Our initial target is to have 4G in the macrocell layer, but for coverage reasons we will need 4G small cells. 3G small cells will be used for capacity. There will be some locations where it's quite important for us to have coverage and the best solution for that may be small cells." - Alan Stidwell, Senior Technical Specialist, Orange Labs, Orange

09:35 BST

"There will be 9 million small cell deployments by 2017. A rather low figure, but in terms of volume, we see very few carriers doing very much in the next two years. There's nothing out there that's standardised in volume. 

"We have to recognise that a lot of operators will wait until there are solutions they can buy off the shelf," - Caroline Gabriel, Maravedis Rethink

09:30 BST

Good morning and welcome to our Small Cells Roundtable coverage. 

Here with us to share their thoughts today are Alan Stidwell, Senior Technical Specialist, Orange Labs, Orange; Graham Wright, CEO of the Small Cells Forum; Caroline Gabriel, Research Director, Maravedis Rethink; George Noon, Senior Product Director, Alcatel-Lucent; Dr John Naylon, CTO of Cambridge Broadband Networks and Alejandro Pinero, Senior Conference Producer, Avren Events.