Verizon Uses Small Cells To Connect Indoor DAS

From RCR Wireless, February 8, 2017

By Martha DeGrasse


Verizon Wireless has asked its five distributed antenna system vendors to integrate their systems with small cells designed by SpiderCloud Wireless. Advanced RF Technologies, CommScope, Corning, JMA Wireless and Solid Technologies are all working with SpiderCloud, with Advanced RF Technologies already claiming successful deployments.


For Verizon Wireless, using a small cell as a signal source looks like a potential solution to one of the biggest problems in the DAS market: enterprise customers are hesitant to invest in a system without assurance that at least one carrier will connect to it. Making the radio part of the DAS vendor’s equipment alleviates this concern.


“This allows the enterprise to get a guaranteed signal source and distribute it with the DAS system if they choose to do so,” explained Verizon’s Dennis McColl, the principal engineer who heads up the carrier’s in-building business. “The DAS systems themselves are meant to mimic an air interface so there’s really no reason why a DAS cannot be applied to the SpiderCloud radio node. … It’s not easy. DAS systems are certainly not easy. They’re the most complex, underestimated piece of equipment or architecture in the wireless landscape.”


McColl said it would be nice to see all Verizon Wireless’ DAS vendors develop their own small cells that could be integrated with the carrier’s network, but he realizes this is unlikely to happen anytime soon. McColl said the most likely contender might be CommScope, which purchased the Airvana small cell business in 2014, but so far the SpiderCloud small cell is the only one that is integrated into Verizon Wireless’ core network.


For companies in need of better cellular service, a DAS with its own signal source is often the best answer, McColl said, noting many companies try to address connectivity issues with repeaters, but these only solve for coverage and not for capacity.


For SpiderCloud, the DAS business is not one the Silicon Valley startup expected to be part of, but the company welcomes the opportunity to work with its former competitors.


“It is almost found money,” said SpiderCloud director of enterprise Art King, who said he’s hopeful corporate IT managers will find the budget to fund hybrid DAS/small cell systems. “CIOs can be very incentivized to find money in their budgets because the other execs are yelling at them to get it done,” King said.


McColl agreed that the demand is there, and said Verizon Wireless can’t fund a DAS for every company that wants one. But he wants to keep his subscribers happy, so if corporate customers are willing to pay for a DAS, Verizon Wireless is all for it.


“If somebody wants to pay for the ability to give our customers service, why not?” said McColl. “The ecosystem is asking for more support than we can give and so this gives them an opportunity to engage, and it’s something that we need to help.”


For the DAS vendors working with SpiderCloud, the addition of a signal source could make their systems easier to sell to corporate customers. Advanced RF Technologies marketing director Seri Yoon expects Verizon Wireless to spend less on indoor systems than it has in the past, and she hopes enterprises can pick up some of the slack.


Yoon added that for ADRF the SpiderCloud integration is “plug and play” because the ADRF system includes an Ethernet port and a power port. Yoon said the ADRF DAS with a small cell signal source is a good solution for new installations, but for existing systems she would expect to see small cells used to add capacity independently rather than as part of a DAS.


A Verizon Wireless DAS with a guaranteed signal source can be the first part of a system that will eventually support multiple carriers. McColl said enterprises can install these systems with a SpiderCloud radio node and then add other carrier radios down the road. But this would require the DAS vendor to integrate its system with the new small cell just as it has with the SpiderCloud equipment.


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