Finding a cost effective solution to deal with the problem of poor indoor cellular coverage and capacity in medium to large enterprises has been difficult for mobile operators.
DAS (distributed antenna systems) are generally too cumbersome and expensive, while deploying indoor wireless local area network (LAN) means incurring both capex and opex and adds to the burden on IT departments. Installing cellular 3G/4G small cells is the other option, but densifying the network brings its own problems in terms of managing interference and the soft handover between radio nodes as users move about the building.
SpiderCloud Wireless has built its business on tackling these problems. It offers what it calls an enterprise radio access network (E-RAN). The E-RAN system consists of a services node (SCSN) that can control over 100 self-organising and multi-access 3G, Wi-Fi and LTE/4G small cells that can be installed in just days using an enterprise-Ethernet LAN. The service is offered as a managed solution by a mobile operator or via key distribution partners such as NEC.
Chief marketing officer Ronny Haraldsvik says: ‘People want to make use of all applications and services wherever they go and that creates a lot of network challenges. When you put more radios into an already very dense radio environment bad things happen and that is why the existing small cell solution can only scale to a certain point.’
SpiderCloud solves these issues largely due to its Service Node (SCSN). The SCSN acts as the ‘local’ control point for the small cell network deployed inside the enterprise. The SCSN makes it possible to ‘densify’ an in-building network without impacting the rest of the network.
It aggregates all the small cells deployed inside and makes a system of 3G and LTE/4G small cells appear as one cell to the mobile network.
Without the presence of a local control point on an enterprise customer’s Ethernet network, a mobile operator cannot effectively coordinate small cells or inter-small cell signalling. The SCSN enables seamless small cell-to-small cell mobility and manages interference between the E-RAN and the macro cellular network.
The SCSN significantly increases average mobile data throughput for small cells, capacity, and the overall performance of a small cell network, improving the small cell economics for a mobile operator. Without the presence of a local control point, small cells have to connect back to the mobile operator’s core network-based gateways, slowing down handovers and increasing the rate of interference coordination inside buildings.
A local control point is also essential for local IP access (LIPA), sometimes known as local switching and local breakout, which is needed to ensure inter-small cell mobility. LIPA enables content caching, access to content-based and localised services.
‘By having a local presence you can create local data and analytics,’ notes Haraldsvik. ‘Before you couldn’t see what a 3G device was doing on the local network. You would have to go back into the core to check the log files to find out what had taken place.’
Haraldsvik points out: ‘The important thing is that our solution does it without changing the user behaviour or the device. It fully leverages the existing mobile ecosystem. And once you guarantee the 3G/4G coverage, that gives the service provider the opportunity to go back to the enterprise and add further services.
‘For example, we can tie into existing PBXs or provide cloud based PBXs and replace desk phones with a phone number on your mobile device. Device management can be offered as a cloud service and we can offer guest Wi-Fi access and management.’
Art King, director of enterprise services and technologies, says: ‘Offloading guest Wi-Fi to a mobile operator is a killer app for the enterprise, because you end up having to manage compliance, tracking downloads, logins and the like, so offloading guest Wi-Fi management to a third party is very attractive.
‘Look at hospitals,’ he points out. ‘Even though the guest Wi-Fi is on a separate SSID, it is clogging the physical network underneath it. So, hospitals are very interested in getting the guest Wi-Fi responsibility taken off them, because of the huge demands that 1,000 patients in bed with their iPads are placing on the hospital IT teams.’
King says the company’s largest deployment to date is 65 radio nodes, which took just four days to deploy. The company expects to announce its first US and European service provider customers this year.