Site acquisition and delivery of backhaul and power are widely documented gating factors restricting extensive deployments of outdoor small cells. Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE:ALU) hopes to alleviate those challenges via a site certification program that brings together a variety of partners, which have contributed to a database of more than half a million sites suitable for small cells.
Alcatel-Lucent has signed nine partners to its Metro Cell Express Site Certification Program so far. Inaugural members include site acquisition specialty firms and outside plant (OSP) construction specialists such as Crown Castle, EdgeConneX, Knight Enterprises and Zayo Group. Other members include U.S. cable operators, outdoor advertising providers, systems integrators and managed services providers, though these partners prefer to remain anonymous for the time being.
Based on results from a new survey of global service providers, Infonetics Research recently said that "backhaul staged a comeback as a barrier to deploying small cells." The firm added that "overall barriers are waning with the exception of outdoor site acquisition, which remains challenging."
Schabel (Source: Alcatel-Lucent)
And because there is no single company that has all of the small cell site assets an operator needs, either regionally or globally, mobile carriers must spend considerable time, effort and investment trying to piece together parts of the small cell siting puzzle. Alcatel-Lucent contends its certified program members will help operators speed installation of the vendor's metro cells while addressing strategic issues concerning real estate, increased network capacity, ongoing maintenance and asset management.
"We have a bit of a conundrum here, and operators are saying, 'This is a challenge for us.' So we are looking for ways to simplify and accelerate the [small cell deployment] process," Michael Schabel, vice president of small cells at Alcatel-Lucent, told FierceWirelessTech.
"We can mix a site company with a backhaul company and provide that as an answer to a wireless operator's challenges," he added.
Schabel said Alcatel-Lucent, via its partners, now has a database of 600,000 "qualified sites" across the United States and Western Europe that are available for small cell deployment. "Getting these qualified sites into the hands of operators facilitates the ease with which they can do network deployments in a standard, regimented way," he added.
Drilling down further, Alcatel-Lucent's current partners can provide mobile carriers with access to more than 150,000 serviceable on-net buildings, more than 50,000 pieces of street furniture such as light posts and utility poles and 10,000 fiber-to-the-building assets. These partners also offer aerial physical plant and fiber assets for backhaul, public utility right-of-way access in U.S. urban areas plus more than 200,000 route miles of fiber in primary U.S. urban and suburban markets.
As part of the certification process, Alcatel-Lucent trains employees of non-tower-related companies, such as advertising companies, to deploy carrier-grade equipment at locations they control, which might include, for example, bus stop enclosures. "It's transferable knowledge, but it requires training," Schabel said.
Alcatel-Lucent claims to have more than 60 commercial small cell deployments in 43 countries. Last year, the vendor announced its lightRadio Metrocell Express program, which offers a managed service designed to accelerate metro cell deployments and simplify their operations and maintenance.
Schabel said Alcatel-Lucent hopes to add more partners to its new small cell site certification program and noted the program is expected to expand globally over time.
- see this Alcatel-Lucent release
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