Ruckus tackles in-building coverage, capacity problems with OpenG

With an eye toward a future that will include a whole lot more sharing of spectrum, Ruckus Wireless will demonstrate OpenG technology in collaboration with Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM) during Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2016 in Barcelona, Spain.

OpenG technology combines coordinated shared spectrum, such as 3.5 GHz in the U.S., with neutral host-capable small cells to enable building owners to deploy cost-effective in-building cellular coverage. Ruckus plans to drive the market adoption of OpenG using its enterprise channel and service provider base.

Ruckus is among six companies throwing their support behind the 3.5 GHz ecosystem in the United States. Google (NASDAQ: GOOG), Federated Wireless, Intel, Nokia (NYSE:NOK), and Qualcomm are also pledging to collaborate in order to expand cellular coverage and capacity for buildings and high-density areas.

Today, much of the spectrum that the FCC has designated for sharing is being used by the military, but once the Spectrum Access System (SAS) is up and running, it will calculate in real time who's using spectrum and where, including indoors, then hand out channels based on that. The whole system involves a three-tiered sharing system, so incumbent federal and certain other radar and satellite users get the highest priority.

An important use case is getting coverage deep inside buildings, according to Juan Santiago, director of product management at Ruckus. Distributed antenna systems (DAS) address that today, but it's costly, complex and reaches a small percentage of buildings. "It requires a lot of coordination with cellular carriers, and the cost structure is simply not there," he said. A lot of high-profile stadiums are covered by DAS, but there's another type of building, which doesn't have adequate cellular coverage, and DAS isn't economical. "That's where we see this opportunity coming in."

The 3.5 GHz spectrum that the FCC is making available for sharing will enable the enterprises to deploy cellular just like they do Wi-Fi, which is where Ruckus comes in. It wants to offer products that serve as add-ons to its Wi-Fi products and solutions. That way, enterprises can offer Wi-Fi and cellular, with easy roaming, SMS and voice calling. (It should be noted that hardware in handsets also needs to be added to support 3.5 GHz.)

Today, if someone wants to install a DAS, the operator often needs to build and pay for it, but with a shared system, it opens the door for more enterprises to cover the costs. For example, if a conference center has poor cellular coverage, it may be willing to invest in a system that supports multiple carriers in order to keep its customer happy and returning.

However, it could get dicey if operators decide they don't want to cooperate for competitive reasons. "What we're doing in 2016 is getting all those pieces in place, and get the word out to service providers to say, hey, this is good for you," Santiago said. Some MNOs are more excited about it than others, but with the investment costs shifted to the enterprise, Ruckus thinks that will become less of an issue. It's also offering to provide reports showing how indoor networks are performing to make sure they're meeting expectations.

Google and Federated Wireless are the two most often cited candidates to serve as SAS administrators. The FCC's Wireless Telecommunications Bureau (WTB) and Office of Engineering and Technology (OET) are hosting a meeting of prospective SAS administrators and Environmental Sensing Capability (ESC) operators on Feb. 29 at FCC headquarters to discuss the submission process and address questions from prospective SAS administrators and ESC operators. The meeting was scheduled for Feb. 16 but was postponed due to bad weather.

For more:
- see this press release and this release

Related articles:
Google seeks clarification on SAS rules for 3.5 GHz band
Federated Wireless marks milestone in spectrum sharing platform
FCC votes to adopt new 3.5 GHz spectrum sharing plan for 'Innovation Band'