Mobile Experts has been tracking the Enterprise Mobile Infrastructure market for several years now and has noted that various technology solutions are all growing at different paces. How can this be? Shouldn’t a better technology take out an inferior one in a Darwinian sense? When small cells came on the scene, some predicted that traditional Distributed Antenna Systems (DAS) would die away. Of course, the fact of the matter is that DAS, small cells and repeaters or boosters, all address specific market needs and continue to evolve. So, where are we headed? Do enterprises need to deal with a seemingly increasing number of technology options including DAS, small cells, Wi-Fi, boosters and CBRS radios?
The Enterprise Mobile Infrastructure market is especially challenging, as product solutions need to meet the varying degrees of enterprise requirements such as lower price expectation, ease of deployment and maintenance, while at the same time meeting the level of control that operators seek so that in-building wireless systems do not interfere with macro networks outside of a building or campus environment. In essence, a good enterprise in-building wireless system needs to satisfy a dual mandate:
- provide a multioperator, multitechnology, multifrequency solution that is cost-effective in deployment and maintenance for enterprises
- provide a level of control for operators so that any potential issues around handover can be alleviated in a multicell deployment.
The choice between small cells vs. DAS, to some degree, is a choice of carrier-driven vs. enterprise-driven business models. While the remote radio head-based small cell solutions may lend themselves well to carrier’s centralized RAN evolution, DAS solutions more closely reflect the multioperator, vendor-agnostic model that neutral hosts and enterprises naturally prefer. In a quest for “multieverything” in-building wireless solution, that is agnostic across technologies, frequency bands of various operators, and vendor solutions, the DAS and small cell solutions will continue to evolve towards in-building CRAN. Meanwhile, the enterprise mobile infrastructure market will continue to be served by DAS, small cell, and booster solutions through various channel partnerships of OEMs, system integrators and distributors across the different vertical market segments.
The emerging market for CBRS access and unlicensed LTE access complicates the picture even more. These solutions offer a new way for “multieverything,” by simplifying the radio and relying on the ecosystem to support a completely new, neutral format. These solutions could make macro vendor preferences irrelevant, and the complexity of multiband radio solutions can be greatly reduced. In short, CBRS or MulteFire would reduce the need for mobile operators to control the spectrum. These solutions are not perfect for every case but add yet another option for enterprises that are willing to invest in a wireless solution.
A marketwide preference for a specific in-building wireless solution may not become so clear as long as the construction boom continues. In a rising tide of construction activities across big and small building projects, all will have a place. When construction activity eventually cools off, cost-effective in-building wireless system that can meet the dual mandate will rise to the top. The good news is that in-building wireless demand is not expected to wane as mobile usage and traffic growth continue to rise.
Kyung Mun is a senior analyst at Mobile Experts LLC. Mobile Experts is a network of market and technology experts that provides market analysis on the mobile infrastructure and mobile handset markets. Over the course of his 20+ years in wireless and cable industries in a dynamic range of roles from engineering to product management and technology strategy, Mun has contributed to the advancement of mobile communication while working at leading companies in the mobile value chain including Motorola, Texas Instruments, Alcatel-Lucent and a few startups in between. He holds undergraduate and graduate degrees in electrical engineering from the University of Texas at Austin and Georgia Tech, and studied finance and strategy at Southern Methodist University.