In conversation with Chris Kapuscinski, Wireless Marketing at Alcatel Lucent. Chris recently attended the 4G World 2012 event in Chicago, where small cells and in particular the ALU lightRadio Metro Cell Express deployment demonstration drummed up a great deal of attention. David Swift caught up with Chris over a cup of coffee to see what all the excitement was about.
David Swift: So Chris, I understand that while 4G World obviously concentrated on that new mobile technology there was a great deal of discussion about complementary technologies and how the mobile experience can be improved all round?
Chris Kapuscinski: That’s right. Alcatel Lucent’s Mike Schabel gave a keynote presentation on the opening day of 4G World, focusing on the subject of metro cells and it’s fair to say that it was well-attended! There was standing room only when Mike was presenting and this was I think a reflection of how important the industry now considers metro cells to be to their offering.
Throughout the North America market we’re really beginning to see extensive small and metro cell adoption by mobile network operators (MNO), as they become more aware of the benefits they can enjoy.
DS: There was an awful lot of talk about demand for capacity and how operators can extend coverage to remote areas at 4G World – something which tallies with the metro cell message?
CK: Yes, there did seem to be a lot of that level of realization around at this year’s event in Chicago. MNO are definitely under pressure to deliver increased capacity to urban locations, but at the same time they’re also focusing on how they can boost cellular coverage to rural areas. The North American market is of course home to many examples of both kinds of territories, but we really saw a focus from 4G World delegates on how they deliver an enhanced quality of experience (QoE) to metro customers, where there is heavy footfall, high end-user expectation but often poor levels of capacity and access.
DS: So what were the key questions you found delegates asking you at 4G World?
CK: Well first and foremost there was lots of excitement around small cells and metro cells in particular. We were running a demonstration of our lightRadio Metro Cell Express solution and this drew a lot of attention. Operators are looking for cost-effective ways to expand capacity in urban areas, and we’re giving them a managed service way to do that. One of the perceived barriers MNO see to rolling out metro cells is the speed and ease of deployment – we’re addressing that specifically with this product.
CK: The buzz around our stand at 4G World was about the possibilities metro cells are giving to operators from a network architecture point of view, and how they are truly changing the macro only approach. We actually found that many delegates not only wanted to ask us questions about metro cells and how they can enhance operators’ offerings, but that they also wanted to just get their hands on some metro cells and feel them for themselves! Some attendees had obviously never seen a metro cell up close so they were keen to have a play with them and see how small they are, how easily they slide into the dock and so on. To feel that they are real really!
DS: So what other features of the metro cell offering seemed to be popular with delegates?
CK: Site selection was a big factor and something we fielded a lot of questions and enquiries about. I think that this was largely because of where we are in the metro cell lifecycle really. Operators are more focused on where to site cells than they are in integration, which they consider to be further down the line. So since ease of installation is a key element of metro cells we were pleased to be able to help educate people about this. Our lightRadio Metro Cell Express demonstration specifically addresses this in fact, so we were able to talk people through it in a step by step way. We’re educating the market about not just the capacity and coverage benefits of metro cells, but also helping them understand where they put them and how they know to put them there. We’re helping operators to stop guessing about this stuff.
DS: Offload is obviously a key factor inherent to metro cells as well – were people able to grasp the offload benefits of metro cells too?
CK: Yes, very much so – this was actually a part of the discussion around how and where to locate metro cells. We were able to tell operators where to place metro cells so that they can maximize the offload of the macro cell and also maximize the added capacity to the overall network. While at the same time making sure there’s no interference with the macro signal of course.
DS: So the 4G World event represented a good opportunity to educate the North American market about the many benefits on offer from metro cells in general then?
CK: Yes, it did. We were able to talk to RF engineers about site selection, business development professionals and network architects about the business case and business benefits involved and just what the core value proposition is. Integration was also a factor we were asked about, again mostly from an engineering perspective. So we were able to talk to operators about where you are permitted to install metro cells, what the process is for addressing the various municipal requirements, regulation and so on. We were delighted with the response and reaction we got to our Metro Cell Express demo and towards our offering in general.