Small cell webinar: The Hunt for the Golden Lamppost 23 July 2013

We conducted a webinar, co-organised with the nice folks at Telecom Evangelist, entitled “The Hunt for the Golden Lamppost – the challenges of deploying a small cell network”.

The webinar was conducted  on 23rd July 2013, but can now be viewed online at: 

The webinar covers:

  • - The state of play in small cells today
  • - Situation report on the hunt for small cell sites in the UK – the “lamp grab”
  • - The need to align communities of interest
  • - Understanding operator motivations for small cells: it’s not just about capacity
  • - The challenges – rewriting the radio planning rule book
  • - Approaches to valuing small cell site portfolios
  • - The potential role of a Small Cells as a Service approach

Mobile and Wireless in Scotland – Scottish Government Seminar 17th May 2013

On 17th May 2013 the Scottish Government held a discussion event on the part which mobile and wireless technologies could play in realising their vision for Scotland to be a world-class digital nation by 2020. The event featured a chair and four speakers:

  • John Cooke, Executive Director, Mobile Operators Association (chair)
  • Sarah Craig, head of 4G and Business Programmes at Telefonica UK;
  • Prof Simon Saunders, Director-Technology, Real Wireless; 
  • Zahid Ghadialy, Managing Director of eXplanoTech Ltd; 
  • Professor Rahim Tafazolli, Head of the Centre for Communication Systems Research at the University of Surrey.

 Simon’s presentation can be viewed below. See here for videos of the other speakers to download  the presentation slides.

Three Real Wireless Experts Honoured at Small Cell Awards

Awards for Real Wireless Experts Simon Saunders, Julius Robson & Rupert Baines cement company’s position as premier international advisor on small cells


London, UK – 10th June 2013 – Real Wireless, the expert and independent wireless communications specialist, today announced that three of its experts were honoured at the Small Cell Industry Awards 2013, highlighting the company’s position as the foremost international advisor on small cell technology and strategy. Professor Simon Saunders, Co-Founder and Director-Technology, received an award for ‘Innovation Leadership’, and fellow Real Wireless associates Julius Robson and Rupert Baines were honoured with the ‘Chairman’s Award’ and ‘Individual Contribution to Small Cell Forum Activities’ categories respectively.

Simon (centre) receiving his award from ip.access CTO Nick Johnson (left), Forum chairman Gordon Mansfield of AT&T, Ubiquisys CTO Will Franks, and Rupert Baines

Simon Saunders served as the Small Cell Forum’s founding Chairman from 2007 until September 2012 and this award celebrates his endeavours to unite the nascent small cell industry and shape it in to the cornerstone of cellular telecoms it is today.






Julius (left), Gordon Mansfield (SCF Chairman, AT&T), Nick Johnson (CTO, ip.access)

Julius Robson received his award representing CBNL for his part in delivering one of the most popular documents of the Small Cell Forum’s Release One, the Backhaul Whitepaper and his continued efforts as a
driving force in the Forum’s Release Steering Committee.





SCF Chief Executive Graham Wright (left) with Rupert Baines

Technology marketing and strategy specialist Rupert Baines, formerly of Mindspeed and Picochip, received his award for his work as the Founding Chairman of the Forum’s Marketing Working Group. Rupert is well known for many achievements in the small cell space, including coining the term “femtocell”.


“When I was first approached to Chair the Small Cell Forum in 2007, small cells and the ecosystem surrounding it was disruptive with great potential, but required greater cooperation to bring it to the attention of the operator community,” said Simon Saunders, Co-Founder and Director-Technology, Real Wireless. “It fills me with great pride and delight to see how far we’ve come in just six years from a Femto Forum of seven members and no deployments, to a Small Cell Forum with 150 members and millions of small cells deployed by major operators around the world. I would like to thank the Small Cell Forum for this award and congratulate both Julius and Rupert on their accolades. Real Wireless will take pleasure in continuing to help the industry fulfil the potential I saw in it all that time ago.”

“The key ingredient to the Forum’s success and indeed that of the wider small cell industry is the Forum’s Founding Chairman, Professor Simon Saunders. Back in 2007 there were numerous different approaches to femtocell network design and not a standard in sight. Worse still, operators were highly dubious of this upstart technology. Today, standardized small cell networks abound and the world’s operator community is agreed that the technology is central to the industry’s future. Simon was the central figure in this transformation and the industry undoubtedly owes him a great debt,” said Gordon Mansfield, Chairman of the Small Cell Forum.

Simon is an independent specialist in the technology of wireless communications, with a technical and commercial background derived from senior appointments in both industry (including Philips and Motorola) and academia (University of Surrey). He previously served as the Small Cell Forum (formerly Femto Forum) Founding Chairman for five years before stepping down in September 2012.

The awards were open to the whole industry and are judged independently of the Small Cell Forum by a panel of distinguished analysts, journalists and industry experts, chaired by Caroline Gabriel, Research Director, Maravedis Rethink. The Innovation Leadership Award was judged by the incumbent Small Cell Forum Chairman, Gordon Mansfield.

For more information on the Small Cell Forum Industry Awards 2013, please visit:



About Real Wireless

Real Wireless ( is a highly respected and professional independent wireless communication advisory company  founded in 2007. Real Wireless takes its experts’ hands-on, senior-level experience of real world deployments and in-depth understanding of the technical and commercial aspects of wireless technologies to deliver the very best in professional wireless services to a range of clients. Our experience encompasses all the major industry sectors including mobile, broadcasting, wireless LANs and PANs, wireless backhaul and satellite. Customers include operators, vendors and regulators in the wireless sector as well as blue-chip users of wireless in the transportation, sports and retail sectors.


About the Small Cell Forum
The Small Cell Forum (, supports the wide-scale adoption of small cells. Small cells are low-power wireless access points that operate in licensed spectrum, are operator-managed and feature edge-based intelligence. They provide improved cellular coverage, capacity and applications for homes and enterprises as well as metropolitan and rural public spaces. They include technologies variously described as femtocells, picocells, microcells and metrocells. The Forum has in excess of 150 members including 67 operators representing more than 3 billion mobile subscribers – 46 per cent of the global total – as well as telecoms hardware and software vendors, content providers and innovative start-ups.

Internet and Mobile Access on Planes – the Next Generation

Much talk in the mobile industry today focuses on how demand for services is concentrated inside buildings, such as homes and offices, with those two locations making up easily 70% and often as much as 90% of all mobile traffic.

While that’s true, there are other locations where people spend extended periods of time sitting still with their mobile devices and would like to get (better) access to services:namely trains and planes. We looked at trains extensively on behalf of the GB rail industry in a previous project, but have more recently been turning our thoughts to providing enhanced Internet and mobile services to planes.

Challenges in getting this working abound:

  • Regulatory: Getting permission to deploy picocells on planes for 2G services took many years and involved careful technology development to ensure spectrum wasn’t used inappropriately close to the ground. There are deployments, but it seems that using mobile data is what people want on planes rather than talking on phones, so 2G seems a rather limited medium. Repeating this for 3G, let alone 4G/LTE doesn’t yet seem to have happened. 
  • Backhaul: There are quite a few services providing Wi-Fi on planes, but prices are fairly high and data rates not always impressive. One reason for this may be that existing services are mainly satellite backhauled using some fairly capacity-constrained satellites. There is a whole new generation of satellites which currently have significant spare capacity and which could help with this (e.g. Hylas 2), but keeping up with the rate of mobile growth is arguably not easy to do with satellites alone. On the other hand, satellites offer a great way of ensuring the entirety of the flight path is well covered even in some very remote areas.
  • Demand: Infrastructure supporting aviation necessarily has to be planned and maintained many years in advance: for example,  getting approval for a new type of equipment to go on board could easily take 5 years. This timescale is very much at odds with the rapid growth – and more importantly the rapid fluctuation – of demand forecasts for mobile broadband. Arguably it would be better for the capacity to serve such demand to be ground-located, where it can easily be increased and upgraded.
  • Spectrum: Aviation frequencies are harmonised internationally and with very good reason: no-one wants the pilot of a plane coming into an international airport to be unable to communicate with air traffic control. But do the frequencies used for passenger data services need the same degree of harmonisation? And if so, which frequencies should they be? Perhaps they could be the same frequencies  harmonised for LTE, allowing reuse of existing LTE equipment. Trials (such astheose by Deutsche Telekom and Airbus) have already shown that a fast-moving aircraft can be served via LTE from the ground. LTE frequencies vary hugely around the world however, leading some to suggest that it would be best to adopt dedicated frequencies for this application. Qualcomm is currently promoting the use of 14-14.5 GHz in the US and the FCC is examining this possibility.

 Clearly there is a lot to consider, but much scope for a substantial opportunity for passengers, airlines and operators. It seems to us as wireless network folks that this is a problem involving an unusual profile of very wide-area coverage and very intense capacity and systems need to be efficient across all of these needs. 

The video below shows an animation we put together of a day of aviation in Europe. Notice the significant routes across locations where terrestrial services would struggle to reach, yet very intense demand near hub airports, which might exhaust satellite capacity density. This suggests that a hybrid solution involving both satellites and a terrestrial network might well be necessary.

A Day in the Life: European aviation in the course of a single day

Supporting the rail industry’s wireless communications

Real Wireless was involved in a cross-industry rail project in 2011 to support the development of rail communications strategy and business-case to satisfy all the stakeholders that rely on rail communications. This means both passengers and railway workers. The work was for the Rail Safety and Standards Board (RSSB) and we worked in partnership with Mott MacDonald on the T964 research project Operational Communications – a programme of work to develop an effective strategy that supports rail innovation. 

Real Wireless led and supported a number of work packages notably the spectrum position paper (registration required) and also the Technology options paper (registration required). The aim of spectrum position paper was to inform the rail industry of the importance of spectrum and in particular the characteristics of the different frequency bands relevant to mobile use and the impact of the regulatory policy and decisions including frequency allocations and assignments.

The technology options paper highlighted the differences and characteristics of mobile technologies that would be suitable to both operational and passenger applications and services. In particular the paper discusses how future mobile technologies such as LTE may support future data applications in delivering priority operational traffic for the efficient operation of the rail network and also mobile broadband applications for passengers.

It may seem surprising, but one of our findings was that it is not actually too expensive to install mobile equipment on all the carriages of all the trains in the country if it’s done in a coordinated fashion. And that the cost is massively outweighed by the reduction in cost of the necessary trackside infrastructure, given the right use of technology and spectrum.

(Note: we do other work in the transportation industry too – see our thoughts on wireless on planes)