Study Finds Major Cost Advantages in New Enterprise LTE Wireless Approach

Analysis finds Cloud RAN small cells save 69% of costs vs. DAS

Airvana, a leading provider of small cell solutions, and Real Wireless, independent expert advisors in wireless technology, today announced a study revealing that a Cloud RAN small cell solution can reduce costs by 69%, compared to traditional distributed antenna system (DAS) solutions.

The Real Wireless study concluded that Cloud RAN (or C-RAN) Small Cells were less expensive in all scenarios considered, including multi-operator deployments where DAS has previously been considered superior to small cells.  The study examined the use of C-RAN LTE small cells as an alternative to LTE DAS in both upgrades of existing DAS and in new “greenfield” DAS deployments.   Both large and small building deployments were analyzed, and both active and passive DAS.

The full white paper, exploring the analysis and results in detail, is available at: www.airvana.com/c-ran-economics/.

Cloud RAN (C-RAN) architecture achieves performance and economic benefits by centralizing “baseband” and scheduling functions– the core processing by which the system allocates wireless resources among users and services.  Airvana’s OneCell, which recently won the GSMA’s Best Mobile Technology Breakthrough award at Mobile World Congress 2015, was used as the basis of the comparison to DAS.  It uses a C-RAN architecture and goes even further by tightly coordinating the LTE access points throughout a building to behave as a single cell, eliminating interference and handovers. As such, C-RAN small cells share many of the positive attributes of DAS that have been the preferred indoor wireless solution for large enterprises and public spaces. Due to its high costs, however, DAS is practical for use in only a tiny fraction of enterprise buildings.

Real Wireless was commissioned to conduct the study due to their extensive experience in real-world in-building wireless solutions. The study authors have been responsible for the design and installation of hundreds of in-building systems. As a result Real Wireless was able to take a holistic view of a rollout. Not only were equipment costs taken into account, but also related costs such as cable materials, installation labor, project management, design and recurring operating expenses – in all over 90 line items for each scenario.

Professor Simon Saunders, Real Wireless director of technology, led the study team. “While we have long seen the potential for enterprise small cells, this is the first time a definitive cost comparison has been conducted. Significant savings are encountered even for multi-operator situations and smaller buildings, heralding potentially explosive growth on the tiny (<2%) penetration of dedicated wireless solutions in office buildings to date.”

The analysis found that many of the savings of the OneCell C-RAN approach derive from its simplified “Wi-Fi-like” deployment model, using standard Ethernet LANs for in-building distribution rather than fiber/coax cabling and remote radio heads.  This approach generated significant savings in solution design, cabling materials, installation labor, and project management. It also improved ongoing flexibility to add and redistribute capacity in response to changes in user demand.

“The realization that enterprises were under-served by legacy solutions motivated us to develop OneCell,” said Richard Lowe, president and CEO, Airvana. “The rigorous analysis by Real Wireless confirms the value of C-RAN small cells. OneCell will make quality indoor LTE service affordable to a much broader enterprise segment.”

Wireless in stadiums: It’s not all about the spectators

During the World Cup earlier this summer, we saw plenty of articles that examined the wireless infrastructure – or lack thereof – at the host stadiums.  Due to the  scale and attention on the event, it was inevitable that these mainly focused on whether visitors would be able to tweet from the event.

But wireless in venues is about much more than just letting attendees tell their friends on social networks about their evening. There are a host of other benefits for the venue and its staff that are possible when a stable, usable mobile infrastructure is in place – some of which we detailed in our guide.

The attention on wireless during the world cup should have focused on these benefits.  At this point in time, there are a whole host of options available for stadium owners to implement stable wireless infrastructure in a cost effective manner.

As the UK Premier League returned this week, here are four of my favourite potential use cases – hopefully the industry will be more vocal about these in 2014/15. 

Analyze this

Big data was the marketing buzzword de jour in 2013, so it’s surprising so many stadiums are still in the dark about who attends their events, let alone what they do once they’re inside. But imagine not only being able to see where spectators are inside the venue, but also where they’ve come from and where they go after.

With a solid mobile infrastructure, this is all possible. Thanks to focused coverage technologies – like the recently announced presenceCell – and improved analytics packages, it’s possible for network operators to provide data on where subscribers go before an event.

This data can be used for more than just planning footfall. As well as location, data collected can be used to profile visitors – providing insight in to who they are. You can probably imagine the host of advertising and personalization opportunities this opens up.

WFG: “Working from the game’

The idea of a business person wearing a Bluetooth headphone, tapping away on their laptop throughout a Sigur Rós concert is probably enough to strike fear in to the heart music fans. But for long-form sports, such as cricket and baseball, watching the game doesn’t necessarily mean blocking out the rest of the world for the duration.

Particularly for fixtures that occur mid-week, voice coverage is only the beginning of what spectators need, particularly those often found in the members’ stands. While they might technically be on a day off, it’s still essential that they can check email and respond to anything urgent – even from the ground. Something particularly relevant for VIP customers and those in corporate boxes.

Some venues have already attempted to address this; Sussex County Cricket ground has deployed a Wi-Fi system to the seating areas specifically to provide “virtual office” services to their spectators.

Receiving transmission…

The hefty bandwidth demands that come with transmitting mobile video in a stadium means most owners have traditionally shied away from it. After all, if you’re having difficulties meeting current mobile demands, why add further network strain?

LTE-Broadcast is set to change that. Thanks to its improved usage of network capacity, it’s possible to stream content to multiple devices without overloading the network.

Many stadiums already offer their own video channel on venue-controlled television screens, providing unique coverage of the event at hand. With by transmitting this via LTE Broadcast, this could easily be monetized and made available to spectators inside the venue.

Think of how well received Sky Go’s Ashes Cricket application was by fans. If an owner were to charge visitors £5 a head for access to multiple in-game camera angles, the initial costs suddenly look small in comparison to what could prove a very lucrative enterprise.

The future of security

Most venues will have a basic PMR system in place for stewards and other staff to communicate via radio, whilst some larger venues will have a dedicated TETRA system for emergency service use.

Thanks to new developments in LTE push-to-talk radios, it’s now possible for police and security staff to relay images and video of people involved in incidents to their colleagues. This instantly provides everyone with an exact image of who to look out for and what occurred, rather than relying on vague descriptions.

This last point is perhaps made all the more significant as impending changes to the TETRA emergency services radio in the UK will see it wound down. Rather than waiting for this to happen and rushing to install LTE coverage, smarter venue owners should be starting to prioritise this now.

240,000 fans can’t be wrong: One Direction fans likely to set UK record for mobile social media

One Direction fans are expected to share a staggering number of tweets, messages and selfies from Wembley Stadium later this week, as the boyband take to Wembley Stadium for a three-night residency. With attendees expected to potentially send as many as 10,000,000 tweets during the shows, the density of mobile traffic looks set to be over one hundred times that in central London.

With 19 million Twitter followers, five million followers on Instagram and over 30 million Facebook likes, their fans are notoriously keen users of social media. 

Based on a few simple assumptions,  Real Wireless calculated that their fans could send as many as 10,000,000 tweets during the three concerts.Wembley’s 90,000 seats corresponds to a density of 1.4million phones per km2, compared to 13,200 people per km2 in Central London. However, the traffic generated by 1D’s famously connected fans will be far higher than this average, thanks to their desire to upload photos and videos of the event to social media as it happens.

Speaking at the Stadium Business Summit yesterday, Real Wireless used the gig as an example of growing concerns over wireless traffic in venues.  They drew parallels between this and the recent Superbowl, where over 3TB of cellular data was used – an increase of 800% on 2013.

Mark Keenan, Director at Real Wireless, speaking yesterday at Stadium Business Summit, cited this as an example of the traffic peaks that Stadiums need to face. Mr Keenan also gave the explosive growth in traffic at Superbowl as a warning for European venue owners and operators.

“Getting coverage at a major event has always been difficult, but it’s now even tougher as so many visitors demand excellent connectivity with ever-faster devices and more apps,” said Keenan. “Customers at venues expect to get online and are unhappy if they can’t. They want to upload to social media or watch replays on smartphones; that requires the stadium has solid plans in place. If they don’t they will complain. But beyond customer satisfaction there are opportunities for stadiums to earn revenue from new sources, to improve operational efficiency and reduce cost”

“The US is a leading indicator: their 4G adoption is ahead of ours, but as we pointed out recently 4G is growing fast in UK. One Direction will be an early indicator of this, but as 4G adoption becomes far more widespread next year the full force of this will start to be felt – venues need to have their plans in place”

Typically a single mobile base station, even in a city centre, would serve an area the size of Wembley. However, with an estimated 72% of people in the UK now owning a smartphone, venues can no longer afford to rely on mobile network coverage from outside the venue.  Spectators and visitors want to be able to upload photos, check social networks and share updates as they happen, whilst continuing to do the basics – like make calls and text. This leads to a need for specialist, carefully engineered networks.

Real Wireless has put together a guide to the business benefits of providing wireless in stadiums and venues, available to download for free here. Drawing from its expertise in working with some of the biggest stadiums and venues in the UK, the guide looks at applications from providing at-seat video to tracking visitors and security.