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Virgin Media pitches SCaaS: small cells as a service

27 сентября 2012

Virgin Media on Wednesday pitched its credentials as a small cells as a service (SCaaS) provider that could potentially remove some of the cost and complexity of deploying micro network infrastructure.

The new service will see Virgin Media take responsibility for site acquisition, building up an inventory of street furniture suitable for hosting small cells. It then plans to offer these locations to mobile network operators, providing them with the necessary power supply and backhaul connectivity in the form of its fibre network.

"It's a very natural extension of Virgin Media Business' backhaul business," said Kevin Baughan, Virgin Media's director of metro wireless, at a roundtable event in London.

Baughan, along with other executives from the U.K. cableco, are confident that Virgin's SCaaS concept is an attractive proposition for operators that routinely put site acquisition and backhaul costs as two of the top challenges facing small cell deployments.

"It's certainly one of the models that would be most effective for mobile operators," said Erol Hepsaydir, director of radio solutions strategy at 3UK. "We just bring the radio head."

However, Simon Saunders, technology director at consultancy Real Wireless and outgoing chairman of the Small Cell Forum, noted that small cells "represent perhaps the last bastion of differentiation" for network operators.

If that is the case, then an SCaaS service like Virgin Media's might limit the opportunity for network differentiation.

"The success or otherwise of Virgin Media's hosted small cell offering hinges on its commercial appeal to mobile operators, mainly in persuading them that it can take much of the pain out of small cell deployments by addressing two of their key concerns: access to sites and backhaul," explained Julian Bright, senior analyst at Informa Telecoms & Media, who said in an email to Total Telecom that Virgin Media Business' existing mobile backhaul customers will be obvious early targets.

"While this may help to reduce the cost burden, MNOs will be keen to preserve the flexibility around planning for capacity and coverage that small cells afford, while retaining scope for differentiation of services," he said.

As a forerunner to its hosted small cells service, Virgin Media has been busy trialling LTE small cell in the cities of Newcastle and Bristol.

The outdoor trial networks used 20 MHz of 2.6-GHz test spectrum, providing maximum connection speeds of 100 Mbps on the downlink and 45 Mbps on the uplink.

One of the more surprising results of the trial was that speeds of around 20 Mbps were recorded at distances of up to 350 metres from the nearest cell. However, Saunders, whose company Real Wireless analysed the results of the trial, noted that since there are as yet no LTE users in the UK, there was no chance of the cells being overly-contended.

Also of interest was that despite doubts about the ability of 2.6-GHz spectrum to penetrate walls, in-building connection speeds in some locations reached as high as 62 Mbps.

"It shows there is a strong role for small cells to deliver good in-building services," said Saunders.

Meanwhile Baughan said the next logical step on Virgin Media's path to offering hosted small cell services will be to conduct a bigger trial in partnership with one or more mobile operators.

"It should be on a much larger scale, with multiple operators," he said.

Источник: Total Telecom

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