There is a good amount of interest in how to better support
wireless communications in business enterprises. But there are also different
definitions for what an enterprise application is. One of them limits the scope
to closed access femto cells
for private office buildings. For this type of networks, only a restricted number
of users get access to the cell, whereas all others have limited or no access.
A more widely agreed definition for enterprise scenarios encompasses
all non-residential buildings, including corporate office
buildings, hospitality, retail/shopping malls and school campuses. This
definition includes most private and public venues, with the exception of larger
public venues like sport venues, airports, train/subway stations. In the context
of this post, the latter definition for enterprise scenarios is assumed.
Several enterprise wireless solutions are available today in
the market. Solutions range from standalone femto and pico cells for smaller office
buildings to clusters of small cells for larger buildings. The small cell
clusters work with peer-to-peer communications or a local controller for
managing handover and implementing SON (self organizing
network) functions. Distributed base station architectures, referred to as a
centralized radio access network (C-RAN),
with a macro baseband unit connected to low power remote radio heads have also been
All these solutions have their pros and cons and can find specific
application scenarios. Each of them can fulfill some of the above requirements
but not most of them. Support for multi-operator, multi-band and
multi-technology is still a big gap in the mentioned solutions. It should be
noted though that small cells are evolving; dual-band, dual-technology and
dual-carrier capabilities have been announced for this or next year. Even full multi-operator
support has been discussed. However significant challenges still have to be
solved, meaning these gaps won’t be filled for at least the next couple of years.
Active distributed antenna systems (DAS)
are definitely good candidates for providing multi-operator, multi-band and
multi-technology wireless in enterprises. They can provide wireless coverage
and capacity in larger-sized buildings, typically above 100,000 square feet,
for a high number of users or for smaller buildings with fewer users. They can
also cater for multi-operator, multi-band and multi-technology configurations
with a common signal distribution backbone. Very flexible capacity routing and
scaling along with easy upgrade at the head end are distinctive features of DAS
However, even for DAS, some gaps still need to be filled. Although
DAS solutions can address most of the enterprise requirements, they are still
perceived as an expensive option, only applicable to a few high-end projects
and not to mass wireless deployments. In particular, ease of installation, cost
and time-to-deploy are clearly major issues to tackle for DAS vendors.
The ideal solution for enterprise wireless needs to offer multi-operator,
multi-band and multi-technology support. It needs to be cost- and
time-effective for operators and enterprises. And it should address the
specific deployment and management needs of enterprises.
So the question is: Who is going to fill all the gaps first
for supporting enterprise wireless?