Small Cells Asia 2013 Day One: Operators Innovating the Usage of Small Cells, Vendors Struggling for New Ideas

Reflecting on day one of the SIXTH annual Small Cells Asia event a few observations come to mind. First, it is amazing to see the increased support for and overall growth of the small cell market and ecosystem. Great to see this event itself continue to grow with over 200 participants, 75 from operators, twice the exhibitors and 30 press and analysts, which is reflective of the energy behind small cells specifically in the Asia Pacific region.

Secondly, APAC is all over small cells. It is fairly well known regarding the deployments here in Korea for both 3G and LTE small cells by KT, SKT and LG-U+ not far behind. Radisys has been on the front lines enabling these deployments for years and the Korean operators continue to push the envelope of this technology with LTE-A features such as carrier aggregation planned in 2013 itself. However, it’s not just about Korea. Japan continues to deploy small cells as well, with NEC yesterday lauding the benefits of small cell for indoor coverage, NTTDocomo deploying dual-mode 3G and LTE and Softbank continuing to deliver small cells now for LTE. Beyond these two countries we heard from Maxis in Malaysia who is leveraging small cells for reaching rural customers using satellite for backhaul (check out their commercial here ), Vodafone New Zealand expanding from residential to enterprise small cells (www.vodafone.co.nz/suresignal), and Thailand’s regulators looking to enable open access small cells to deliver faster deployment of 3G networks after a ten year delay in privatizing spectrum.

While the operators continue to deploy and expand the use cases for small cells, the vendor community left a bit to be desired with regards to new ideas and technology. We seem to have transitioned from technology innovation to deployment problem solving, which is to be expected, but from a conference perspective I personally expected a bit more innovative or informative views from the vendor community. The main highlights were WiFi + Small Cell convergence and a few different approaches to SON. From the Radisys perspective we focused on making money from mobile broadband using VoLTE and Rich Communication Services with small cells the ideal network topology for enabling monetization. Hoping for a bit more today and check back tomorrow for another update from the event.

Before I sign off though a note to all my colleagues who travel the event circuit – please, please, please drop the slides that show data usage is increasing – I think we all know that is the case and are thankful for it. Frankly, without the insatiable consumer appetite we’d be out of work. Alternatively, maybe every trade show coordinator should start the day with the obligatory Cisco VNI graph, state that data usage is growing and get it out of the way for the day.

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