Coverage and capacity are the key words most operators think of when the topic of small cells comes up, but there is another pair of “c-words” that may be just as appropriate: Capex control. Small cell providers are selling operators on the ability to help enterprise customers shift capital expenditures into operations by outsourcing in-building wireless coverage to service providers using small cells.
“Capital expenditures and resources savings can be realized by enterprises that outsource in-building mobile services to their MNO, transitioning to a per-user/month operating expenditure model,” said Ronny Haraldsvik, chief marketing officer at SpiderCloud Wireless. SpiderCloud, recently ranked #5 in the Wall Street Journal‘s “Next Big Thing” list of startups, offers an enterprise radio access network consisting of a service node that controls up to 100 self-organizing small cells. It says its solution can cost as little as 10% of what a comparable DAS system would cost.
SpiderCloud recently commissioned Exact Ventures to study the managed mobility services opportunity for enterprises with 100 to 4999 employees in the United States and Europe. The analyst firm found that the average savings a firm could realize by outsourcing enterprise mobility services to a mobile operator came to $264 per user annually, 35% more than would be saved by an equivalent capex investment.
“Until now, there has been little reason for enterprise customers to have a relationship with MNOs beyond minutes and mobile devices,” said the report’s author, Greg Collins. “Small cell systems that go beyond coverage and capacity can open up new business models for MNOs while also helping enterprise customers save significantly on CapEx and OpEx.”
Outsourcing mobility can have other advantages for the enterprise. Haraldsvik says operators see their customers get excited when they realize that business applications can be used across a much broader set of platforms and networks. The flipside of this opportunity is of course a potentially greater security risk. SpiderCloud says its service node provides a restricted configuration interface, and that the enterprise radio access network can be placed on a separate network segment.
Art King, who manages enterprise services and technology for SpiderCloud, thinks operators can sell companies on small cell solutions if they can promise a simpler, more predictable user experience. For many companies, mobile communication in the workplace is getting increasingly complex as users try to attach more devices to the network. SpiderCloud says one of its radio access networks can connect 10,000 smartphones and tablets, with just one connection to the mobile operator’s core network.