How to Speed Small Cell Site Acquisition on a Large Scale

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How to Speed Small Cell Site Acquisition on a Large Scale

By: Jean Jones, Director, Wireless Marketing, Alcatel-Lucent

Outdoor small cells are now widely recognized as a great solution for expanding mobile capacity and coverage. And their use is expected to grow sevenfold by 2018.[1] So here’s the next big question: How can you put these cells where they’re needed, faster and at lower cost?

Maybe you’ve already encountered deployment issues, including difficulties with small cell site acquisition. According to an Informa Telecoms & Media survey, nearly 60% of mobile operators say that deployment problems are their biggest small cell challenge.[2] In other words, operators’ top concerns are not about small cell technologies or products. Instead, they’re about the practical aspects of getting these cells up and running on light posts, utility poles, bus stops, buildings and other street locations.

This blog looks at a collaborative approach that makes these deployment processes faster and easier. Alcatel-Lucent adopted these methods for our Metro Cell Express Site Certification Program. And we’re discussing them here, because this business model earned a top award in the small cell innovation leadership category.

The results so far? Our methods have helped customers speed time to market by as much as 40%. They can reduce acquisition costs 20% through partnering with certified site owners. And they’re providing access to approximately 600,000 available sites all over the world that are suitable for small cell deployment. They also offer faster access to power and backhaul on a large scale, as well as a certified installation workforce.

Easier small cell site acquisition processes

Gaining the greatest return from your small cells investment means deploying at scale and faster than your competition. But the current processes used to identify, survey and approve potential small cell sites can be very time consuming — slowing the pace of your small cell rollout considerably. The issues you face include securing optimal site locations, site costs and acquisition, backhaul availability and cost, power availability and cost, and mitigating interference. In addition, deployments require a variety of critical assets, such as tower sites for wireless aggregation and fiber for backhaul.

Our site certification program grew out of a realization that no company alone can address all the challenges of rapid deployment at large scale. But a group that’s committed to working together can combine all the necessary assets, skills and expertise, as well as an installation workforce — to give mobile operators fast, streamlined access to these resources. That includes providing access to sites suitable for small cell deployment.

For example, our program brings together, trains and certifies a wide variety of partners, including site acquisition specialty firms, a leader in outdoor advertising, construction specialists, cable operators in the United States, systems integrators and managed services providers. These partners provide access to tens of thousands of certified installation technicians and hundreds of thousands of outdoor small cell sites, as well as essential site assets. And with Alcatel-Lucent knowledge and experience behind them, they have the know-how to speed operators’ time to market and lower their costs.

Immediate access to qualified sites

How does this simplified process work? For site acquisition, Alcatel-Lucent has access to a large database of sites and related assets, all around the world. They include:

  • Over 150,000 serviceable on-net buildings
  • 325,000 street assets, including lamp posts, bus and train shelters and outdoor advertising assets, such as billboards and kiosks
  • 30,000 roof tops
  • 10,000 fiber to the building assets
  • Dense aerial physical plant and fiber assets for backhaul
  • Public utility right-of-way access allowing vast urban US market coverage
  • Over 200,000 route miles of fiber in primary urban and suburban markets across the United States
  • Existing experience in backhaul construction and operation

With these kinds of readily available assets, it’s faster and easier to find locations that put capacity close to your subscribers. And you also save time negotiating with site owners.

Quick connections to backhaul and installation technicians

Our program streamlines the next steps of deployment too, by giving you faster access to backhaul and power on the sites you’ve acquired, along with certified installation technicians. For example, our partners can provide distributed antenna system (DAS) nodes and the fiber optics used to connect small cells on utility poles, traffic signals, street lights, roof tops or other custom designs. And they offer access to shrouds, which give you a flexible way to add capacity or make other hardware changes, without new permissions.

To speed and simplify the process further, you get access to a workforce of tens of thousands of certified installation technicians. And our partners provide valuable expertise that’s crucial for efficiency. For example, by understanding the details of local procedures and requirements — such as antenna variables and the number of boxes allowed on a pole — they eliminate the small, time-consuming issues and delays that can easily slow down your small cell rollout.

Our program’s innovative approach is already speeding time to market and reducing the costs of deployment for mobile operators. As the use of small cells grows in the next few years, it offers a highly effective way to acquire the sites you’ll need — and achieve rapid, cost-effective deployment on a large scale.


Source: Alcatel-Lucent 

[1] Source: ABI Research, “Small Cells and Carrier Wi-Fi,” March 24, 2014

[2] Informa Telecoms & Media Small Cells Market Status report, June 2012.

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