As I write this, I’m in disbelief as it seems impossible to take the massive carrier equipment which makes up the multimillion dollar central office LTE network and repackage it into a plug-and-play module which fits on a coffee table. Yet, this is exactly what Norman Fekrat of Lemko shared with me.
A previous interview with Norman regarding his company’s solutions
I’ve known the company for some time as a provider of NFV solutions (video) based on software. What I didn’t expect was how fast Moore’s Law has worked to decrease the size of the hardware. The idea to do what he has done here has been shared by Norman before but he has come a long way in a year.
The central premise is you use this equipment on the managed 3.65 GHz spectrum and voila, you have your own carrier-in-a-box solution. This EZ LTE as the company calls it, is a fully functional eNodeB and integrated Evolved Packet Core deployed in a similar manner to a WiFi AP.
Who could benefit from such a solution? Anyone interested in enhanced security could use these devices to keep the wireless carriers from accessing their data. Speaking of security, the device sits behind your firewall which adds additional protection. In addition, it could be used to offload users from expensive carrier plans, or where cell signals are poor.
Norman mentioned specific markets which could benefit such as agriculture, mining, industrial internet or enterprises of various sizes. The solution could easily compete with small cells or DAS and an enterprise could deploy this just like they might deploy a PBX – except it would be all wireless. Carriers could even provide the boxes to supplement their own networks.
Currently the limitation is whether or not devices support this frequency – if so, you could theoretically roam from a traditional carrier network to the EZ LTE and back. Dongles are one way getting around this problem.
The number of subscribers scales to a few thousand and the signal range is 2 kilometers at 2W of power. Maximum throughput is an impressive 150MBs on a 20 MHz channel. In addition, beamforming allows capacity to be increased.
It goes without saying, this is very disruptive technology. As Norman points out, “If the core is everywhere, you’re just using the Internet’s infrastructure.” Moreover, he believes carriers will have to compete with this sort of cost structure to be become the network for IoT.
Even more interesting, the solution is available as software-on-a-chip which can be used to turn individual devices into minute central offices. This could for example allow new business models where these gadgets just use carrier spectrum but otherwise manage themselves.
Continuing with the disruptive theme, you just click a button on the company’s site to add one of these devices to your cart and then purchase it electronically for just $6,650.
Even after I’ve finished writing and proofing the above, the disruptive nature of such a solution isn’t fading. What’s been done here is the telecom equivalent of fitting an elephant into a shoe box – in size and price.