The last major event on the small cell industry’s calendar was the SCWS Americas conference, which moved to a new location this year – San Jose in the heart of Silicon Valley.
The move highlighted how the cellular, IT and web industries are increasingly converging, and that theme was very clear in the conference presentations, and in the discussions at our Small Cell Forum plenary, which ran alongside. CIOs rubbed shoulders with mobile network CTOs in the audience and on the stage, addressing convergence issues from edge computing to artificial intelligence to skills.
As small cells become embedded in more and more platforms, the hot topics at any event focused on densification become more diverse. Shared spectrum, especially the US’s CBRS band, and Multi-access Edge Computing (MEC) were both high on the agenda, and were also discussed in several of SCF’s plenary and workgroup sessions, since both promise to extend the use cases and business value of dense networks.
In particular, these two developments support the expansion of small cells into new vertical industries and into private and neutral host networks. Every year there is greater representation at the SCWS events of enterprise and industrial deployers of dense HetNets, addressing issues from improving in-building coverage to connecting remote workers and sites.
Representatives from retail, healthcare and public transport
Among the speakers this year were executives from Mall of America, Stanford University Medical Center, healthcare giant Kaiser Permanente, the Capitol Corridor public transport network, and the National Fire Protection Association, reflecting the variety of vertical sectors which are finding small cells a solution to their connectivity challenges.
Alongside major operators like Sprint and AT&T, towercos were also strongly in evidence at the conference and plenary. But perhaps the biggest group of new speakers and attendees came from city authorities around the USA. Despite well-publicized disputes between municipal governments and the mobile industry over reforming site and equipment approvals to ease the process of densification, the cities whose CIOs spoke at SCWS were highly aware of the benefits of smart cities and the need to work closely with the mobile players.
The California cities of San Jose, Chula Vista, San Mateo and San Leandro were all showcased, along with Joint Venture Silicon Valley – and there was even a case study from London. And as part of the SCF plenary, a joint meeting with the TIA (Telecommunications Industry Association) built on agreements made at the SCF Partners’ Day in July, to work together on frameworks and certifications for smart buildings and smart cities.
A call to arms from SCF
Amid all this expansion, of course it is important not to forget some of the challenges which still face densification initiatives. SCF chair David Orloff gave a powerful call to arms during his keynote address to kick off the conference, highlighting the work that still needs to be done to make densification simple and scalable for operators. He reiterated the operator requirements which came out of SCF’s Partners’ Day and its Densification Summit in Mumbai – requirements which were echoed throughout the conference, and which will be at the heart of SCF’s program for 2018.