At Small Cell Forum, we spend a lot of time thinking about the diversity of our industry.
Every industry and use case has different connectivity requirements, and that has driven the development of a wide variety of form factors, architectures and business models. But it is equally important to focus on what is common to many of those different deployment scenarios, and where common models for infrastructure sharing can apply in apparently contrasting sectors.
This will be an important theme at Small Cells World Summit 2023. One of the conference’s six sessions, in particular, will be looking at how far large-scale small cell deployments can apply common approaches and business models even in very different environments.
Entitled ‘Sharing models for digital transformation of enterprise and cities’, the presentations and panel debate will go to the heart of one of SCF’s key missions, to encourage and facilitate shared network and neutral host models, since these will help to drive scale into the industry and accelerate roll-out of small cells where a single-operator approach might not make economic sense.
But network sharing models do not usually succeed if cost reduction is the only motivator. These are long-term partnerships, addressing critical connectivity requirements, and so the stakeholders must have a shared vision of what their deployment can achieve.
This might be to enable successful digital transformation within an enterprise, or to drive socio-economic benefits for a city or rural community, or to improve the reliability and security of national infrastructure.
All these are good examples of how shared engagement in cellular network roll-out and expansion can deliver benefits to the whole community, and deliver returns for the partners that they would not achieve alone.
In the session, there will be participants from cities, an airport and the property industry. These users of connectivity will highlight how different sectors have common requirements in terms of scalable, mission-critical networks that can support their various digital transformation programs while facilitating tangible social and economic benefits.
There will also be participants from several neutral hosts, who will put the case for sharing as the most effective way to deliver what the user organizations need. Freshwave’s CTO, Tom Bennett, for instance will argue that digital transformation for enterprises or cities is best achieved when mobile operators and neutral hosts enter into partnership, each playing to their own strengths and leveraging complementary skills and assets. This is a refreshing stance in an industry where, too often, different business models – MNOs, private network operators, neutral hosts – are presented as rivals to one another, rather than potential partners.
In the session, there will be presentations by the IT infrastructure director of Manchester Airport, Graham Pollitt, and by Andrew Conway, director of solutions and innovation at BAI Communications UK and Ireland – the latter an integrator and deployer of shared infrastructure for large venues, such as airports, that have critical connectivity requirements. These two talks, then, will provide views from both sides of the fence, of the challenges of deploying and operating truly mission-critical networks at very large scale. Networks for airports (or smart cities, or transportation systems, which are also BAI targets) need to be extremely secure, reliable and resilient, and they also need to be future-proof – industries tend to replace their infrastructure far less frequently than mobile operators do, and so the network must be built to last for multiple decades, and to be able to be updated and evolved in the process.
The panel debate will pick up on these key themes of scale, future-proofing and critical resilience, exploring how the economic and operational challenges of delivering such capabilities may be addressed through partnership, infrastructure sharing and neutral host models.
There will be important lessons to learn for many other enterprise sectors. So often, solutions that are initially developed for the most demanding wireless environments can then be modified for other segments. Many of the best innovations in cellular technology and operations originated in defence or public safety projects, for instance, but were then applied to a wide range of scenarios. Not all enterprises and cities absolutely need the level of resilience and scalability that an airport requires, but that doesn’t mean they won’t appreciate these capabilities, and use them to enhance their own processes, if they can be delivered cost-effectively.
By sharing infrastructure and assets, different types of deployers, together with their customers, can expand the benefits of the partnership approach to organizations of all sizes, and accelerate small cell roll-out, with the digital and economic benefits that will deliver.