BelAir hanging picocells off of the cable plant
A new Wi-Fi/3G picocell is designed to bridge the wireless and cable networks, creating a wireless coverage solution with built-in backhaul.
BelAir Networks today unveiled a 3G picocell intended not for the networks of wireless operators but for those of cable operators. Its Strand Picocell is designed to hang off of the hybrid fiber/coax infrastructure cable plant on utility poles, in cabinets and even underground. That coax supplies not only the IP backhaul to the wireless operator’s network, but the power source necessary to power the radio and its transmitters.
BelAir supplies wireless networking equipment to both cable and wireless operators, so designing a product with both of those industries' requirements in mind fits neatly into the vendor’s road map, BelAir officials said. Overseas major cable operators are also wireless providers, making the picocell a natural fit. While that may not be the case in the U.S., the interests of many cable and wireless operators are closely intertwined. Sprint and Clearwire sell wholesale access to their WiMax and CDMA networks to several major cable companies for their own branded mobile broadband services. Wireless operators use the cable plant as an alternate backhaul connection for their own macro networks. And in one of the few cases of direct ownership, Cox Communications has built its own CDMA network.
By utilizing the cable plant, operators would have ready access to a backhaul network that already pervades cities and neighborhoods, allowing them to deploy small-cell coverage solutions in critical areas without having to invest in Ethernet or fiber transport networks. Citing a recent report from Visant Strategies, BelAir said that cable’s share of the U.S. mobile backhaul market is projected to grow five fold by 2016, becoming a $3 billion annual industry.
The Strand Picocell supports multiple 3G technologies today as well as IEEE 802.16n Wi-Fi, allowing cable operators and ISPs to deploy the unit as a hotspot over unlicensed frequencies. But BelAir said it plans to add long-term evolution capabilities to the picocell as 4G technologies roll out.
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