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BelAirís latest small cell to integrate directly with the macro network

By partnering with the big vendors, BelAir hopes to create a small cell extension of the macro network, rather than build a separate underlay

SAN DIEGOóBelAir Networks may be known for metro Wi-Fi but today it made it good case for becoming a mobile network infrastructure provide focusing on the emerging small cells market. At CTIA Wireless Enterprise & Applications it announced a stand-alone Metrocell, which combines its own specialty Wi-Fi access and mesh backhaul technology with any number of wide area network radios, creating a combination small cell, carrier data offload point and backhaul node in a single unit.

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BelAir doesnít plan to take on take on the Alcatel-Lucents, Ericssons, Nokia Siemens Networks or Huaweis of the world. Instead it hopes to work with them. While it has developed its own wireless LAN technology for the offload and backhaul components, the 3G or 4G radio component will be supplied by the big infrastructure providers, essentially creating a custom small cell housing that can be deployed by any operator using any number of infrastructure vendors, said Stephen Rayment, BelAirís chief technology officer.

Rayment said the development of the BelAir2100 Metrocell was the result of two realizations: a) that BelAir has expertise in building out metro data networks, which is distinctly outside of the expertise of the big network infrastructure providers, and b) BelAir doesnít have expertise in mobile radio networks and even if it did would face an uphill battle trying to convince operators to use its mobile radio solution.

The answer was therefore obvious, Rayment said: develop a technology that leverages BelAirís core metro network design expertise while ceding the mobility radio aspects to the vendors who are winning the operatorsí business. So far BelAir has three Tier I radio vendor partners, though Rayment wouldnít reveal which ones.

The approach allows BelAir to bridge the gap between the two distinct philosophies emerging in the market toward small cells.

The first, promoted by specialist small cell and femto vendors like ip.access and Radisys, views the small cell network as distinct network underlay separate from the umbrella the macro network.

The second approach, backed by the big radio vendors, views the small cell network as an inseparable part of the macro network that should be built as part of an end-to-end solution. NSN and Alcatel-Lucent have both adopted this approach with their Liquid Radio and lightRadio architectures respectively.

With BelAirís model, though, operators can adopt the best aspects of both philosophies, Rayment said. They can deploy a low-cost small cell architecture from a small cell specialist, but maintain the same radios across macro and small cell networks, allowing them to link both to the same network management systems, self-optimizing network (SON) managers and connect to the same core.

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© 2014 Penton Media Inc.

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