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SCWS Recap: Starting the Show With MulteFire

By Stephan Litjens, Nokia

I recently returned from the annual SCWS World 2016, where the industry gathers in London every May to advance small cell technology. First on the agenda at this year’s show was our morning seminar and panel discussion on MulteFire technology moderated by David Chambers, ThinkSmallCell. I was joined on the panel by Juan Santiago, director of small cells for Ruckus Wireless, James Body, head of research and development for Truphone, and Sami Susiaho, head of edge technologies for Sky.

LTE over unlicensed spectrum has been a hot topic over the last year, and with MulteFire as the newest entrant in this field, it was no surprise we had a full room. It was also no surprise that we had a lively discussion! A few key themes emerged.

The importance of the Neutral Host. Neutral host was on the agenda for many of the sessions throughout the conference and is seen as a key driver for the small cell market to grow exponentially. It was agreed amongst the panel that MulteFire’s ability to operate as a Neutral Host presents a compelling use case for the technology. As more enterprises embrace a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) strategy, they will need a multi-operator solution that supports all of those devices with seamless connectivity. Enterprises and mobile operators will need to work out roaming agreements.

Congestion is a consideration. MulteFire is designed to support Listen Before Talk for fair sharing with other technologies such as Wi-Fi or LAA in the same spectrum band. Sami Susiaho with Sky argued that based on Sky’s experience with deploying Wi-Fi in tube stations, sometimes there’s just too much congestion for any wireless technology to work well.

However, the first public test of MulteFire by mobile operator Saudi Telecom Company, demonstrated co-existence with Wi-Fi in the 5 GHz band, with MulteFire delivering up to 2x better coverage. It should be also noted that while in indoor venues, campus areas, industry facilities and many other places the unlicensed spectrum is very clean and almost as good as licensed. Moreover combined with the massive amount available for example in the 5GHz band and the quality attributes of MulteFire a carrier grade service level for end users can be expected.

IoT presents a tremendous opportunity. We also discussed how this technology will come to market. While some members of the panel emphasized the need for MulteFire to be adopted in smartphones in order to take off, I believe that we’ll first see the technology deployed in business-critical applications where MulteFire can deliver better coverage and capacity than Wi-Fi. MulteFire is the right technology for industrial applications in indoor settings such as factories or hospitals with a multitude of new IoT devices.

Interested in learning more about MulteFire? ThinkSmallCell has just published a white paper on MulteFire explaining how “MulteFire Lights up the Path for Universal Wireless Service.” Or contact the MulteFire Alliance to learn more about joining us to advance MulteFire technology and enable a new way to wireless.