Vodafone Netherlands invests in small cells system to mobilise businesses

The Dutch subsidiary of operator group Vodafone has invested in a scalable small cell enterprise radio access network (E-RAN) system to offer enterprise customers reliable coverage and capacity on premises.

According to Vodafone, the system provided by small cell kit vendor SpiderCloud Wireless allows the operator to facilitate a “mobile working environment” for its business customers, which means they no longer need to rely on fixed line services.

Vodafone Netherland’s head of technology strategy, Marcel van den Biggelaar, explained that the lower cost and less complexity of the solutions compared with rivals were the main drivers for investing in the system.

He added that Vodafone Netherlands was faced with a new customer that lacked indoor coverage at the new site because of the steel and type of glass used in the building. Vodafone’s traditional solutions, which are mainly distributed antenna systems, could not fulfil the needs, he said. Faced with only six weeks to realise indoor coverage for the customer, for whom  cost was less of a factor, the operator opted for the SpiderCloud solution.

“Because of the very easy installation of these radio nodes often over existing cabling, powered over Ethernet, the solution is quick to install hence cost and lead times are reduced,” he said.

He added that the move to a “mobile working environment” is a trend that he is seeing among enterprises in the Netherlands today.

“I’m not sure if the trend in the Netherlands is in advance of trends in other countries, but in our own premises at Vodafone we implemented a mobile working concept as of 2009, which implies that no-one within our premises has their own desk, everybody works with desktops and there are no fixed phones anymore. The customer, for which we’ve now built this system in the Netherlands for their new headquarters, is also based on this mobile working concept and has no fixed phones, so you rely fully on mobility and on the mobile networks, and the handset needs to be working indoors as well with enough capacity.”

He mentioned that on April 4, 2012, Vodafone Netherlands had quite a significant network outage affecting one-fifth of the Netherlands population, meaning one million customers weren’t able to make voice calls or use data.

“We’re also faced with the fact that a lot of businesses now fully rely on mobile connectivity for their prime business processes, and do not even have fixed line as  aback up, so that was quite a rude and crude wake-up call for Vodafone Netherlands that more and more businesses rely fully on mobility for their processes. That may not be wise, but it is the case and is why Vodafone has decided in the Netherlands to launch a fast forward programme where we upgrade security and redundancy in our network because we realise more and more that people depend on the mobile network and do not have other means of back up.”

SpiderCloud’s E-RAN system consists of a Services Node (SCSN) that can control over 100 multi-access small cells powered by the enterprise-Ethernet Local Area Network (LAN). According to the vendor the E-RAN system, which can supporting thousands of employees, can be installed in a matter of days.

“The system can be deployed in a number of days or weeks,” explained Ronny Haraldsvik, SVP/CMO at SpiderCloud Wireless. “Usually the incumbent systems take months or sometimes years and cost enormous amounts more just in project management fees.”

He explained that SpiderCloud’s small-cell system consists of two elements – the SpiderCloud Radio Node (SCRN) and the SpiderCloud Services Node (SCSN).

In an installation, the Radio Nodes are deployed on the enterprise premises. These nodes are then connected to the SpiderCloud Services Node; an on-premises small cell services element which is the central configuration and services enabler.

The Services Node securely connects to Vodafone’s core network, enabling the operator to deliver managed mobility services to its enterprise customers over the top of the coverage and capacity system.

According to SpiderCloud, aggregating all the radio nodes at the services node optimizes backhaul and provides operators with a single efficient touch-point for control and management.

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