Ethernet will help small cells take off in the enterprise, says Airvana

The company's new OneCell system communicates using Gigabit Ethernet

Airvana's next-generation LTE small cells for enterprises use Gigabit Ethernet to connect to a central controller, making the mini base stations easier and cheaper to roll out at the office.

Rising smartphone and tablet use in enterprises means that productivity with those devices hinges on robust wireless coverage and capacity. Building a Wi-Fi network is the natural choice, but a growing number of vendors are developing products to improve indoor cellular coverage.

Airvana's new OneCell system for midsized and large enterprises consists of a centralized controller and multiple small cells called Radio Points. The Radio Points connect to the controller using standard Gigabit Ethernet switches and cabling, according to Vedat Eyuboglu, co-founder and CTO at Airvana.

"The cost is going to be comparable to that of a managed Wi-Fi network," Eyuboglu said.

Enterprises typically use distributed antenna systems to improve indoor cellular coverage, but those systems are more expensive and complicated to install, according to Mike McFarland, director of product management and marketing at Airvana. The company's small cells also offer more capacity.

Using a centralized controller instead of stand-alone small cells makes it easier to handle interference and improves performance when users move from one small cell to another. The architecture also lets multiple operators share an installation.

The OneCell system is now in trials and will be generally available during the first quarter of next year.

Airvana isn't the only company with high hopes for small cells in the enterprise. The whole telecom industry -- including chip makers, equipment manufacturers and operators -- is showing a growing interest.

For example, on Monday Cisco Systems announced Small Cell Enterprise Select, a program that aims make it easier for operators to roll out enterprise small cells more cost effectively.

On Tuesday, Alcatel-Lucent announced that Uruguayan operator Antel and Danish operator TDC had would use its enterprise small cells to improve capacity and coverage.

Airvana, Alcatel-Lucent and Cisco were, along with ip.access, the market-share leaders during the first quarter, according to Infonetics Research. The market research company expects that enterprise adoption will help sustain an annual growth rate of 77 percent from 2013 to 2018, it said.

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