|Ip. Access In Interview|
In this feature, we get to know more about ip.access through the company’s SVP Product Strategy & Marketing, Dr. Andy Tiller.
First, can you give us a corporate background on ip.access?
We are a UK company based in Cambridge. We were founded in 2000 inside a company called TTP Com. We have a good idea on how to build very tiny mobile phone base stations to provide coverage indoors using existing IP links. Ip.access was really a pioneer in doing that. We started building 2G picocells. Since then we’ve grown to have our products in 60 networks around the world with not just 2G piocells but also we developed 3G technology and make it even smaller. So now they call the tiny ones for homes and offices as femtocells. There is a big industry down there in femtocell.
How do you see the operator’s interest to picocells?
We’ve been doing picocells for long time for enterprises, public spaces such as shopping centers and hotels. We had the market fairly much to ourselves which was a niche market. Using IP for backhaul was a strange thing back 2000. Since then everything changed with the femtocell market taking off, some of the big players think about making the tiny cells even a bit bigger in offices and shops. But now it is universally accepted that small cells have a very important role in next generation networks.
What does your portfolio of products and solutions include?
We have a solution that we call nano 3G and of course nano GSM for 2G. Within those systems we have picocells and femtocells. Essentially, both are same but picocells are bigger. They have more power with bigger boxes and they can support more users simultaneously. A typical femtocell can support may be 8 simultaneous phone calls data sessions whereas a picocell can support 16 with a larger coverage area. Apart from that, they will connect back into our core network infrastructure for femtocells. So it’s the same connection, same management system and backend system.
Who are you targeting?
We address 3 different classes. We have the consumer C class which is tiny boxes. That can support some 4-8 simultaneous users. Then with the picocells, we have the enterprise E class and that’s about the size of an A4 size paper. It has more features with a power over Ethernet and a heavier metal casing so that you can install it in an enclosed roof space and it has got connectors for external antennas. So it’s a bigger packaging. The last category is placed in between these two classes. We call it the S class which is more a business class device. It is similar to the residential femtocell with its packaging but you configure it more like the enterprise one with active alarms, two way handover with the macro network
Are you involved with LTE?
We are working on LTE at the moment. I believe that the initial market for LTE is going to be more for metro cells- public hotspots, dual modes 3G and 4G in the same box which is what the operators want to have. One of the interesting things of LTE is that small cells are a vital part of the network right from the very beginning.
The only way really to deliver on the promises of LTE data speed is to re-use the spectrum in smaller cells. If your cell is covering a large area with 100 phones, each customer is going to get very little data throughputs. If you have smaller cells which capture fewer cells than you can deliver fast data rates to all of the users. So I think operators are building their LTE networks with a view to an overlay network of macro cells. The HetNet (heterogeneous) network is the concept. We start with macro layer which has smaller cells within it. The key thing to make that work is self organizing network capabilities. In 4G, these techniques have been designed ahead of time. That whole architecture has been thought out in advance whereas in 3G what happened was the small cells came in as an afterthought.
What about your presence in the Middle East?
We already have 2 or 3 customers locally here. We recently had our Middle East user groups meeting in Dubai; herein, we gathered customers from around the region to talk about roadmap and here their feedback. We see a lot of opportunity here. Mobile data growth is something which is going to happen very quickly. Cisco does a regular update on the regions where mobile data is growing and Middle East was pointed as the fastest growing region. That’s driving the market here and I think there is a big opportunity for companies like us.
What are your future plans?
We are beginning to talk about converged concept where instead having simple systems for 2G, 3G and 4G; we can make an integrated RAN which provides all of the three.