small cells

Dense Air presents Cutting-Edge Small Cell Solutions at London’s Small Cells World Summit 

Small Cells World Summit in London is just a day away, and Dense Air is excited to dive into informative discussions and insightful sessions. Our CTO, Andy Hobbs, will speak about the growing ecosystem of services needed for customers and how flexible, small cell solutions meet this expanding expectation. After this speaking session, Andy will be joined on stage with Radisys and Druid Networks to discuss open and inclusive, multi-carrier small cell solutions for in-building enterprise and targeted outdoor use cases such as “connected corridors.” 

As enterprises embrace digital transformation, mobile business solutions become increasingly robust, powered by cloud-native technologies, big data analytics, and artificial intelligence. Businesses today embrace both in-building wireless and workplace wireless connectivity as the foundation for productivity, connecting assets, and workplace efficiency. Dense Air partners with customers across industries and helps them advance their digital transformation journeys by strengthening their wireless connectivity. In pioneering the development of small cell centric technologies to deploy targeted clusters of small cells, Dense Air is enabling operators to provide pervasive connectivity in areas that were previously economically unviable.  

Why Dense Air? 

Dense Air, a Sidewalk Infrastructure Partners (SIP)company, is bridging the connectivity gaps across industries including manufacturing, hospitality, parking garages, healthcare, college campuses, commercial real estate, and multi-dwelling complexes. Our Connectivity as a Service (CaaS) solution augments mobile network operators’ existing networks to deliver optimal experiences to their customers, providing seamless connectivity for productive workplace activities and client engagement. 

Small Cell and O-RAN Basics 

Small cells support the densification of 4G and the adoption of 5G by delivering the flexible, scalable network infrastructure that is needed to bring higher capacity and lower latency services to end users and end devices.  

As mobile network operators adopt higher frequency bands for enhanced user experiences, they are faced with new challenges of shorter range and poor penetration. However, it is not cost-effective for carriers to build out additional coverage within a structure or building. This is where Dense Air steps in. Our solution ensures comprehensive coverage by mitigating the shorter range and poor indoor penetration associated with higher frequencies.   

Leveraging small cells that simultaneously use both licensed and unlicensed spectrum, we deploy clusters of low-power radio access points that are roughly the size of a small pizza box. Targeted deployments of small cells augment the existing macro network to strengthen coverage and capacity, while improving indoor and outdoor connectivity experiences. As the industry transitions to 5G and returns to the office/campus, small cell deployment will expand to improve connectivity where today’s solutions cannot.          

5G innovation and small cell advancements have led to the growth of Open Radio Access Networks (O-RAN), an open architecture that Dense Air has adopted in partnership with Radisys. O-RAN drives interoperability across equipment OEMs and vendors. In other words, radio equipment from varying vendors works together in an environment to enable plug-and-play flexibility and virtualization.  

Enterprise Relevance (The Neutral Host Approach) 

As enterprises shift from a ‘voice and data’ approach to a broader ecosystem encompassing automation, robotics, inventory management, real-time monitoring, critical communications, and immersive experiences, the need for optimized and flexible connectivity becomes critical. These businesses must leverage multi-carriers and dynamic solutions for both wired and wireless networking.     

Many in the industry are familiar with the Dense Air carrier agnostic approach and the ability to augment existing networks by identifying coverage gaps. Dense Air is also providing small cell CaaS solutions to enable enterprises to provide ubiquitous coverage and meet digital transformation goals.   

Dense Air’s advantages include:          

  • Ease in complementing existing networks 
  • Carrier-agnostic and CBRS-ready “shared wireless” 
  • In-building and near in-building connectivity optimization 
  • Reducing overall costs  
  • Simplified integration and automation 
  • Greater flexibility through dynamic and distributed architecture 
  • Data-driven and cloud-native 
  • Versatile spectrum utilization 
  • Equitable and sustainable solutions 
  • Expertise in targeting outdoor connectivity gaps 
  • Scalability for both carrier and the enterprise 

The future of work depends on equitable, inclusive, and seamless connectivity experiences to work anywhere, optimize operations, deliver engaging customer experiences, and innovate. Dense Air is proud to support the carrier community, while providing the carriers and their enterprise customers with CaaS solutions to advance next-generation connectivity use cases. To learn more about our solutions, please visit our site at denseair.net or connect with us on social channels. 

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Additional Resources and Related Links: 

Dense Air: Bridging infrastructure and the cloud; shaping the ecosystem of shared wireless services 

5G Networks: Revolutionizing the Future

Small Cell Forum Use Case: Dense Air’s pioneering use of Split 6 enabling scaled small cell deployment.

About the deployment  

Dense Air is pioneering the use of Split 6 fronthaul and smart antenna technology for the scaled deployment of small cell clusters to support or infill existing holes in carrier networks, or to provide densified, dedicated private mobile coverage, enabling a range of use cases and applications.  

The development of streetCell was supported through the UK Government’s Future RAN competition. Dense Air led the development, design and trial deployment of small cell clusters which would enhance network resilience and robustness – this project was called CoMP-ORAN, which stands for Coordinated Multipoint – Open Radio Access Networks.  

One key use case for Split 6, an architecture championed by Small Cell Forum (SCF), is in high performance scenarios such as Connected Automated Vehicles (CAV). Using smart antenna technologies like CoMP, Dense Air’s small cell cluster design reduces the frequency of handover, providing contiguous connectivity to the vehicles, minimising the chance of data drops or disconnect.  

Trial deployments and field testing happened in both Millbrook Proving Ground in Bedfordshire and at Teesside International Airport in the north of England. However, the technology being developed is versatile and applicable to various global markets. After gaining Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approval in 2023, streetCell is currently being deployed at scale across the United States. 

The impact 

The development of streetCell brought together several SCF members – Dense Air, Radisys and Airspan – not only to design and develop the hardware solution but also to deploy an effective end-to-end Open RAN solution, built on industry partnerships. This model, proven at the Millbrook trial, can now be offered as a complete neutral host solution where each cell within a cluster using licensed spectrum can provide densified carrier services or private secure connectivity. Although at Millbrook the use case centred on automotive, Dense Air is now deploying for enterprise and industry and working closely with a number of local government bodies, utilising existing street infrastructure to cost effectivity bring mobile service to areas in need of service. 

This video illustrates a vehicle (represented by the blue dot) driving around the city course at Millbrook Proving Ground in Bedfordshire at the Cenex Expo event in September 2023. The dynamic white lines illustrate the constant connection to the vehicle from multiple cells within this cluster of 5 cells (represented by the hexagon).  

The technical details  

CoMP takes lead from macro level Multi Input, Multi Output (MIMO) technologies, provides significant advantages, such as: 

  • Each streetCell can provide both 360-degree coverage, or multi directional sectorisation with adaptable beam patterns. 
  • Enables the remote optimization of streetCell clusters via a Radio Intelligent Controller (RIC) to the targeted coverage and capacity objectives. 
  • Multiple Transmit Receive Points (Multi TRP), designed for CoMP, maximise the gains from spatial diversity and spatial multiplexing. 
  • Compliments macro cells by providing additional in-fill. 
  • Improves deployment robustness. 
  • Removes the need for pre-deployment radio frequency (RF) design phase to consider antenna alignment / placement. 
  • Eliminates nulls in target coverage area and optimises cell footprint post deployment. 
  • Designed to support multi-sector 2×2 MIMO operation. 

The outcome  

To support new 5G use cases, the industry is required to become increasingly innovative in how to reduce cost while at the same time provide enhanced reliability. By augmenting the existing network, identifying, and targeting network weak spots, Dense Air has enabled carriers to tap into seamless, low-cost additional coverage and capacity through a scalable, flexible small cell deployment model.  

Their use of Split 6 fronthaul and switch beam antenna significantly reduces the cost to deploy clusters of shared network infrastructure in supporting diversified use cases. This technology which is an integral aspect of their streetCell product line, initially tested and proven at UTAC Millbrook Proving Ground, has been implemented into Dense Air’s end to end As-a-Service solution with partners Radisys and EdgeQ, currently been deployed to support several CAV use cases across the United States.  

This video provides an overview of the Dense Air small cell deployment at Millbrook Proving Ground in Bedfordshire. 

To read more about this use case click here.

5G Networks: Revolutionizing the Future

5G is not just faster 4G – it offers up a broad range of new network architecture, operational and service options that go beyond smartphone connectivity, and it can take full advantage of cloud platforms, open architectures, semiconductor innovations and more. In this panel discussion, held during MWC in Barcelona, James Estes, CEO Dense Air, Arun Bhikshesvaran, CEO Radisys Corporation, and Vinay Ravuri, CEO EdgeQ Inc. explore the revolutionary potential of the many 5G options available to enterprises, mobile operators, cities and communities, and other indoor & outdoor public and private use cases.

Building more inclusive wireless networks: An interview with Brenna Berman

This summer, Dense Air welcomed Brenna Berman, a globally recognized expert on cities, technology, and urban innovation, as our Executive Vice President of Strategic Partnerships. In this role, Brenna brings her public and private sector leadership experience to bear in identifying opportunities for Dense Air to partner with cities and harness our innovative technology to strengthen connectivity for all residents.

We recently sat down with Brenna to discuss her new role, why equitable wireless access is so important, how Dense Air partners with cities to advance digital equity, and more.

Welcome to Dense Air, Brenna! A major reason why you decided to join the company was the opportunity to focus on expanding access to wireless broadband. Can you explain what this means and why it’s important?

In today’s interconnected world, access to broadband is critical to enabling individuals to work, study, engage with their community, and more. Unfortunately, due to the traditional way that infrastructure has been structured and built, many communities across the country lack equitable access to broadband, including uneven wireless coverage. Without reliable connectivity to digital services, this digital divide exacerbates existing inequalities.

While we can all agree that closing the digital divide is important, the real challenge lies in making it happen. Expanding networks requires significant investments in physical infrastructure, such as fiber optic cables and cellular towers. Geographical remoteness and inadequate funding make it logistically difficult and economically unviable for private providers to extend services to areas that are already underserved, such as rural and low-income communities. And when providers do expand their networks, they pay a high price to build duplicative infrastructure that disrupts city life.

This sounds like a daunting challenge. How can we address it?

It’s time — in fact, it’s long overdue — for us to fundamentally rethink this system to make digital equity achievable. Through new technologies, strategic funding models, and innovative public-private partnerships, we can support communities in reaching this important goal.

Achieving broadband equity will require a concerted effort from governments, private sector entities, and communities to overcome infrastructure challenges while ensuring affordability. It will not be a quick and easy process, but it will help to bring us closer to having an inclusive and equitable society.

What role does Dense Air play in this effort to advance broadband equity?

Dense Air is uniquely positioned to help communities tackle this critically important challenge because we take a holistic new approach to enabling carriers to expand their wireless networks. Our solution focuses on four main pillars:

  1. We deploy and operate innovative shared network infrastructure, which introduces, for the first time, the unique ability for multiple wireless network operators and private users to utilize the network simultaneously. This decreases the cost of building and managing the wireless networks over time.
  2. We leverage existing physical infrastructure, such as light poles, utility poles, and roofs, to reduce the cost of building the network, to deploy faster, and to reduce disruption to the community.
  3. We use data-driven coverage gap analysis to help us understand where a community lacks coverage today and to build a roadmap for the future. Our denseWare analytics tool evaluates coverage at the call level to help us and communities determine where best to make investments.
  4. We think holistically with our investments, which allows us and our partners to build a balanced business case across entire cities, not just the wealthiest neighborhoods.

How does Dense Air work with cities and other key stakeholders?

Combining technology innovation with strategic funding models is an excellent start to solving cities’ network challenges, but it isn’t enough. I know from years of experience as the Chief Information Officer of Chicago that cities can only achieve their innovation goals with strong partnerships based on aligned incentives.  That’s why, at Dense Air, we are focused on creating highly collaborative partnerships with cities as we help them solve intractable challenges. Through these partnerships, we contribute our technology and ingenuity to create new business opportunities. In turn, the cities and communities share infrastructure assets and help us streamline processes to drive down the overall cost and time of network deployment. As a result, communities receive reliable and affordable broadband access, in a shorter timeframe and with less disruption.  

Digital equity has been a rallying cry for cities for many years, but today, we have the ideal conditions to achieve the networks of the future that residents deserve. Dense Air is focused on delivering that future, and we look forward to partnering with the cities that share our vision.


Bringing shared, open network infrastructure to the US market

Building on Dense Air’s success across the UK and Europe, we are strengthening our focus on the US market, where we’re seeing both growing demand for Open RAN technology and an increasing need for sustainable 5G deployment. Dense Air, with our innovative RAN-as-a-Service (RaaS) solution, is uniquely well-positioned to meet these needs in the US through partnerships with large mobile network operators (MNOs) and communities across the country.

To drive forward this expansion, we are growing our global leadership team. In late 2022, Dense Air named Jim Estes as CEO. Jim is a well-regarded business leader within the telecom sector, bringing over 35 years of industry experience to his role as our CEO. He has previously served as CEO of Network Connex and Velocitel, as well as on the Boards of several wireless infrastructure companies. Since joining Dense Air last year, Jim has used that experience to accelerate our shared neutral-host network infrastructure model.

Dense Air brings to the market both cutting-edge technology and a new ‘as-a-service’ business model. We also have a team with an exceptionally strong track record. So it’s no surprise that operators and cities trust us and tell us that our technology is exactly what they need to expand sustainable and reliable access.

Jim Estes, CEO Dense Air

As we continue to grow our presence in the US, a core component of our strategy and mission is partnering with cities, utilities, and other public sector actors to expand connectivity in an efficient and equitable way and to help communities realize the promise of 5G. To help us identify and build these collaborations, we have added Brenna Berman to our team as EVP of Strategic Partnerships. She brings a wealth of experience, including as CEO and CIO across both public and private organizations. Brenna recently served as Chief Information Officer & Commissioner for the city of Chicago, where she spearheaded the development and execution of Chicago’s tech transformation and innovation strategy, working under Mayor Rahm Emanuel. She also founded and led City Tech, an innovative company developing tech-enabled solutions to urban challenges, and serves on the Boards of several nonprofits, tech companies, and universities.

Underpinning this growth and proliferation of partnerships is, of course, a great product. Under the leadership of Daniel Herb, who recently joined Dense Air as Head of Product from Vapor IO, we look forward to advancing our innovative product offering and accelerating our product roadmap. Daniel has been focused on innovation in connectivity — from 5G to IoT — throughout his entire career and has held a variety of senior leadership roles at T-Mobile, Amazon, and more.

Dense Air is pioneering the move to shared network infrastructure, offering neutral-host RaaS solutions that enhance and extend MNOs’ services. But those changes in deployment also represent a shift in the operating model for these MNOs. That’s why Dense Air has brought on Ken Czosnowski as EVP for Business Development and James Wise as COO. Ken joins us from Centerline Communications and, previously, FDH Velocitel, and James was most recently the COO of Network Connex. They each bring three decades of experience in the telecom industry, and they are well-positioned to work with our MNO partners in the adoption and delivery of indoor and outdoor small cell deployments.

Similar to how our technology is transforming operating models, introducing our RaaS solution to MNOs requires business model innovation as well. To guide our approach to this, Dense Air has brought on Doug Lee, who co-founded Peerless Network, as CFO. Doug brings 33 years of experience in finance and 22 years in the telecom industry to his new role, where he leads our investment strategy and helps build strong strategic alliances with our vendors and business partners.

Dense Air is poised for a successful 2023, with a fast-growing demand for the deployment of our technology. These leaders will be central to that effort in the US and beyond, and we look forward to expanding our rapid progress in the months ahead.

Click here to learn more about careers at Dense Air.

Open RAN: Driving Innovation and Diversity in Tomorrow’s 5G Networks

Earlier this month, key stakeholders from across the telecom space gathered in New Orleans at the Connect (X) Conference to discuss a broad range of issues and opportunities shaping the future of the industry. One of the most widely discussed and debated topics this year was the introduction and execution of Open RAN, interoperable technologies that enable a more diverse, resilient, and secure ecosystem for radio access networks.      

At Dense Air, we’re delighted to see our industry increasingly turn its focus to the opportunities unlocked by Open RAN technologies, an area where we’ve long been focused, and which is at the core of our business. We believe that the widespread adoption of Open RAN is critical to closing the digital divide and making connectivity more open, shared, and inclusive.

Paul Trubridge, Dense Air’s SVP of Global Solutions, shared our perspective on the main stage:      

In many instances, the economics of a mobile network operator (MNO) building out its network is broken, which is why we see areas where coverage and capacity are limited. This is especially true for the mid-band 5G, where the revenue per user (RPU) advantages from 5G aren’t enough to fund overlays for each individual operator. RAN sharing fundamentally changes the economics and solves this problem: when RAN infrastructure is shared by multiple MNOs or mixed public/private use cases, the costs per operator are significantly reduced.

Open RAN architecture is built with scalability as a primary goal. It allows for multiple operators and mixed-use cases, which means that multiple vendors can use a single network site. For instance, Open RAN supports MORAN (Multi Operator RAN), which allows all the infrastructure except the radio carriers — the antenna, tower, site, and power — to be shared by multiple mobile operators. Open RAN also supports MOCN (Multi Operator Core Network), which is similar but allows two or more network operators to share the carriers as well. Because Open RAN technologies are highly customizable, they create the building blocks for a system that can remain scalable and reliable, even as network demand increases.

Thanks to cloud computing, Open RAN architecture also allows for virtualization — meaning the use of dedicated hardware with flexible software components that can scale the network. If the RAN footprint needs to expand or new service providers want to be hosted or new use cases emerge, we have the ability to do that without investing in expensive new hardware.

Finally, Dense Air’s use of Open RAN architecture also allows the network to use a range of vendors, as opposed to being locked in to one vendor in perpetuity. For instance, we can mix-and-match radio units and scale up or down using hyper-scaler software technology. Because Dense Air can do this without having to install new physical infrastructure, we can ensure that the network uses the best suppliers for the task at hand, increasing vendor diversity and reducing supply chain risks.

Taken together, through our early adoption of Open RAN technology, we have created a future-proof solution. By allowing for multiple vendors, virtualizing key components, and allowing multiple operators to leverage the same hardware, we’re building a solution that can expand as a population’s needs expand — deployments that can stand the test of time.

We’re excited to see others across our industry increasingly start to appreciate the innovation and opportunities that Open RAN technologies can unlock.

– Ken Czosnowski, EVP Business Development