Small Cells in a Big Venue.

Last year, the Small Cell World Summit crammed into the Hilton Metropole in central London, and you could hear the place creaking at the seams.  “We’re gonna need a bigger boat”, said Carole, and moved us all this year to the banks of the Albert Dock, far away in the Mysterious East of London.  Alongside the big boat, there’s an even bigger conference venue – the ExCel – big enough to host three parallel small cell conferences and an ad-hoc session of the Small Cell Forum.

It was the occasion for the launch of our Presence Cell – a new licensed radio solution to the presence problem giving better authentication and security properties than unlicensed – continuing the theme I’ve been developing for a while, that the value of the mobile network is shifting.  As the cost per MHz of licensed spectrum asymptotes to zero, as more and more unlicensed spectrum becomes available, and as core network voice and data services become more and more commoditised and OTT originated, the value in the mobile network is in the RAN, the authentication infrastructure and the services you can leverage out of that.  Presence is an enabling technology for those services – analytics, mobile commerce, identity assurance and so on.  We’d commissioned an operator and vertical market survey  of attitudes to Presence Services and Technology, and I got to present the results of that survey – revealing some interesting differences between the priorities of mobile operators and their customers, and their respective attitudes to licensed radio presence technology.  I gave an interview to David Chambers of ThinkSmallCell at the show which he’s been kind enough to publish.

And we won an award!  How about that?  With our partners, PMN and TLC we were pleased to accept the Small Cell Forum Award for Social Impact.  Several people came to me during the event to congratulate us on, and I quote, “the only award worth winning”, and “showing that small cells are actually doing something worthwhile at a humanity level, not just the day-to-day.”  It was one of those times you get a tiny glimpse of why you started the thing in the first place.  Of course, every startup thinks it’s going to change the world.  Most don’t, and for the most part, we don’t either, but then you’re reminded that sometimes, actually, you have.  See what I mean.

And the other reasons I was there…

I’m the outgoing chair of the Small Cell Forum Release Steering Group, and this event signalled the publication of our Release 4 – Urban – the next instalment in the Release Programme.  I’d chaired the group since Release 2, following MWC 2013 and I should take the opportunity to give big thanks (in strictly alphabetical order!) to Mark Grayson/Cisco, Richard Kennedy/Kava, Andy Odgers/Quortus, David Orloff/AT&T and Julius Robson/CBNL.  Three releases in just over a year is something worth applauding, and we couldn’t have achieved it without the active support of the Forum as a whole, in particular the Working Group and Special Interest Group chairs, and the two chairs of the Forum over the period, Graham Wright and Sue Monahan.  The Group now welcomes Richard Deasington of iDirect into the fold to push forward with Release 5 – Rural and Remote.  Good luck to Richard and the SG, and looking forward to focussing on my day job, though not forgetting…

…chairing of the Radio and Physical Layer Working Group in an extraordinarily interesting and timely kick-off meeting on small cell virtualisation.  Thanks to Mark Grayson of Cisco for lighting the blue touch-paper on this one.  From an ip.access point-of-view this is a huge opportunity.  We have the technology to make this initiative a ripping success, and from an industry point-of-view, the key is to keep the interfaces open, public and complete.  No more private interfaces or obscure incompatibilities for us, thanks, or the rest of the small cell ecosystem.  We’ll keep selling direct to our operator customers if that’s alright.  Well, even if it isn’t, that’s what we’re going to do!


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