4G is in the air Carolina Wireless Association Fall 2010 Meeting
Some things never change but wireless and technology is constantly changing. The old ways of the Bell System are long gone. Those that embrace the right change will see opportunities. Change was at the fall meeting of the Carolina Wireless Association (CWA) in Raleigh. There were quite a few new faces this year since the Virginia Wireless Association took part in leading the meeting with presentations on 4G by Ted Abrams of Abrams Engineering, Distributed Antenna Systems (DAS) by Neil Manning of MobileAccess and TowerCo’s CEO Richard Byrne made remarks on the positive forecast for tower growth in the next few years. The theme of the meeting from my view was “4G is in the air”.
Although the audience no doubt consisted of mostly construction firms who build towers and who may be less interested in 4G technology, one new face stood up and proclaimed his firm was the DAS installer and we are ready to add value to 4G through in-building solutions, exemplifying if you want to get on the DAS train you better act now.
Ted Abrams presented a technology road map for getting to 4G and despite the cute handset videos showing the speed and attraction of 4G, I know the carriers’ networks are a relatively long way from 4G. The opportunities are ripe now for prepping these networks for LTE and 4G. And by the way, “LTE” which stands for Long Term Evolution is not 4G. LTE is 3G ‘plus-plus”. 4G is five times the data speeds and a different technical standard. 4G is in the air and antennas will need to be upgraded or revised for “MIMO” (multiple input, multiple output) and backhaul will need to be all IP and fast.
Neil Manning of Mobile-Access reminded us that the current DAS networks may not be compatible with the coming 4G systems. New DAS will need to perform at a higher quality of performance and be adaptable with WLAN infrastructure to reduce costs. The two big carriers AT&T and Verizon each plan to spend upwards of 30 million dollars in the next year on DAS. Backhaul and fiber –to-the base station (FTTBs) are key network infrastructure elements that must be completed soon.
Will the number of towers grow or will “Not In My Back Yard (NIMBY) continue to thwart efforts? According to TowerCo’s CEO Richard Byrne, the answer is yes. Tower builds will continue but so will microcells and picocells to offset the big steel.
The path to 4G was even more evident at this CWA meeting. There will be a few more trains available to take part in the 4G business but firms will need to be more clever and know the right players to get a seat at the table. But for everyone, 4G is in the air. Can you catch it?
Christopher K. Horne, Ph.D., P.E.
The DAS Doctor™