Monday, January 23, 2006

Dean Bubley: Indoor cellular services

Dean Bubley posts at his Disruptive Wireless blog about "corporate-level local cellular networks, which run in specific dedicated slices of spectrum, often at lower power levels than the main "macro" networks in the same country." He says a

A typical application is for a company to build "its own MVNO" - ie using ordinary low-cost cellphones as the main communication device for employees, switching "on-net" calls locally and connecting in with their existing PBX or IP Telephony system for cheap/free intra-company tariffs. Often, the private cellular network will have dedicated in-building coverage, using pico-cells or distributed antenna systems. Potentially, very individualised "local functionality" can be added, enabling customised services to be offered on a site-specific basis.
Bubley also brings up the Mobile PBX approach, "which use the macro network's coverage and frequencies, rather than dedicated in-door spectrum and a separately-licenced service provider. These services act as a value-added "intelligent network" overlay application, and group together a given set of numbers, rather than acting in the site-specific (and improved indoor coverage) mode of the private cellular option."

Bubley believes "one of the notional disadvantages of this type of solution has been the need for the "indoor" operator to enable "roaming" from the in-building network onto the macro network. (The operator is typically a specialist provider acting as outsourcer, rather than the company itself - most corporates or universities don't have the skills to build & manage a cellular network)."

He thinks the corporate FMC / indoor-coverage / PBX-integrated wireless marketplace, will shape up into a 4-way fight:
  • conventional macro-cellular networks with mobile PBX "closed user groups", or mobile VPNs, for lower on-net tariffs
  • conventional macro-cellular networks with an "Office Zone" tariffing system, reducing prices within a given cell (essentially a corporate version of O2 Germany's Genion-type system)
  • dedicated in-building cellular networks (ideally with an external roaming partner, or provided by a macro operator in the first place)
  • dual-mode VoWLAN / cellular, offering the benefits (free calls, productivity etc) of a "full VoIP" solution indoors, but at the cost of dual-mode handsets and additional infrastructure and integration.