Sprint has a Small Cell Plan!

Sprint is showing signs of life in the deployment world, can you believe it? They seem to be moving ahead, mostly through Mobilitie! This is great news. I have been learning more and more on this and I thought I would share.

Sprint is pushing for a way to streamline and improve the small cell deployment process. Specifically outlined in a letter that Charles McKee sent to the FCC, letter found here, which discusses the meeting Sprint’s Marcel Claure and Vonya McCann had with the FCC commissioner Mignon Clyburn, (who I am a fan of because she often speaks of tower workers safety). Sprint apparently shared their growth plans with the Commissioner. Mr. Claure expressed how important it would be for Sprint to cost effectively deploy the small cells without the costly delays that jurisdictions often incur by having ridiculously slow and complicated permitting processes.

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With Sprint’s massive job cuts are Mobilitie’s gain for the work. It looks like Sprint will rely on Mobilitie for the deployment. Mobilitie will boom this year when they take on the network expansion for Sprint, but they may not get paid for it until who knows when. Remember that Mobilitie will be doing the deployment work for Sprint with the small cells and mini macro deployments. Just a not, the mini macro may look like a small cell installation, but with way more power out, pay attention to that little fact! Another thing I am seeing is that Sprint & Mobilitie are looking to do as much as they can without getting the tower companies involved.

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Sprint, (Mobilitie), has a process in place for deployment, but it’s all the outside factors that get in the way causing delays and raising costs. For example the easements, permitting, zoning, and problems running backhaul. Depending on which jurisdiction you’re deploying in, things could go well or things could move at a snail’s pace. Many jurisdictions slow down the small cell installation and also the fiber runs. I am still a fan of wireless backhaul, but that takes proper planning, one thing most people don’t want to take the time to do up front, just my opinion there.

Now don’t get me wrong, there is a reason some jurisdictions are cautious, most of them don’t do it to be jerks, they are just trying to understand what will be installed and what the repercussions will be.  Most local jurisdictions don’t always want better coverage if there will be problems, I see both sides. In the past some carriers installed noisy and ugly sites causing the local residents to be up in arms. You need to have balance with aesthetics.  You need to mutually respect each other’s opinions, right? Remember that the protests can lead to the removal of a site. Since there are so many jurisdictions to deal with, streamlining, (like Mr. Claure is asking the FCC to help with), makes sense but we need to show the local residents respect.

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I am a fan of small cell deployment and Sprint is pushing for a way to improve this, I am on board! I believe they would qualify their mini macro as a small cell at this point to speed up the densification, if it happens. Let’s face it, we all want to deploy.

Let’s not overlook the fact that Mobilitie has been preparing to deploy by asking to install on poles and install new poles just like Crown Castle has been doing. I am told that they want to replace the existing poles with taller and stronger poles for the mini macro and small cells, (again like Crown Castle has been doing). They have already sent project notes of out to city offices, like the letter they sent to the California City of Ojai, document found here. The document clearly outlines a high level plan to deploy small cells.

I was conversing with a friend of mine, Omar Masry, AICP, City Planner of San Francisco, about this.

Per Omar, “The City of San Francisco has signed agreements to allow Mobilitie to potentially install their facilities on City owned steel light and transit poles (which hold up electric wires for buses and light rail). However, as of yet no design has been approved.    T-Mobile and Verizon are actively collaborating with the City on the installation of Small Cells (technically C-RAN) on existing poles. The equipment primarily involves two Ericsson mRRUs (plus an external antenna for the Verizon nodes).    One challenge involves the design of the mRRUs with cabling exiting out the bottom of the enclosure then rotating back before entering the pole. Staff requested 90 degree connectors but the carrier declined. However superflex cabling was used instead to reduce the gap between the bottom of the mRRU and the pole entry point to five inches. Preferably equipment manufactures would create a variant for steel pole installations with reduced cabling visibility through alternate port locations (e.g. rear).   Another challenge with the Extenet-Verizon deployment was that the initial design proposal did not include required electronic gear (cabling and combiners). This required additional redesigns to shroud the equipment at the base of the external antenna; and ensure the design was compatible with the historic districts and streetscapes that characterize San Francisco.   AT&T Mobility had previously submitted applications to attach wireless facilities to steel transit poles, however the design was not approved as it featured bulky equipment enclosures and antennas on steel poles in primarily historic residential areas.    Staff looks forward to working with carriers on ensuring designs are compatible with the City’s streetscapes (without noisy cooling fans , flashing lights, and logos/decals typically associated with more challenging DAS nodes on some wooden poles), while providing robust and competitive broadband services.   Photo Examples of these (and other) design challenges can be found at: http://www.slideshare.net/omarmasry/slides-from-a-wireless-cellular-design-panel

So it looks like Sprint may be moving ahead through Mobilitie. I am hoping they deploy this year sometime before it’s too late! Mobilitie is the densification deployment team for Sprint, remember that. They will be the team rolling everything out. The mini-macro deployment could be referred to as small cells because, quite frankly, it’s easier to work with, just like the CRAN deployment. Those working with Verizon and T-Mobile know it’s easier to just lump it all into the small cell category. There are plenty of signs that they may do something soon!

Deploy, deploy, deploy! You can never have enough wireless deployments, am I right? Macro, small cell, CRAN, and DAS all are part of this amazing HetNet world we live in! Let’s deploy!

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