Ten Industry Predictions for 2016
In the dynamic HetNet industry, particularly in-building wireless, every year brings something new, but after two years of overhyped technology solutions, 2016 will likely be an especially big year for change. We surveyed industry insiders to tell us what the typical enterprise customer can expect in 2016 that will differ from 2015, and we’ve aggregated their responses below, shedding a little light on the predictions:
1. "Greater focus on the enterprise customer"- Continued reduction in carrier funding for distributed antenna systems (DAS) means that DAS integrators will shift their sales focus from the carriers and third-party owner/operators (3POs) to the enterprise. Also, carriers will once again come knocking on the enterprise’s door, offering single-carrier small-cell solutions in return for subscriber commitments.
2. "Greater confusion for the enterprise"- DAS vs small cell, single-carrier vs neutral-host, coax vs twisted-pair and fiber, analog vs digital. Everyone has an opinion (bias) and you’re bound to hear them all.
3. "Delays in carrier funding"- No doubt AT&T, Verizon, and the 3POs would love to own a neutral-host DAS in every metro high-rise and fancy hotel. Unfortunately, the carriers’ budgets will only fund a select few each year. Folks in Houston, you may be in luck—the Super Bowl always draws carrier funding.
4. "Small cell trials"- Sure, 2014 and 2015 were both “the year of small cell;” 2016 still may not be “the year of small cell,” but it will certainly be “the year of small-cell trials.” Give your account manager a call if you’re the bleeding-edge type.
5. "New funding models"-That’s an easy call. The old models aren’t working so well, so the 3POs will get creative. Don’t be surprised if the enterprise needs to contribute—like providing the cable infrastructure.
6. "Public-safety DAS will be code-compliant"- For too long these systems merely pumped RF into the building. IFC and NFPA want to make sure they actually work during a fire—go figure.
7. "Fiber-optic cable"- Okay, fiber is not new to DAS, but 2016 will be the year it moves into the ceiling and connects to the antenna. Corning and others would like you to consider “PON,” as in passive optical network.
8. "Single-carrier systems"- Refer back to prediction #1. The carriers are in no rush to support neutral-host small cells, so pick your favorite carrier or plan to overlay systems.
9. "Digital DAS"- If you manage a high-rise in Chicago, you can only imagine the cost of installing half-inch coax in conduit. Digital DAS solutions want to leverage your existing cable infrastructure or at least lower the cost of installation.
10. "The middleprise”- Not big enough to attract the attention of the 3POs but big enough for the solution to be very expensive—and desperately needed—the middleprise (100-500K sq ft) may take matters into its own hands, buying the DAS and directly seeking carrier contributions to offset a portion of the expense.