Wednesday 8 January 2020

Ubicquia Touting Streetlight-powered Small Cells for Densification

We have seen a fair number of small cells on lamp posts and poles on this blog. Here is another one that I became aware of through Fierce Wireless. The following from the article:

The startup Ubicquia is touting its streetlight-powered small cell as a relatively easy way to deploy small cells for LTE densification and for 5G because streetlights are already permitted with municipalities. In addition, streetlights come with electricity, and they’re often in close proximity to fiber for backhaul.

Ian Aaron, CEO of Ubicquia, said there are 360 million streetlights around the world that have a common electric socket. This socket, known as the ANSI C136 (or NEMA) socket, “has been around for 55 years,” said Aaron. “It’s a common socket whether in Australia, Germany, USA, or Brazil. We build products that plug into that socket.”

One of Ubicquia’s products is its Ubimetro small cell, which can be mounted onto existing streetlights. Aaron claims the Ubimetro for streetlights is a better option than deploying small cells onto new cellular poles or onto cable strands.

Municipalities have already been complaining about the new 30-foot-or-higher poles that are sprouting up in their cities for the deployment of wireless small cells. One alternative to erecting new poles is to deploy small cells on existing cable strand. Some cable operators, such as Comcast and Charter, are looking into the possibilities of strand-mounted small cells. And Altice USA has already deployed some strand-mounted small cells in partnership with Sprint.

But Aaron says that not all cable aerial infrastructure is strand-mount. He said that strand-mount refers to a specific type of cable that is reinforced with an internal metal wire in order to support devices that could weigh up to 30 pounds. “Only a small amount of the cable infrastructure is strand,” said Aaron. “They use strand for areas where they have to hang the large splices. It’s not universal.”

Conversely, streetlights are pervasive, and they’re conveniently located near homes, businesses and cars. Aaron said, “The issue around small cell densification is not about the technology; it’s about getting permits and persistent power.”

“If you look at a small cell deployment today you would see a big box that converts the power on the pole from AC to DC; another box that does the metering so utilities can bill you; then you’ve got the radio; and then you’ve got multiple antennas,” said Aaron. “We’ve integrated all that into a device when plugged in you can’t see it from 25-35 feet.” 

The 4G Ubimetro device dimensions are about 8 inches by 15 inches by 3 inches. Ubicquia’s patented small cell device plugs into the streetlight, and clamps on to create a secure mounting. It has omni-directional antennas. Its 5G small cell is roughly the same size.

In terms of the radio antennas for the small cells, Ubicquia designed those itself using in-house talent from a team of C-suite executives that previously worked for Motorola.

Ubicquia doesn’t have any named customers, yet. The company is planning its first commercial product and first live small cell deployments for early 2020. It could potentially work with carriers that are densifying their networks. Aaron said utilities are also interested in participating in the rollout of small cells because it offers them a new revenue opportunity.

At MWC last year, they announced that they are working with Qualcomm. Quoting from their press release:

Ubicell can replace the photocell on more than 360 million streetlights worldwide, and delivers advanced light control, ANSI 12.20 power metering and tilt/vibration sensing. Integrating the Qualcomm® SDM845 processor from Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. brings high-performance edge processing and advanced smart city services that take advantage of the processor’s integrated hardware-accelerated neural network inferencing for edge AI, IoT security, media processing for video analytics, Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) and enhanced WiFi range and performance.

They also recently announced partnership with Altiostar to accelerate Rural Broadband. From their press release:

Ubicquia®, the global leader in simply smart, simply connected network and IoT platforms for smart cities, and Altiostar, the pioneer in open virtualized radio access network (vRAN) technology, today announced an expansion of their partnership that will integrate Ubicquia’s new Ubimetro™ streetlight-powered small cell for CBRS spectrum with Altiostar’s Open vRAN software. The Open vRAN-integrated Ubimetro small cell is compatible with more than 50 million existing streetlights across the US allowing municipalities, utilities, wireless internet service providers (WISPs) and mobile network operators (MNOs) to expedite service deployments with the industry’s lowest total cost of ownership (TCO).

Today’s news follows last week’s announcement by Ubicquia that its Ubimetro suite of small cell products will also offer Citizens Broadband Radio Services (CBRS) capabilities. The Ubimetro portfolio of small cells are designed to support the network of the future, including 4G/5G, millimeter-wave spectrum, CBRS, and now Altiostar’s Open vRAN. Ubimetro provides a network-agnostic architecture with integrated MIMO antennas, a wide range of radio frequency front ends, and Ethernet, fiber and DOCSIS backhaul options.

More info on Ubicquia:

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