The inadequacy of in-building mobile coverage is a constant refrain, especially among medium and large enterprises, but progress in addressing the problem has been slow. Distributed antenna systems (DAS) are mainly suited to very large locations such as sports venues, while WiFi is widely installed but has some challenges in terms of mobile hand-off, voice quality and security, especially for organizations which cannot invest in highly customized, enterprise-grade WLANs. Small cells, integrated with WiFi and the corporate LAN, are a strong solution, but MNOs have generally found it hard to make a good business case, while the potential customers are unwilling to invest in something they believe should be delivered as standard by an operator.
The way forward lies with new business models, which involve co-investment between enterprise and operator, or neutral host build-outs that can support multi-operator connectivity, while guaranteeing security, quality of service and other essentials to the enterprise. Some neutral hosts are also looking to move up the service stack and provide applications and services that are specific to a particular vertical industry.
Large firms like Nokia are eyeing the enterprise neutral host, or network-as-a-service, opportunity, especially as 5G starts to drive interest in new types of mobile connectivity and use cases, including those that rely on low latency, high security and integration with edge compute resources. There are also some emerging start-ups, as well as companies developing key enablers for those businesses, such as localized private RAN and packet core platforms, like those supported by Quortus.
Huawei selected in-building systems as a key theme of its recent Mobile Broadband Forum (MBBF), where it trialled a multi-operator network at the event venue in London.
The Chinese firm talked up the potential for emerging operators, such as neutral hosts, to adopt its Digital Indoor System (DIS), alongside more traditional service providers. DIS is based on the multi-operator implementation of Huawei’s LampSite small cell system, which was first announced last year.
One of its start-up partners is UK-based Stratto, which announced a multiyear framework agreement with Huawei to provide a multi-operator indoor cellular service based on DIS. The partnership will focus on selected industrial sectors as well as commercial real estate developers.
Founded in 2016, Stratto specializes in connectivity-as-a-service for enterprises, providing managed services for building owners, managers and tenants combining 3G and 4G. Now it has added LampSite Sharing to its portfolio.
“We are delighted to announce our ongoing relationship with Huawei after the success of our first deployments this year,” said Richard Bourne, CEO of Stratto. “Poor in-building coverage remains a major headache for businesses and residents across the UK, and we look forward to continuing to work together to help solve this problem.”