As expected, there has been a lot of interest in our announcement with Intel. It could be because it signals a bold direction for this new generation of small-cell hotspots, or perhaps it is because people are interested in Intel’s role, or it could be because it makes “Edge Cloud” computing imminent and practical (a term I’ve borrowed from ABI Research’s Aditya Kaul). All I know is we’ve been inundated with follow-up questions, so here’s a round-up of the most frequently asked.
Why did Intel and Ubiquisys get together?
It was a natural fit. Ubiquisys has the only intelligent cell software that allows low-cost, high density deployment of public small-cell hotspots to seriously multiply mobile data capacity. This small-cell population in effect forms a new a new cloud layer much closer to mobile internet users. In turn this creates opportunities for new applications and new media interactions, all placing new demands on processing power, because these small cells are more like cloud computing platforms with basestation capabilities. And Intel is the world’s leading computing platform.
Who is doing what in the relationship?
Both companies are committing resources to develop this small cell range and will participate in marketing the new products.
How does this fit with the recent Texas Instruments announcement?
It’s part of the same movement towards a small-cell hotspot with the power and intelligence to deliver massive new data capacity in an ultra-dense deployment pattern. TI is providing the “macro-class” baseband SoC for dual-mode LTE/WCDMA small cells. Intel is providing the computing platform for application-related activities. In most cases, we expect both elements would be present in the resulting small-cell products.
What type of small cells are we talking about here?
We’re not talking about residential and SMB enterprise femtocells – we already have a class-leading platforms with our partner Broadcom for these markets. What we are talking about is higher capacity hotspots deployed in public spaces indoors and outdoors. These small-cell hotspots will typically feature LTE/WCDMA and WiFi.
Is this going to be a big market?
Yes. It’s hot because operators are concluding that the combination of macro augmentation, spectrum addition, and more efficient spectrum use (LTE) cannot provide the massive medium-term increase in required mobile data capacity. Small cells can do it, but only if they can be deployed at very high density, with low TCO, and can handle public-cell levels of traffic and peak behaviour. Small cells also provide higher data rates for users because of their close proximity and low contention. Analyst firm Mobile Experts forecast 15.5M small cells shipped by 2016.
What’s the point of a small cell hotspot with a major computing platform?
Small cells provide their mobile signal closer to users to transform the wireless user experience, but adding the computing platform also extends cloud content and applications closer to users, taking that transformation one big step further. It also reduces the load on the most expensive part of wireless infrastructure – backhaul.
Which processors will be used?
The platform can be specified with processors from Atom through Core to Xeon, depending on the model requirements. Solid state storage on the platform is also highly scalable, starting in the hundreds of GB.
What are the applications of this new type of computing platform?
There is huge potential for new Edge Cloud applications, supported by Intel’s developer ecosystem. Here are a few of the simpler examples:
- Local content caching: locally storing local content like Google Maps or StreetView pics, and locally popular video content, such as replay videos at a sporting event.
- Uplink spooling and app proxy: fast-upload a photo or video to Facebook/Twitter. The content uploads very quickly to the small cell leaving the user free and causing minimum handset battery drain. The small cell then negotiates further upload over the backhaul, or even runs the video format conversion before uploading.
- Wi-Fi/Cellular harmonisation: the small cell decides the best air interface to use depending on real-time loading and traffic type.
- Deep packet inspection: enabling sophisticated real-time actions such as content management, ad-insertion and URL-shortening.
- Peak-time protocol management: a network buffer to protect network resources against lunchtime and cafeteria effects caused by “noisy” and uncoordinated smartphone app signalling.
We’ll be explaining more about the applications side of our intelligent small cells over the next few months.
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