Joining Parallel Wireless to Solve the Rural Challenge
Kevin Kleinsmith, Solutions Architect | August 22, 2016
The main things that drew me to the Parallel Wireless product line were threefold:
Standalone management platform
Innovation and transparency
Most small cell vendors are trying to solve a problem for urban/suburban capacity. This means that they’re low-power integrated units that typically require fiber to work, or Ethernet at a minimum. This is solving their problem, but not that of carriers other than Tier 1’s. Parallel’s product and initial trials were about rural, which IS the problem that carriers other than Tier 1’s are trying to solve.
The reason there is so much white space in the Western US is twofold: (1) lack of commercial power, and (2) lack of backhaul. It has turned into the chicken and egg question of which will be solved first so carriers would want to go there.
If you look at carriers footprints, they only cover highways in the Western US, making maps look like spider webs. They target the highways and cover any community that is within reach of that major roadway. This is how they built the USA 20 years ago, which you can still see in some of the smaller eastern states, but mainly in the west, Mexico and some of Canada today.
I have a term for this, which is “accidental coverage”. They intentionally cover people moving through areas, but only accidentally cover people who live there. So when you try to fill in those gap, the population is so low it is extremely hard to justify the capital.
But when you add up the population of all these communities, the population isn’t quite so low. 1-2% of the US population is not covered by cellular, nearly 45% of the US population does not have access to Broadband as defined by the new target of 10 Mbps. That is 3-6 million people without wireless coverage for voice and data and 150 million that don’t have adequate data. The rural challenge isn’t just a US problem either – only 46% of the world’s population has Internet access, even though the United Nations declared it a basic human right in 2003. Yet over a decade later, over 2.5 billion people still live in unconnected communities. This is a MASSIVE problem that no single company is trying to solve and honestly no one is really looking at it 100%, just their little piece of it.
That is one reason why I was so excited to join the Parallel team: they are reimagining the radio access network to solve a problem and connect the unconnected, rather than just focus on their bottom line. To be a part of a team that truly wants to solve this issue is exciting and is a challenge I look forward to helping to address.
How to solve “the rural challenge”
The power is what people need in order to fill these gaps – putting Macro BTS power levels into a small cell form factor. This gives you the ability to get the reach and in-building coverage you need, but doesn’t require as much capital surrounding. Combine this with the flexible backhaul solution, then you have the complete package: a solution that is no longer reliant on bringing fixed backhaul to remote locations.
The Parallel Wireless solution addresses the backhaul challenge by enabling flexible backhaul, so operators have the luxury of choosing whichever backhaul option is most viable for each deployment. In addition to enabling flexible backhaul, this solution also enables resilient wireless mesh backhaul; mesh is ideal for these rural locations as operators can run fiber to just one node that acts as a “gateway node” by then relaying the signal to rural communities over a wireless mesh connection. These communities can then also form a mesh cluster which can then connect to neighboring communities. By only running fiber to one location, operators can greatly reduce their backhaul expenses.
In order to solve the rural challenge from a budgetary view, you need to get the capital to something around $1,000 – $2,000 per pop. This is another thing Parallel solves, getting the price down to something that engineers want to use from a technical standpoint, but also makes the finance people see the value. Because the Parallel Wireless hardware (known as Converged Wireless System, or CWS) is built using low-cost commodity components, the hardware itself is very cost-efficient, which helps drive down CAPEX. Couple this with the self-configuration, self-optimization, and self-healing features of the HetNet Gateway (HNG) network orchestrator component, and you’re left with a solution that also reduces OPEX via easy and instant install and hands-free maintenance. The result is overall TCO reduction that leads to significant savings to the operator.
The added bonus that really becomes attractive once you learn more about the Parallel HNG is that you can make this a femto cell solution and enterprise solution on top of a macro augmentation. Add to that how this easily sits within the network (not requiring a massive amount of network configurations, just a few days from software install to call processing) and this became a no-brainer to at least do a trial.
The last part that drew me in was where the team was so responsive to ideas and saying an honest answer. We were able to brainstorm a product and then get a date on when that might be available to test and then available for production. It was not just about getting a date that might impress me, but rather an honest date that was achievable. This transparency is essential if you want to have an open discussion and enable innovation, and that’s just what Parallel Wireless is doing.