Ericsson has entered the small cell battle, launching its Radio Dot System that is expected to be available late next year and garnering early interest in the product from Verizon Wireless.

The company boasted of a disk-shaped radio small enough to fit in someone’s hand but able to provide high-quality mobile broadband and voice service indoors. Ericsson said the Radio Dot System has a “compelling evolution path” and is aimed at supporting users in medium-to-large indoor locations, and giving a “complete indoor solution” to mobile operators.

Ericsson said that current indoor solutions are built mainly for voice coverage, but don’t meet the capacity demands for data and are limited in scalability. Johan Wibergh, head of Ericsson Business Unit Networks, noted that “leading operators are focusing on indoor capacity as an opportunity to address the mobile data demands of their customers and expand their enterprise opportunities. We saw there was a gap. Today’s indoor solutions do not address the vast range of public venues and enterprise buildings that operators are targeting. With the Radio Dot System, we’ve filled this gap and redefined the small cell market.”

Verizon Wireless has already stepped up to show its interest in testing and trialing the Radio Dot System. Kris Rinne, senior VP of network and product planning at AT&T Services Inc., noted that small cells are a “key component of AT&T’s Project VIP network enhancement program” and called the Radio Dot System “another tool to choose from in its next-generation toolkit.”

So Ericsson sees the new product as a redefinition of the market, saying it has been in development for two years and includes 14 patents. Existing small cell vendors now face competition from one of the industry’s heavyweight vendors.

But Ronny Haraldsvik, CMO of SpiderCloud Wireless, scoffed at the offering.

“Ericsson’s ‘Johnny come lately’ DAS-approach highlights that they know they have an indoor problem and their way of fixing it is to add coverage bars inside for 3G. But this does not add capacity or the ability to deliver managed services,” Haraldsvik said. “The ‘Radio Dot’ heads link to the base station which means it takes away capacity from the macro cellular network. Ericsson redesigned its own DAS.

“If it walks like a pig, eats like a pig (capacity), then it is a pig. With lipstick,” he said.

Start-up SpiderCloud certainly has some advantages in time to market — just last week it announced that Vodafone Netherlands is already offering its small cells as an improved in-building wireless solution for enterprise customers.  Ericsson said that it will be testing the Radio Dot System with operators and expects commercial availability in the second half of 2014.

Ericsson’s system connects and powers its dots with standard Internet LAN cables to indoor radio units that link to a base station, and supports integration with the company’s carrier Wi-Fi products for a consistent experience across both Wi-Fi and cellular networks.

“Sleek form factors that focus radio capability to solve the indoor deployment challenge in a fresh and compelling way will be welcomed into a wide variety of business and office venues,” said Ken Rehbehn, principal analyst with Yankee Group. “Ericsson Radio Dot System leverages existing indoor wire facilities to reduce installation hurdles and cost, and because it builds on Ericsson standard radio architecture, it provides an extensive feature set without compromising future evolution.”

From RCR 09/26/2013