Small Cells to Make a Big Difference in Customer Experience

Convergence Corner

Small Cells to Make a Big Difference in Customer Experience

By Erik Linask, Group Editorial Director  |  September 01, 2011

This article originally appeared in the Sept. 2011 issue of INTERNET TELEPHONY

It wasn’t long ago that connectivity was the big challenge. Regardless of where subscribers – both business and consumer users – traveled, there was always a question of whether reliable Internet access or cell phone coverage would be available.

With the buildouts of the latest high-bandwidth networks, that has become largely a non-factor, with most places in developed areas having access via multiple carriers. Instead, with the preponderance of new mobile devices, the applications built for them, and again, the high-bandwidth wireless networks that deliver those apps, battery life should be the big problem.

On a recent trip to the New Jersey shore, however, I realized that isn’t quite accurate. Even in its home state, coverage from Verizon (News - Alert) Wireless was, at best, poor, making the case that companies like Taqua have the right idea, seeking to build momentum around femtocells.

Taqua has always been focused on providing carriers with cutting edge capabilities, enabling its customers to bring the very latest services to subscribers. Understanding the challenges that clearly remain – particularly within-building coverage – its acquisition of Tatara Systems furthers that goal.

Tatara’s FMC play focuses on femtocell technology as a cost-effective and practical approach for enhancing coverage for both voice and data services via in-building cellular access points.

The number of global femtocell commitments is doubling every few months,” GM of Taqua’s (News - Alert) Convergence Server business unit, Marc Cremer, notes. “It’s no longer a question of if; it’s being realized, and we expect the trend to continue, with femtocells being a catalyst for $2 billion in consumer services by 2015.”

With user expectations for seamless connectivity growing – and their tolerance for poor service rapidly eroding – carriers have to address the demand. While new networks are being built, and existing ones enhanced, the quickest solution is small cell deployment, which also helps, at least temporarily, lessen the traffic burden on wireless networks by offloading it to in-building Wi-Fi.

Driving the solution is the Taqua Convergence Server (TCS), which enables the femto-based FMC capability, providing seamless service without requiring users to change devices – a key to an enhanced user experience.

“Leveraging the SIP architecture, TCS is designed to function with multiple access technologies,” says Payam Maveddat, EVP of product management at Taqua. “While specific consumer and enterprise applications may differ, their implementation is very similar, enabling services like hosted PBX (News - Alert), location-based apps and alerts, home phone service, connected home services and apps, and more.”

Not only can carriers ensure higher service reliability and speed, they will now have access into customer premises to deliver the next generation of connected services, including true unified communications for both business and consumer markets.

Of course, the other sister-opportunity is the use of picocells in both rural and urban deployments – again, to reduce network congestion and increase coverage in areas where cell towers may not be possible (in addition to the cost factor between building new towers and placing picocells).

Importantly for Taqua, in addition to providing another way for its traditional Tier 2 and 3 carrier customers to differentiate themselves, the Tatara acquisition also brings with it a Tier 1 customer, as Sprint is an existing Tatara customer, already having deployed the TCS 6100 convergence server in its femtocell deployments in consumer markets, and soon in enterprise and SMB markets as well. In addition, the many carrier network technology vendor partners that come with the deal, including Alcatel-Lucent, Ericsson, NSN, and others, will help Taqua increase its market presence.

With network operators in a constant struggle to gain a greater share of the consumer and enterprise budget, the ability to move into the customer premises offers a new entry point for delivering a new breed of services. And with its recently launched IP eXchange peering applications, Taqua also is on the way to delivering connectivity to these same applications into other carriers.

CEO Eric Pratt has noted on multiple occasions that, Taqua is not really about technology – it’s about people. While the Tatara Systems acquisition is about putting in place a new layer of technology, that technology is really about providing a higher level of service to the end user – making sure the technology is leveraged in a way that maximizes customer experience.

Erik Linask (News - Alert) is Group Editorial Director of TMC, which brings news and compelling feature articles, podcasts, and videos to 2,000,000 visitors each month. To see more of his articles, please visit his columnist page. Follow Erik on Twitter (News - Alert) @elinask.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi