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Friday, February 08, 2008

A cellular radio network planner's worst nightmare......

The picture above is taken from the NetEvents conference I'm attending in Barcelona before the start of 3GSM. It's a room of about 80 technology analysts and journalists, most of whom are using laptops to take notes. The event is "green" in that there are no paper handouts - presentations are downloaded from the web. There is free WiFi for delegates which runs fast.

The conference room is in a hotel basement, with thick walls & ceilings and lots of marble.

It just struck me to think: could this all be managed using cellular? Leaving aside the issue of roaming costs in Spain, the radio problems alone would be horrible. I'm sure it would be technically feasible given enough effort (eg HSPA macrocell in the corner of the room with 100MB ethernet for backhaul)... but could it ever be provided at a cost suitable for a conference?
It's not just the raw bandwidth capacity either - a pico or femtocell would struggle to deal with the number of simultaneous data connections (PDP contexts etc).
And from a business point of view... how would the organiser contract with all the attendees' various operators to offer "free" coverage during the event? Or would they have to give a separate prepaid 3G dongle to each person, irrespective of whether they already had 3G deal with their normal operator.... and how would the connection manager software deal with that?

1 comment:

wirelessman said...

A few things to consider

(i) with cellular, the participants in your picture would likely be split among a few different service providers, reducing the load on each one's system (which is presumably HSPA)

(ii) the conference organizer would have nothing to do with offering the service. They'd make the material available from sites on the public internet and assume that the attendees have internet access of some sort

(iii) It would be up to the service providers to recognize that this location has high capacity requirements (which should be a no-brainer seeing as it's the venue for 3GSM) and plan their RF network accordingly. This probably means that they'd locate a microcell (or 2 or 3) in the vicinity.

(iv) an HSPA base-station should be able to handle the load from a few dozen concurrently operating subs quite easily. Unlike WiFI, it actually has a MAC and can make much more efficient use of its BW than a contention based scheme like 802.11.

All that being said, it makes much more sense for the organizer to offer good WiFI as a courtesy. It should save battery life compared to cellular and this scenario is the poster-child for WiFi - a dense cluster of users with readily available high speed backhaul. Cellular data is best suited when these conditions don't apply.