I’m not sure we can say that Ericsson timed its Radio Dot launch to our upcoming LTE eNode B product assessment updates. I think we can say, however, that the new indoor wireless solution helps make a point that we’ve been arguing for some time.
You see, in comparing one vendor’s LTE base station to another’s, carrier capacity (i.e., the amount of 20 MHz LTE spectrum channels a base station can support) is a key metric we look to. It’s something that operators – time and again – have told us matters to them, if only as a measure of investment protection going forward. No operator, after all, wants to buy a base station today that can’t support tomorrow’s capacity demands.
Yet as logical as this might sound, it’s also true that there are limits to the usefulness of extreme scalability. The difference between a base station that can support 1,000 carriers and 1,000,000 carriers, for example, is meaningless; even the lower number is beyond the spectrum resources of any operator deploying LTE today.
Radio Dot, however, points to an interesting deployment model that stresses the importance of scalability. To deliver in-building capacity, Ericsson suggests that an operator might power the Dot System from an existing outdoor base station, say one that’s on a building’s roof. This only works if that base station can spare the capacity. And if an operator hopes to power campus-wide indoor coverage while leveraging outdoor base station capacity? Well, then that outdoor base station better offer some solid capacity performance. Ericsson probably didn’t anticipate this use case when the company planned the capacity of its eNode Bs. But the use case has emerged, suggesting that we can’t predict what future cases may need additional capacity.
Operators might never be in the market for LTE base stations supporting 1,000+ carriers. As they think about LTE deployments through the lens of investment protection, they do need to keep capacity in mind. More isn’t always better, but sometimes it is.