With Enterprise Small Cells, Remember: Not All Enterprises Are Alike

Ed Gubbins
Ed Gubbins

Summary Bullets:

  • Enterprise small-cell deployment strategies need to include market segmentation.
  • This segmentation takes many forms and has both technology and business model implications.

Much attention’s been paid in the past year to small cells for enterprises. However, it is important to remember in these conversations that not all enterprises are alike.

We have already seen some RAN equipment vendors begin to slice up the enterprise market by venue size and solution architecture: picocells for the smallest venues, distributed antenna systems for the largest and hub-and-spoke solutions for those in between.

Along with that segmentation comes important considerations not just for technologies and solution architectures, but go-to-market strategies as well. Large enterprises have bring-your-own-device (BYOD) dynamics that pose challenges for operators hoping to penetrate these spaces. Smaller businesses might not have the same BYOD hurdles, but they may come with higher cost pressures – for example, making self-installation capabilities more appealing – and they pose additional challenges in terms of reaching and supporting a broad, dispersed audience.

Beyond size, it is important for small-cell stakeholders to segment enterprises vertically – not just according to business type, but according to factors that shape each business’s needs in this space. Generally speaking, a hotel thinks about indoor cellular coverage quality differently than does a corporate headquarters whose offices have landlines and WiFi and whose employees have their own devices. It also thinks about multi-operator requirements differently. At the same time, enterprises with high security concerns may value managed services (perhaps even including devices) more than multi-operator capabilities.

Approaching these divisions strategically and even surgically becomes more important as the services associated with small cells evolve. Some small-cell vendors are aiming to use location-based services as a small-cell value-add, and they are likely to use specific verticals – such as retail or airports – to help illustrate the business case, which means identifying the most likely candidates among verticals and tailoring solutions and services for them.

In short, operators need to avoid thinking of enterprise small-cell deployment strategies as in any way mirroring their outdoor plans. They need to understand their enterprise small-cell strategies on a very granular level and engage with vendors on these concepts now.

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