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SpiderCloud weaves 3G into enterprise

Fattened-up Femtocell

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Networking startup SpiderCloud wants to bring 3G networks into the enterprise, and hopes that network operators will pay for them.

Running your own cellular network is all the rage these days, with femtocells spreading the 3G goodness into homes beyond the macro network, but enterprise users need a more centrally-managed infrastructure - which is where SpiderCloud reckons it can step in.

The concept is similar to a femtocell, but only at a glance: backhaul is provided over the existing internet connectivity, but with the quality of service guarantees lacking from existing femtocell deployments. The SpiderCloud kit consists of scaled-down base stations using power-over-Ethernet for easy deployment, and self-configuring with centralised management.

SpiderCloud calls this an Enterprise Radio Access Network (E-RAN) and stresses that this isn't a femtocell play. The E-RAN is fully integrated with the network which knows that it's there - that's critical for passing active connections into the E-RAN (something femtocells can't do as the network is unaware of the femtocell's existence).

Technically the company certainly has credibility, being comprised of brains from Flarion, the broadband company snapped up by Qualcomm in 2005, and with the kit already submitted for approval there's no doubt the idea is possible, if anyone will pay for indoor 3G coverage.

The company reckons operators will cough up the cash to fit out the premises of big customers, providing improved coverage as well as reducing loading as SpiderCloud's kit routes data locally without touching the operator's infrastructure (other than billing, of course). That capability should come to voice too, eventually.

The company is very coy on pricing, but reckons the system will cost about the same as an enterprise Wi-Fi installation, and that an operator will make back their investment in four years.

Operators will make the money back by reducing churn - they can tie companies in to long contracts by promising an E-RAN. Not to mention that once a company has got used to ubiquitous in-building coverage switching networks will be hard, which SpiderCloud reckons will be enough incentive for operators to pay for the kit which the company expects to be deploying by the middle of next year. ®

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