Spidercloud spins biz-wide webs for Mindspeed mini-masts

Smart arachnids weave small cells into private networks

Enterprise-level private cellular networks will be as easy to fit as Wi-Fi. That's according to femtocell-leader Mindspeed, which has impregnated its chips with Spidercloud's wizardry to make small cells work better together.

Mindspeed makes book-sized base stations that can configure themselves automatically once connected to an Ethernet network and a power supply. Spidercloud's software juggles several of these Small Cell devices on the same enterprise LAN to create a campus-wide network. That enables proper system management and integration with the wider public networks, though the latter requires a hand from mobile operators.

Femtocells, as Small Cells used to be known, operate in licensed frequencies owned by the network operators, but within those bands the devices detect and avoid the macro network by finding a frequency within which they can run a low-power transmission - each mini-mast has a range of 100 metres. A user walking out of the area will switch to the macro network, although handing off onto a femto during a call isn't possible just yet, and neither is handing off between femtos, though the integration of Spidercloud's software should solve both issues, for enterprise users at least.

It's not an issue when femtocells are going into houses, where punters are so grateful for the coverage they'll put up with an idiosyncrasy or two. However, a business will want seamless roaming and macro integration, and Spidercloud reckons the limited range leads to a lot more handing off between cells. One of its existing deployments involved two thousand users trigging more than 100,000 handoffs daily, just by walking around the office, so some sort of session management becomes essential.

Spidercloud has raised about $100m to fund a solution, and spent most of its life within Vodafone's incubator programme, culminating in the integration of its software into Mindspeed's hardware. California-based Mindspeed picked up leading UK femto specialists Picochip in January, and is betting that Small Cells are going to become big business. Having Spidercloud's tech integrated should help push the mini-masts into the enterprise, but it could also help Small Cells become better coordinated for all sorts of deployments - anywhere where easy-as-Wi-Fi is a definitive selling point. ®

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