Airwaive wants to be an Airbnb for wireless network equipment
A Silicon Valley startup founded by Jeff Yee, a former AT&T and ZTE executive, is hoping to solve one of the big dilemmas facing operators building 5G networks – how to rapidly deploy enough small cells to provide ubiquitous 5G coverage in a given area.
Small cells aren’t a new phenomenon. Most operators have deployed small cells throughout their 4G networks to patch coverage gaps and improve network capacity. These small cells are typically mounted on light poles or rooftops. But some in the industry expect demand for additional small cells to significantly increase in the coming years, particularly as operators look to broadcast 5G in shortrage, millimeter wave (mmWave) spectrum.
Enter Airwaive. Executives at the startup hope to speed up a small cell deployment process they believe is far too cumbersome and slow.
Streamlining the process
Today, operators typically first work with a municipality to obtain the necessary permits for a small cell, and then they work with property owners in areas where they need to install a small cell. Airwaive executives say this existing process is not manageable when an operator has to deploy hundreds of thousands, or millions, of small cells. And if the process isn’t changed, it will take many years for 5G to achieve the type of coverage operators are promising.
Instead, Airwaive has developed what it calls an “owner-operator” model that it thinks will remove some of these barriers. The company is building a network of potential small cell hosts (either residential or business buildings). Airwaive will then make sure the small cell gets deployed – by either an engineering services firm or by the building owners themselves – and it will compensate the host every month for providing a home for the small cell.
“Airwaive is like an Airbnb platform,” said Jeff Yee, CEO of Airwaive. “We are applying some of that disruption to the wireless industry.”
Yee said that Airwaive has already identified a number of potential 5G small cell host properties by finding places that have fiber connections. Fiber is important because the 5G small cells will need backhaul.
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