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Ericsson on Wednesday debuted three new small cell solutions that offer options for multi-vendor and zero-footprint deployments.

The scalable solutions include the Multi-Operator Dot and the Multi-Dot Enclosure for indoor deployments, as well as the Strand-Mount Unit for outdoor use.

The Multi-Operator Dot offering includes a set of Radio Dots that can be shared by up to four different operators. Ericsson indicated the setup allows one operator to manage the system while the others provide radio frequency signals, essentially functioning similar to an active distributed antenna system.

The new Multi-Dot Enclosure functions exactly as its name suggests, allowing the combination of several Dots in a single box. Ericsson said the form factor has a “minimal impact on building aesthetics” and can be used in multi-operator deployments.

Ericsson’s third new option is the Strand-Mount Unit, which allows operators to install hanging radios on existing aerial coax, fiber, or electricity cables. The company reports the solution can support up to four micro radios, and can be deployed for both single and multi-operator use.

The new product launches come as operators across the nation fight to densify their networks to support growing traffic demands and prepare for 5G. Indeed, SNS Research forecasted carrier spending on deployments of small cells, centralized RAN (C-RAN), distributed antenna systems (DAS), and WiFi is expected to hit $15 billion by the end of this year. But carriers have run up against hurdles in the form of local permitting processes, which operators allege apply outdated rules for macro towers to small cell deployments.

Some states, including Virginia and Minnesota, have already passed legislation to help expedite the process and ease deployments, and others, like California, are moving in that direction as well. The FCC has also been moved to action, pressing ahead with a measure to streamline small cell siting on the federal level. But these movements at both the federal and state levels have provoked backlash from advocacy groups and municipal governments, which have decried the efforts as “brazen” attempts to usurp local authority.

With 5G and millimeter wave deployments on the horizon, though, carriers see small cell deployments as a must and are pushing through the fray. Mark Lowenstein, managing director at Mobile Ecosystem, said multi-operator options could be part of the solution for future deployments.

“The mobile industry is experiencing an evolution in the way we use our devices, the methods in which we design the networks for upcoming 5G technologies, and the way we deploy small cells. Multi-operator solutions will be critical to expanding the market for small cells and the range of possible deployments. Ericsson’s new small cell solutions address these industry changes to enable operators to deliver the needed coverage and capacity in a variety of environments.”

Ericsson said the new small cell solutions will be on display at Mobile World Congress Americas next month, and will be commercially available in 2018.

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