The last 10m: how HUBER+SUHNER is removing complexity and futureproofing cabling ahead of 5G rollout

By creating bespoke solutions across varied portfolios, HUBER+SUHNER is simplifying the way telecoms infrastructure is installed and maintained.

Read this article to learn:

  • Where HUBER+SUHNER fits into the telecoms ecosystem and is valuable addition to the tower infrastructure
  • How HUBER+SUHNER solutions can support the growing convergence between tower, fibre and central office/ edge datacentres
  • The implications of site proliferation factors of 5 up to 10 on aspects such as installation and maintenance

The mission of HUBER+SUHNER is to create simple to install, space efficient and future proof cell site connectivity solutions for the macro or the small cell layer. The goal is to provide an outstanding connection as technology upgrades both on the tower, at the central office and in between those two locations. HUBER+SUHNER offers long term expertise and ability to understand the needs of the mobile communication industry customers to provide the right solutions which will play a pivotal role in 5G rollouts globally. We spoke with Fabian Huber, Market Manager New Markets at HUBER+SUHNER, about their plans for the next few years. 

TowerXchange: Please introduce your company – where do you fit in the telecoms infrastructure ecosystem?

Fabian Huber, Market Manager – New Markets, HUBER+SUHNER:

Our value proposition is that we provide connectivity solutions which can be installed and left for 20 years and support our customers as they grow. They’re vendor agnostic, so whichever carrier wants to place active equipment on a tower, the main cabling won’t need to be changed. Even for big changes in technology, like the rollout of massive MIMO Antennas, we can find solutions by relooking at the cabling and optimizing the site to reduce CAPEX and OPEX while increasing flexibility. We’re looking into the easiest way of rolling this out, however we are aware that easy is defined by our customers and will definitely vary depending on existing infrastructure legacy and local regulations. Adapting our approach to regional needs making our customers life easier is our commitment.

We have recently raised distinct interest in the tower ecosystem and vice versa. A lot of our solutions could benefit the tower ecosystem from a pure connectivity point of view. But we also offer active solutions, particularly to provide more capacity between the macro or small cell site and the central office. Especially for small cell sites, the x-haul is critical and needs to be cost optimized. There we are constantly optimizing our solutions regarding cost per x-haul for our customers.

Another aspect worth mentioning, is our cabling solutions for the BBU hotel / central office based on different building blocks which make it easy to deploy. But what does easy mean? From a infrastructure provider point of view, this is mostly linked with providing the space, the power and the access to fibre. But as soon as this becomes a multi-tenant location, the location needs to be managed like a colocation data centre where each customer has its separate space and the general cabling solution needs to be space efficient to allow for maximum revenue generating floor usage to the customers of the infrastructure provider. Since HUBER+SUHNER is also active in this space, we are in a unique position to come up with an end to end solution designed for today, tomorrow and beyond.

TowerXchange: Can you share information about your footprint for small cells?

Fabian Huber, Market Manager – New Markets, HUBER+SUHNER:

From what I see regarding outdoor small cell rollouts, most of them happen currently in North America. But we are seeing an interest in European countries and in Australia as well.

TowerXchange: Are you seeing small cells and street furniture trending more than macro cells? And is that related only to network requirements or also as a function of the easier permitting process you reckon?

Fabian Huber, Market Manager – New Markets, HUBER+SUHNER:

For us, business volume with macro cells is still way above compared to what we do with small cells. But there are many indications pointing at small cells, especially as 5G rolls out and carriers see small cells as a natural part of the network densification process needed for this evolutionary step. We looked at the market already three four years and realized that we were quite early with our solutions, but now we do see way more activities, particularly in Europe. But in the end it’s all about network densification: if a carrier has more frequencies available or can achieve higher capacity with massive MIMO antenna deployments using the existing macro cell layer, they will prefer this option. Small cells are only used, where the macro layer just simply can’t do it anymore. But as the 3.5 Ghz band becomes available now, the “macro layer” will become another boost to increase capacity without moving to small cells.

TowerXchange: Do you see a big difference in the way small cells are rolling out in the US vs in Europe?

Fabian Huber, Market Manager – New Markets, HUBER+SUHNER:

In the U.S., small cells are much less sensitive with respect to aesthetics and visibility, while in Europe, this is from the beginning a major concern.

TowerXchange: How do you suggest overcoming the challenge of backhaul from small cells, particularly in developing markets where fibre remains scarce?

Fabian Huber, Market Manager – New Markets, HUBER+SUHNER:

There’s a huge need for fibre but availability can be a challenge at times. However this is very specific to the country or even the particular street in a city. We have a quite flexible, unique offering to minimise that gap between available fibre and required capacity our smart and lean active or passive optical multiplexing solutions. We are seeing a lot of traction here in the market for this solution. This demand is coming not just from carriers, but also from neutral hosts such as tower companies, fiber, facility and building owners, municipalities and similar companies.

TowerXchange: And are you seeing fibre being deployed more heavily in the markets where you operate? And is fiberisation supporting small cell rollout or mostly FTTH / FTTP?

Fabian Huber, Market Manager – New Markets, HUBER+SUHNER:

We are seeing a lot of companies investing in fibre assets, e.g. utilities are rolling out fibre networks for initially FTTH, especially in Europe. These companies have a lot of assets which can now also facilitate small cell roll outs. For instance locations in densely populated areas – like poles, street cabinets, small buildings, street lights etc. with access to power and signal connectivity – provide here a lot of potential. Sometimes such companies are not fully aware what assets they actually own looking towards a 5G network evolution at the horizon. We will also see increasing convergence between FTTH and mobile communication networks. Those two traditionally separate branches need to reorganise themselves as they can’t afford to think in separate siloes. Fibre is a valuable and expensive asset, so any future architecture of heterogeneous networks needs to consider FTTH and also radio and wireless network aspects.

TowerXchange: How does one design micro sites to blend in with ‘street furniture’?

Fabian Huber, Market Manager – New Markets, HUBER+SUHNER:

We have recently had discussions with street furniture manufacturers and owners like municipalities or public transport service providers. They are the people that own or build assets on street level which can be used for small cell deployments, as power and often also fiber connectivity is already deployed at these locations. The only missing piece is the high performance air interface – the antenna, which has to fulfil very special requirements at a small cell site as well!

HUBER+SUHNER is putting a lot of effort into designing antennas that are small, easy to install and simple to integrate into such existing structures as available assets. Using such already available assets to deploy small cells makes the acquisition and operation of small cells cheaper for the operator. On the other hand if an infrastructure owner has assets, where small cell antennas from HUBER+SUHNER are easily integrated, the location becomes instantly much more attractive and valuable for the infrastructure owner.

TowerXchange: Please sum up how you would differentiate your solution from your competitors’

Fabian Huber, Market Manager – New Markets, HUBER+SUHNER:

The value or differentiation of our product is that we understand the specific needs of a customer and provide a bespoke solution, designed to their specific problems. We have a wide solution portfolio to build on and frequently help our customers to find customized solutions for each site type.

On the other hand we are designing cabling solutions that are simple to install and miniaturized for small cell connectivity in order to make more sites an option for deployment. In this regard, we are also providing complementary RF connectivity and most of all the antenna. This helps a lot to have the right RF performance at the right location.

Last but not least we add to this portfolio mix also solutions to solve capacity problems in the x-haul with our optical multiplexing solutions. All in all, this increases the value of any currently existing asset of an infrastructure provider when working with HUBER+SUHNER.

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