CommScope adds small cells with Airvana buy

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Among the base station antenna makers, CommScope has perhaps been the coolest about small cells, often focusing on ways to squeeze more performance out of the macrocell - as with its recently announced tri-band antenna. But it has a growing indoor wireless business, mainly focused on DAS, and is now taking the plunge into the miniature side of the market and acquiring Airvana, one of the pioneers of the original femtocell platform, for an undisclosed sum.

With many believing that DAS (distributed antenna system) and small cells will complement one another, this purchase fits well with CommScope's other 2015 acquisition, of the wireless broadband business of TE Connectivity, which expanded its DAS capabilities. CommScope plans to integrate Airvana's 3G and 4G small cells into its DAS business in order to be able to address the whole range of indoor scenario from single operator/single band to the high capacity multi-operator DAS systems.

This will see CommScope integrating its ION-E platform with Airvana's OneCell indoor small cell system, which harnesses some virtualization and Cloud-RAN concepts, creating a large single LTE cell with a single controller, distributed radio units and standard Ethernet switches and cabling. It also features a device management system to eliminate interference between these aggregated cells. The launch of OneCell put Airvana up against other enterprise small cell specialists like Spidercloud, which has a close relationship with Cisco, and even Ericsson's Radio Dot.

Airvana says it has shipped 1.5m 3G small cells since it was founded in 2000. Ericsson acquired its legacy CDMA EV-DO macrocell business in 2013. Airvana's employees, based in Chelmsford, Massachusetts, and Bangalore, India, will join CommScope, along with Airvana CEO Richard Lowe and CTO Vedat Eyuboglu.

"Airvana has differentiated itself in the emerging indoor small cell market through its unique product architecture and innovation," said Morgan Kurk, SVP and wireless segment leader at CommScope. "With a 15-year track record of delivering mobile broadband infrastructure products that meet the requirements of tier one operators, Airvana's carrier-grade embedded software development capabilities are impressive and complementary to CommScope.

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