Mobile World Congress concludes today, and one of the show’s last panel discussions centers on a favorite topic of ours – how to connect small and mid-size enterprises (SMEs). For over a decade, Cambium Networks has been deeply entrenched in delivering broadband to where it’s most difficult and helping communities succeed by providing them high-quality Internet access. This connectivity allows SMEs to establish themselves in such communities and contribute to local, domestic and global economies. Fulfilling SMEs’ needs across industries is a key consideration for us as we develop new technologies.
According to a World Bank report cited in “Growing the global economy through SMEs” by Edinburgh Group, “estimates suggest that more than 95 percent of enterprises across the world are SMEs, accounting for approximately 60 percent of private sector employment.” While the global importance of SMEs is undeniable, the fact remains that connecting them is a complex endeavor.
Let’s look at three categories of network operators and their varying abilities to serve this market:
- Mobile: By mobile carriers we are referring to carriers like AT&T, Verizon, Vodafone and Telefónica. Mobility carriers can certainly offer the bandwidth SMEs need but the spectrum with which they serve, as well as the engineering of their networks, are not designed for a residential or SME customer. Their service is designed to support handheld users, not those needing tripleplay services on their desktop computers or streaming video to a television. With few high bandwidth users in that particular cellular segment, mobile operators’ service to their bread-and-butter subscribers – mobile phone users – will degrade.
- Fixed wireline: Fixed wireline carriers include those using DSL, fiber and coaxial cable to deliver connectivity. These carriers are limited to the bandwidth that can be carried on the copper that serves SMEs. Increasing bandwidth often requires placing expensive electronics closer to the subscriber to overcome the inherent limitations of the physical media. While driving fiber deeper into the access network provides great flexibility and the rates of bandwidth SMEs desire, it comes with substantial cost to network operators. Moreover, fixed wireline is just not possible for SMEs with dispersed workforces, sensor networks and connected devices. It’s impossible to trench to every video surveillance camera, for example. This limits fixed wireline to human-to-human and building-to-building communications, versus machine-to-machine.
- Fixed wireless: Fixed wireless is a proven technology used for what is know as last-mile connectivity, extending fiber networks inexpensively to areas outside embedded plant reach. It offers bandwidth comparable or greater than most physical media at a significantly lower cost. A key differentiator of fixed wireless as the Internet of Things continues to gather steam is its unmatched flexibility for the most rapidly growing services of machine-to-machine connectivity.
Mobility companies are at the mercy of the expensive spectrum they own. Fixed wireless most often uses unlicensed spectrum in multiple frequencies allowing the provider great flexibility. These multiple options of available spectrum allow a fixed wireless carrier to continue to be able to increase bandwidth and proliferate connectivity without degrading existing services. Moreover, this flexibility and ease of deployment makes fixed wireless a natural choice for developing economies where fixed wireline network infrastructure may not be as widespread or robust.
This week in Barcelona has flown by, and we are heartened by the new relationships we’ve made and the feedback we’ve heard on our portfolio. If you were unable to stop by our booth, please feel free to reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org for any questions you may have, or check our events calendar, which is regularly updated, for the industry events and trade shows we’ll be attending.
 Ayyagari, M., Demirgüç-Kunt, A. and Maksimovic, V. (2011), Small vs. Young Firms Across The World – Contribution to Employment, Job Creation, and Growth, Policy Research Working Paper 5631 (The World Bank Development Research Group).