Kathrein, Ericsson transform manhole covers into in-ground small cell systems

Wireless antenna maker Kathrein has teamed with Ericsson (NASDAQ: ERIC) and Swiss operator Swisscom to develop an in-ground antenna system that will help provide additional wireless coverage in densely populated areas. The technology, called the Kathrein Street Connect, was developed to help operators deploy additional cell sites in places where site acquisition is difficult due to zoning issues.

Kathrein designed the antenna while Ericsson provided the radio. The rugged solution was designed to withstand deploying in streets with heavy vehicle traffic. Currently there are 17 sites piloting the technology in Switzerland with plans for commercial deployment in 2016, said Jim DeKoekkoek, product line manager for antennas and filters at Kathrein, in an interview with FierceInstaller.

DeKoekkoek also said that the company conducted extensive testing on Street Connect to make sure it support scenarios where it had to perform despite heavy weight, vibration or possible interference from trucks or other obstacles. It was also tested for its specific absorption rates (SAR) to make sure it met existing limits. "We tested it with people standing on it and laying on it," DeKoekkoek said.

Although the solution was built on Swisscom's request, Kathrein executives say they believe the product will get traction with operators in other regions, such as the United States. DeKoekkoek also said other entities beyond operators are interested, such as city governments that could get revenue from operators if they deploy these in-ground systems. "They have the advantage in terms of zoning to make it happen quickly," he said. 

Another possible customer is cable companies, which already have right-of-way to manhole sites and could deploy the technology through some sort of arrangement with a wireless operator. Indeed, Cox Business is currently providing services such as site acquisition and permitting to wireless operators for their small cell deployments.

For more:
- see this press release

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