Cox Business plans on having an indoor small cell service available this year with the initial elements of an outdoor offering in place later this year and into the first half of 2015.

With mobile network operators (MNOs) looking to extend the reach and speeds of their 3G and 4G services, small cell deployments could be the next big thing for cable operators, but coming up with a specific game plan has been a work in progress.

One of the challenges for outdoor small cell deployments is finding the availably and ability to place the cells in the correct areas to extend the macro network while powering of the small cells themselves can also be an obstacle. Cox Business has cleared at least some of those deployment issues and obstacles.

“There’s always been a recognized need to do something that looks like small cells,” said Jeff Adelmann, vice president of product for Cox Business. “The problem over the past several years is that no one really knew what that meant, nor when somebody said ‘Hey I think it looks like this’ did that technology exist at that point and time.

“Really for today, for the more complex, outdoor small cells it looks more like DAS (distributed antenna systems) deployments adapted to the small cell need, but over time the technology evolves. We’ve even had to look at the value chain. Who should be providing what elements within the value chain for small cell? What role does the MNO play versus what role the MSO that is providing services to that carrier play?”

While cable operators and MNOs have talked about deploying small cells for several years now, working out the business case and technology issues has taken some time.

“That stuff was not defined very well over the past couple of years,” Adelmann said. “I think what is changing is we’re now getting a lot of those answers. We’re seeing the technology evolve. It’s becoming more and more clear who plays what roles from a managed services standpoint. When we look at where we think Cox is going to be in that play, we will this year have an indoor solution for small cell that is a much simpler value chain if you compare that to outdoor.

“We’re actively working on outdoor and we’ll have the initial elements of that solution later this year and more to come into the first half of 2015. I think it’s really where a lot of the growth in the carrier space is going to come from in the midterm.”