Wireless networks: Interview with David Chisholm

Executive Director of Engineering & Network Services for Creospan, Inc., David Chisholm leads both the business development and delivery of wireless networks, including design, deployment and testing, with a strong focus on DAS and Small Cell and turn-key wireless communications solutions (both voice and data).

(David Chisholm is now Vice President of Sales at Fourier Network Solutions Inc. with headquarters in Forth Worth, Texas)

A Wireless Telecommunications professional, Chisholm has substantial experience in Wireless Network Deployment, Management, Leadership, Program Management, Site Development, Business Development, Sales, Contract Negotiations, Regulatory, Microwave and RF Engineering for nearly every major U.S. carrier, including Verizon Wireless, Sprint Nextel, AT&T, U.S. Cellular, Cricket Communications, T-Mobile and Clearwire.

He has successfully led numerous large scale initiatives, including several network deployments as large as 500 sites, microwave backhaul deployments, an extensive downtown Chicago DAS deployment, the Sprint-Nextel merger site consolidation, and worked at the executive director level providing leadership of large cross-functional teams at both national, regional and local levels.

Chisholm graduated from the University of Tennessee with a degree in Electrical Engineering.

NP: How would you describe and define your work, it’s immediacy in people’s lives and the changes that have taken place over the past decades?

Chisholm: Providing reliable wireless voice and data services to mobile users is the core of our business.  Wireless communications have become a staple utility – an absolute “must-have” for nearly every individual that can afford it.  To do without wireless services today is approaching the comparable level of living without electricity in the home.

As the needs and desires of individuals have progressed into the realm of instant access to high definition movies and the ability to post millions of personal photos and videos, the capabilities of the network have had to drastically change!

The bandwidth requirements of text and voice are tiny in comparison to those of streaming video.  The need to upgrade wireless networks to support additional voice users has been completely eclipsed by the need to provide increased bandwidth for data.  Those data requirements are comprised of streaming video, streaming audio, file sharing, social media, gaming, email, web browsing, instant messaging, etc.

Unlimited voice and text is now the norm, and unlimited data will likely reach this point as well – in fact, it is already available with a few carriers in some form or fashion.  These changes have demanded that we find creative and highly efficient ways of providing high bandwidth at low cost.  These cost reductions are pushed to the OEMs (original equipment manufacturers), carriers, and the wireless service providers.

Those reductions lead to improving data-compression algorithms (or shrinking a set of files or streaming data that contain detailed rules that define a sequence of operations) by both wireless infrastructure manufacturers and software developers, which have certainly played a huge role, but the user demand is outpacing those “stop gaps”.  Worse yet, electromagnetic spectrum has become one of the most valued natural resources.  We have what we have – we can’t generate any more.  So using it efficiently becomes the only way to appease the masses.

NP: Are we approaching an intersection in the design of technology and our interaction with that technology where the difference between human and computer will increasingly become more complex as well as the perimeters of the work we perform and the very nature of our job descriptions in such a field as yours?

Chisholm: The intersection of technology and humans is becoming very compelling as products such as Google Glass and other wearable technologies become more prevalent.  Some devices will obviously take longer to gain traction – currently, it is hard to imagine every other person on the street wearing wireless glasses anytime soon.  That being said, other devices fall easily in line with things that are already very familiar – e.g. smart watches are becoming extremely commonplace.  We are a generation seeking convenience and speed in all things.  If an app or device can reduce our effort from four keystrokes or screen taps to one, it is heralded.

Ironically, some costly “improvements” do not prove to be extremely beneficial.  I have a great new laptop with a touch screen – and I almost never touch the screen.  I find it more trouble than the keyboard and mouse I am already using.  The “cool factor” usually draws consumers in the beginning, but it must also carry with it some sort of ongoing benefit.

Future technology will have to be vetted with the general public before the industry can make a claim as to its viability in the “real world”.  As always, truly creative minds will prove to be the most important element of technology progression.  Things currently unimagined will ultimately become the most commonplace and useful.  And those items will prove to be invaluable in both the workplace and at home.

NP: Where do you think network services are headed? What do you think the next paradigm shift will look like in your line of work?

Chisholm: Networks that are smaller, cheaper, faster, and easier to deploy are the clear direction for the future of wireless telecommunications.  Even the most advanced, currently deployed systems are still bulky and costly.  This will have to change dramatically to meet the future requirements and demands of the consumer.  IP backhaul, POE (power over Ethernet), and fiber are already playing a big role in that shift.  The soon-to-be-available Wifi 2.0 will play a significant role in the marketplace as well.  Wifi 2.0 will allow mobile users to handoff from the “outdoor” carrier network to a local (often indoor) Wifi network, offloading a large amount of data traffic from the carrier network onto the local Wifi network, and in turn helping to alleviate the problem of too much traffic being handled by the carrier network.

The past dreams of orbital mobile systems have been dimmed by the need for countless, real-world indoor systems, serving spaces that the outdoor macro (tower-based) or orbital systems simply cannot reach.  Further, IP and wireless technologies continue to merge into the same space.  Nearly every currently manufactured mobile device is an incredibly powerful computer, the likes of which could never have been realistically imagined when the first cellular networks were originally deployed.  And today’s plethora of larger screens rather than the smallest device possible simply goes to show that the growing desire is for beautiful, high functioning, multi-tasking devices that can un-tether us from our laptops and traditional workspaces.

NP: How will the financials work in the future?

Chisholm: How the financials will work is uncertain.  The offload of traffic is useful to the carrier, but it is also a loss of billable usage if not metered via the Wifi system and billed to the user.  This could go one of several different ways, which will undoubtedly morph as it is deployed.  Even now, the “flow of revenue” is quite complicated with indoor systems.  This is primarily due to the fact that the wireless service is a desirable, value added item for a venue owner to offer to its tenants and guests, but it is also an opportunity for a venue owner to charge a carrier or system integrator for the privilege of installing its equipment inside their facility.  This usually revolves around the potential traffic and revenue that an indoor system can generate, and how badly the carrier or integrator wants to be in that space.  New technologies will reduce the cost and ease the installation efforts required to deploy these systems.