‘5G and EE. It’s just meant to be’
It’s been a long time coming but UK customers are finally experiencing the next generation of mobile networks. With supersonic speeds and increased stability, the recent inaugural launch on 30 May 2019 of a 5G service by BT’s subsidiary, EE, is set to revolutionise mobile connectivity as we know it.
“One of the big benefits of 5G is the extended network coverage in rural and remote areas across the UK as well as the capability for greater coverage and capacity in urban hubs. But in order to achieve the requisite levels of infrastructure, Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) will need to be supported by neutral hosts and private sector operators,” says Martin Barrett, Director Solution Development at Alpha Wireless.
A sentiment that was shared at the 2019 Small Cells World Summit, which took place at the Novotel London West from 21-22 May. “Hearing about all the benefits but also challenges of small cell deployment from companies such as BT and Turkcell was fascinating. As a specialist provider of market-leading antenna solutions, we continue to push the boundaries of innovation in small cell technology so that we can offer our customers game changing products. Listening to what MNOs have to say is critical to our strategy and growth,” added Barrett.
Demanding time for operators
While the demand for small cells – radio access points with low radio frequency (RF) power output – has shot through the roof in the UK, cost and complexity remain very real issues. Other challenges include planning and regulatory hurdles as well as access and provision of power from utility providers. The structural integrity of infrastructure and materials used will also require careful scrutiny as will the certification process for engineers.
But arguably the biggest of all hurdles will be the need to provide more specialised connectivity to boost 4G and 5G capacity into a greater number of locations, spectrum bands and organisations. That’s where neutral host platforms and private operators will play such an important part, as MNO models aren’t geared up for this. Tower companies or ‘Towercos’ are moving away from masts and increasing their small cell infrastructure in response to the changing landscape.
What is evident from all the industry analysis and recommendations is that small cells represent a huge opportunity for the telecoms industry. However, millions of extra cells will need to be deployed if the soaring demand for small cell technology in outdoor and indoor urban and rural environments is to be satisfied. Some might argue that’s a good problem to have.