Challenges in Small Cell Deployment

Telecom Tech Outlook | Thursday, June 17, 2021

Small cells are built for street-level deployment, and local governments want to have attractive cityscapes for their residents. It can be difficult to accommodate the various technological and aesthetic criteria while still integrating future and emerging technologies.

Fremont, CA: Across the country, network providers and communities are working to make 5G mobile services available to urban consumers. To meet coverage and power demands, thousands of outdoor small cells must be built. The technological specifications of operators (radios, antennas), local aesthetic requirements, and utility company metering/power requirements differ widely throughout the United States, from coast to coast, state to state, and even street to street within towns. When one combines this with campus settings and private LTE networks, the number of different configuration specifications can be overwhelming. One size does not suit everything, and the large range of options creates natural barriers in the ecosystem throughout the introduction of 5G densified networks. Let's take a look at some of the challenges and how they can be solved.

Requirements

Small cells are built for street-level deployment, and local governments want to have attractive cityscapes for their residents. It can be difficult to accommodate the various technological and aesthetic criteria while still integrating future and emerging technologies. Although both parties want to deploy rapidly, it is difficult to keep up with the technical requirements, particularly for municipalities and public utilities that may not be as familiar as mobile operators. Enter the design and manufacturing communities to collaborate with the ecosystem of stakeholders to create concealment solutions that meet today's needs and potential considerations.

Addressing the Challenges

One key to success is standardization. The first small cell deployments were custom installations that required site-by-site engineering, making them prohibitively costly for widespread use. However, telecom equipment manufacturers are now working to standardize small cell implementation solutions. Custom engineering for each cell site implementation is not cost-effective, so solutions must be based on a few common designs tailored for several different sets of technological and aesthetic specifications. Small cell radios, antennas, power supplies, and other parts are being made as small as possible to fit inside concealment housings.

Another important factor is modularity. A diverse set of modular solutions is essential for effective small cell deployment, especially in urban areas. Site components must support various deployment situations, such as positioning the radio next to the antenna or at the opposite end of a pole from the antenna.