Consumers, companies and cities alike are all eager and ready for 5G technology to be a reality. We have been hearing about the unfathomable possibilities of 5G for years, but understanding exactly how things will change is still a bit murky. Questions like what is 5G infrastructure and what do we need to do to be ready abound in everyone’s mind.
What is 5G Infrastructure?
5G infrastructure is a multilevel system comprising both the equipment and the necessary policy and regulation adjustments required to implement. Both areas call for a radical change in current telecom assumptions and expectations.
5G Infrastructure Equipment
Existing Cell Towers
Presently, our telecom and wireless networks are supported by massive 200-foot plus towers that cover vast geographic areas. These towers are generally large, obvious and eyesores on the landscape, requiring allocation of significant public space — but they connect millions of people and devices. So people view them as a necessary evil.
In the distant 5G future, it is likely these towers will become completely unnecessary. For now, though, these large cell towers will remain, serving to connect more rural and slow-to-adopt locales until they are ready for 5G.
A new type of equipment will power 5G into widespread power — small cells. Small cells are the basic infrastructure of 5G. They are small antennae and radio devices that connect and bounce 5G signals over short distances. Instead of a large cell towers every 20-40 miles, small cells will be located roughly every block or two.
While the sheer quantity of small cells required to activate a reliable 5G network is staggering, the equipment offers significant flexibility, both in terms of appearance and mounting location. Small cells are built to be camouflaged to blend in with their surroundings, minimizing visibility and interference with the landscape and skyline.
Additionally, 5G small cells do not require designation of massive public space for installation. Small cells are designed to mount on existing structures, such as lamp posts, rooftops, existing traffic lights and utility poles, or sides of buildings.
Depending on the location, usage and volume of devices in an area, different types of 5G infrastructure may be required.
Femtocells serve concentrated areas in around a 10-50 meter range. Femtocell technology is perfect for residential and small business use, supporting approximately 8-16 users. This 5G infrastructure is ideal for establishing hot spots in businesses to boost efficiency or provide customer benefits.
A step up from femtocells, picocells cover a broader area from 100-250 meters in range. They can typically support 32-64 users at a time. Picocells are perfect for larger indoor needs, such as small hotels, shopping areas, and schools.
The 5G infrastructure choice for the most dense needs is microcells. Microcells have a much larger service range — up to 2.5 km — and can support up to 200 users at a time. These require the most power and are designed for the largest applications, such as outdoor arenas or smart cities.
5G Infrastructure in Government
Unfortunately, all the 5G equipment in the world won’t allow mass adoption to take place without a coordinated rollout. Small cell installers, service providers and government at all levels must work together to provide a seamless and integrated 5G infrastructure.
At the Federal level, the FCC is working to streamline and provide oversight for how and where small cells can be installed. Complicated issues affecting environmental, tribal, historical and others need to be considered and addressed at the national level.
The bulk of the policy decision-making surrounding 5G infrastructure will take place at the local, municipal level. Decisions such as access to city property, poles and utilities, permitting and applications will all affect the speed and strength of the 5G rollout. Local officials will have the ability to accelerate or slow down their municipalities 5G adoption based on policies.
Towns such as Sacramento have embraced the potential of 5G, setting up a pilot program. The city-wide 5G infrastructure has opened doors for new city investment, improved quality of life and operational efficiency.
Next Steps in 5G Infrastructure
5G is about to become more than just a promise, with applications and select locations already starting to adopt and utilize small cell technology. If you are wondering how small cell technology can help your business or are looking to establish a coordinated, uninterrupted 5G infrastructure in your area, talk to the nation’s leading 5G experts at KMB.
KMB has installed upwards of 550 small cell groups across the country and leads the nation in 5G infrastructure expertise and experience. Contact KMB today to learn more about upgrading your network to 5G and jumpstarting your organization’s innovative future.