The 5G revolution is here and it comes with lofty promises: blazing data speeds, high reliability, and low latency. Yet 5G also comes with greater complexity, and what got us here with 4G won’t get us there for 5G.
The good news is we’re in the early stages of 5G deployment and usage. And with the recently approved infrastructure bill, the next several years will be pivotal for 5G and its myriad of applications. These include smart cities, IOT, telehealth, municipal broadband, and neighborhood hotspots, just to name a few. Furthermore, 5G may be a critical technology to help bridge the digital divide.
So whether you’re jumping on the 5G bandwagon or expanding coverage, here are five considerations:
Traditional 4G rules are largely obsolete due to significantly higher frequencies for 5G. As a result of high frequencies, which enable faster data speeds, signal range is much shorter. Because of these tradeoffs, RF planning and simulations are critical in the beginning phases of the project.
Whereas 4G signals travel up to several kilometers, high-frequency 5G signals are often limited to one hundred meters.
Conduct thorough analysis of the end-user environment, number of users, and estimated bandwidth. Also note that millimeter waves are impacted by obstructions such as buildings, rain, and foliage. Next, select the appropriate small cell technology and spectrums. These decisions affect data throughput, capacity, coverage, and ability to pass through various obstructions.
Leveraging mutiple spectrums and adding redundancy in coverage may help in challenging environments.
The combination of 5G’s shortened range and difficulty in passing through obstructions are challenging. This inevitably means more equipment is necessary for proper coverage and reliability. Therefore, a high-density network of small cell radios will replace traditional 4G macro cells and towers. This not only impacts budget, but also the overall project management of a complex network.
Successful 5G deployment requires many more small cell transceivers to optimize line-of-sight propagation and coverage.
A high density of small cell transceivers requires more site locations, which places a higher burden on site acquisition. In fact, site acquisition was already a major bottleneck before 5G. Therefore, the traditional process of site search and negotiations must change if there’s any chance of staying within budget and deadlines. Furthermore, consider future-proofing the network by restricting sites to those with fiber backhauls.
In order to stay within budget and meet project deadlines, bottlenecks such as site acquisition need to be automated.
Deploying more small cells across more sites requires a greater emphasis on project planning and oversight. From business to technical requirements, project managers must collaborate across teams to meet deadlines and stay within budget. Furthermore, extrapolating user and bandwidth growth for the next five or so years will help futureproof the network and minimize upgrade costs.
Borrowing from carpentry’s golden rule of measure twice, cut once, the 5G golden rule is analyze twice, deploy once.
Despite the complexities that 5G brings, there are innovative solutions that will greatly help you build better networks. This includes Airwaive’s free RF planning software and online marketplace for automated site acquisition. From mobile carriers to WISPs to municipalities, we are here to help you launch or expand wireless networks. Feel free to join the 5G conversation in our recently launched operator forums. Or if you prefer, click the button below to schedule a demo with our team of telecommunications experts.