For years, decades even, all the leading wireless commination providers have depended heavily on one infrastructure to expand their coverage: macro cells.
Funny name, sure, but you know what macro cells are.
Think, for instance, sky-high cell towers along highways or antennas atop city rooftops, both of which were built by carriers to place their equipment and grow their cellular networks.
They’re effective, too—to a certain degree.
Macro cells utilize high-powered radios and antennas that cover a relatively small area, usually up to two miles. They’ve been the go-to infrastructures for building out networks for as long as we can remember.
But they have their limitations.
As the demand from users to always stay connected grows exponentially, so do cumbersome capacity issues experienced by carriers. This dilemma is particularly the case in highly populated areas like large cities where it’s strenuous to get a signal through or around larger-sized buildings or densely populated events where everyone is on their phone—and yes, always connected.
In response, carriers have turned to small cells, smaller-sized wireless transmitters, and receivers that provide network coverage to smaller areas. Wireless experts maintain they are must-haves for the implementation of 5G wireless technology.
For starters, they are uniquely capable of handling high data rates for mobile broadband and consumers and, for IoT, high densities of low-speed, low-power devices. Also, the amount of bandwidth used at each small-cell site is monitored in real-time, so the capacity of the network can be adjusted to reduce latency and increase data speeds.
Because of their flexibility and density, small cells can massively increase data transfer speed, optimizing service for homes and businesses.
Those are some of the digital benefits of small cells. For carriers or municipalities debating the pros of small cells, here some added advantages, all of which revolve around a common theme: size.
Less Real Estate
While most cellular data transmit between antennas and macro cells that frequently measure several hundreds of feet high in the air, small cells
are diminutive in comparison, frequently no bigger than a dorm refrigerator. Some are even the size of a traditional pizza box.
And, if you look closely, they’re sprinkled all around our cities—strategically mounted atop streetlights, utility poles, buildings, and various other structures. Instead of being constructed miles apart, like marco cells, they’re installed just a few blocks away from one another.
Good thing, too. In addition to “traditional low-band spectrum,” small cells “transmit data using mid- and high-band spectrum,” the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association (CTIA) reports
. These airways cannot travel far even though their “mid- and high-band frequencies” can send “larger quantities of data at higher speeds.”
More Environmentally Friendly
Small cells not only blend seamlessly with the environment—so much so that many of the structures camouflage with their surroundings and the structures they’re mounted on—but as an editorial in Telecoms.com
reported, they also reduce the number of macro cell towers.
In fact, small cell infrastructure
may even eliminate cell towers in the coming years, the news outlet predicted. Wait and see.
Two additional environmental pluses: Small cell installations do not impact the migratory patterns
of birds. They also use far less power than larger-sized macro cell structures.
The physical size of small cell infrastructure is, as they say, a gamechanger for wireless communications in a variety of critical arenas—perhaps none more than pure bottom-line costs.
Towering macro installations typically span some 200 feet to 500 feet in height. Steel structures this tall, naturally, are more difficult to build and cost a lot more to construct than comparably pint-sized small cells.
And because they take up less physical space, often mounted atop already existing infrastructure, small cells
also entail far less disruption during the construction and installation phases.
Together, you’re saving big bucks, RCR Wireless News
“The expectation is that the bulk of small cells should be simple builds, and thus the construction costs should be significantly less expensive,” with “almost no civil work” required, the outlet reported
In other words, they’re faster to deploy and easier to operate.
Streamlined Regulations, Less Fuss
When a new macro cell goes up—scratch that, when it’s even proposed, long before a shovel hits the dirt—local jurisdictions are habitually up in arms, confident that the towering new structure will be an eye-sore that ruins the community and reduces local property values.
It takes a lot of convincing and legal pull to sway these doubters and the skeptical residents who elected or appointed them.
But with small cell infrastructure, you can leave the persuasive tactics at the door more often.
Because small cells blend in with existing infrastructure and are thus less visibly abrasive, local leaders and neighbors complain far less. Legislative headaches decrease. So, too, do related legal fines.
Still, there will be necessary red tape to cut through.
As the National Conference of State Legislatures
(NCSL) says, small cell wireless facility deployment requires several legal maneuvers to make it economically feasible for wireless companies to deploy small cells, including:
- Streamlined federal, state, and local permitting
- Rights of way
- Application timelines
- Siting and application fees
- Application review timelines
- Appeals processes
The good news is that more than 25 state legislatures have inked legislation that streamlines the regulations needed to facilitate the deployment of small cells, the NCSL says, with the enormous potential of 5G and the diverse benefits of small cell infrastructure spearheading the charge.
A local, experienced small cell contractor
with legal wits, rights-of-way understanding
, and years of much-needed wireless infrastructure skill can guide your small cell infrastructure every step of the way, from initial planning and design
to proposal, deployment, and installation.