For the last several years, market momentum has pushed 5G
technology into the mainstream—at least kind of. Per Qualcomm, “5G is designed
to be a unified, more capable platform that will not only elevate mobile
broadband experiences, but also support new services such as mission-critical
communications and the massive IoT.”
So, what exactly does this mean, and how should a building
owner or integrator be planning for 5G coverage? Answering a few basic 5G
questions will help you determine what to do for the in-building context.
How is 5G delivered?
First, it is important to understand how 5G will be
delivered, and what the planned use cases are. 5G is not actually one thing, but is instead a variety of related
services that will be deployed and iterated over the next several years. When
planning for 5G in your building, it is important to have a clear understanding
of the technologies and time frame you are planning for. The first fundamental
distinction is the frequencies over which 5G will be delivered: either < 6
GHz or mmWave (28+ GHz).
What is 5G mmWave?
A large part of the global marketing around 5G relates to 5G
mmWAVE technology. 5G mmWAVE technology operates in the 28 GHz and 39 GHz
spectrum and is able to deliver extremely high data rates to end users, using
very sophisticated network equipment. But there is a down side: these higher
frequencies have extremely poor propagation characteristics, requiring a very
dense “line-of-sight” infrastructure.
In response to the cell density requirements, the carriers would
need to install many more large and small nodes, each requiring substantial
backhaul. Given local siting requirements and regulations, and the cost and
time required to deploy, don’t expect that massive infrastructure rollout in
the near term. Most of the near-term solutions being delivered with this
technology are IoT focused, rather than for consumer or enterprise use cases.
Building owners need to ask themselves how they would use 5G
mmWave, and what level of service they hope to deliver to building tenants,
employees, or customers. 5G mmWave is all about new applications. The advanced
services that leverage 5G mmWave technology are for very specific segments;
like remote surgical equipment or driverless vehicle infrastructure. This is not to exclude projects like Verizon
5G Home, that uses 5G consumer premise devices (CPE) and in-home antennas to
deliver home internet; but will not require or leverage in-building
infrastructure. Which new applications
are you planning?
What is 5G Sub-6GHz?
When discussing the cell network for the end customer, 5G in
bands below 6 GHz are much more relevant to building owners. Although we expect
4G LTE to remain the dominant coverage technology for end customers’ voice and
data for the foreseeable future, operators today have spectrum in < 6 GHz
and they will migrate some of this spectrum over time to 5G. As 5G rolls out in
<6 GHz, some existing in building cellular infrastructure should be able to
similarly support the new features and devices, and better user experiences. By
2020, customers will start to have phones that realize these benefits.
What should building owners do about 5G?
Taking all this into account, the most sensible 5G strategy
for a middleprise building owner is to pick equipment that will withstand a
transition from 4G LTE to 5G within the existing < 6 GHz bands being
provided inside the building. Nextivity’s Cel-Fi products will be able to
handle these transitions that leverage improved service on existing band
infrastructure and 5G Sub-6GHz. For more
on the topic, read Dr. Michiel Lotter’s White Paper about “In-Building Cellular: Matching User
Experience Expectations with Technology Selection”.
Joe Schmelzer is Senior Director of Products at Nextivity.
He has developed a variety of products and industrial devices for chipset
vendors, OEMs, and operators, including products for Qualcomm, Google, Verizon,
AT&T, FirstNet, and T-Mobile. He was also a
founding member of CTIA’s Wireless Internet Caucus. For more information,
contact firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.cel-fi-com
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