Chances are you’ve been deep inside an office building, residential tower, or hotel and discovered that you have little to no cell phone service. As a result, you’ve probably run for the window, reaching out in hopes of grabbing an extra bar or two of service to make one more phone call, text, or (let’s be honest) watch one more video. Sometimes it seems like wherever we are in a building, we always end up in a dead zone. Due to the way building materials block the waves needed for cellular communication, this is unlikely to change in the near future, leaving you with very limited bandwidth unless the building owner n uses small cell technology.
Smart cells are small, fiber-connected antennas that are traditionally attached to existing public infrastructure, such as street lights and utility towers, and work by increasing wireless coverage and capacity. These cells are an essential part of smart city technology, as they are able to handle high-density data while delivering internet speeds up to 50 times faster than existing 4G LTE networks, which also makes them the perfect choice for newly deployed 5G. networks.
Back when offices had dedicated desks, we relied on Ethernet telecommunications, but now, with the more transient nature of workers in a building, occupants are thinking about increasing data transfers through individual mobile phones. As more and more cellular devices requiring high-speed connectivity come online in a building, the need for small cells will continue to increase. It is estimated that over the next three years, each smartphone in North America will use 45 GB of data per month. To support this consumption and the expansion of 5G networks, we will need to install almost a million new small cells in the next three years.
When understanding the importance of small cells, the need for additional data can be broken down into two concepts: coverage vs. capacity. Coverage is the area covered by a type of communication infrastructure or the distance a signal can reach. In dense areas with tall buildings, coverage may decrease and cause signals to drop. The capability describes having coverage, but for various reasons data is not being transmitted as quickly as expected.
Problems arise due to the same wireless density or the ability of existing towers in the coverage area to be able to transmit enough data to meet demands. The more data people use in a network, the slower everyone’s connections become. The solution is to add more data infrastructure, and for indoor spaces, that means small cells. A small cell system would consist of a network of small antennas and powered nodes that can provide as much coverage and capacity as a tower with a few technological caveats. The signals from the small cells communicate wirelessly through radio waves and then send signals to the internet and phone systems. Because they are connected with fiber optic cables, they are able to process immense amounts of data at super-fast speeds.
This has created a new opportunity for building owners and operators, as tenants expect to be “always connected” in an increasingly connected world. The promised strong data coverage, coupled with strong data capacity, is just another way for landlords to charge a premium per square foot for their building leases. But that’s no small feat as the data usage is designed for outdoor use and the signals only get weaker when forced to pass through facades and interior partitions. Further, more than 90% of cell phone calls originate indoors, creating a need for a solution that can support connectivity as users move and between spaces.
Although there are a range of solutions that have appeared on the market over the past decade, many landlords agree that this can be a major differentiator when a tenant is considering a 10-year commercial office lease or when hotel guest checks out and wondering if they will ever book another night. The range of solutions for buildings is based on total square footage due to the need for technology to be flexible to support the infrastructure that a building itself needs. Ideally, the small cell infrastructure should be a single backbone that can support multiple commercial cellular networks.
So what does it take to install a small cell on a property? First, building owners will need to obtain a permit to comply with federal, state and local ordinances that will allow the installation of the small cells. It is also important to consider the aesthetics of a building and how to maintain its design integrity when selecting a location to install small cells in a way that will allow them to blend into the surrounding environment. existing structure. Small cells should be located on the exterior of buildings and are most often placed around existing antennas and other building infrastructure found in mechanical areas of roofs. The average small cell is about the size of a pizza box, making it easy to locate them almost anywhere.
The number of cells per building depends on the density of its location. Crown Castle Senior Vice President of Sales and Chief Commercial Officer Mike Kavanaugh recently said in an interview that while some areas, like Tier 2 markets, only require 2-4 small cells per mile, some more urban towns might need 7-12 cells per mile. . This number may even continue to grow as more advanced 5G networks come online in the coming years. Not only does the tenants of the building themselves benefit, but it also increases broadband in the general area, with the possibility of extending to a radius of around 100 meters or the length of a football field. . Most small cells operate on a trunked model, which means their network is designed so multiple carriers can use it, creating a highly accessible network.
Building owners themselves are not responsible for installation, but can be installed by third-party vendors, such as Crown Castle, Corning, Nokia and Samsung, who will both supply the technology, identify ideal cell locations intelligent, will install them and also participate in maintenance and upkeep. The average cost to install a small cell is between $35,000 and $65,000, depending on the location and type of cell installed.
Small cell coverage is quickly becoming a standard requirement for tenants in high density areas. As we continue to increase our global connectivity, being online anytime and anywhere has become more important than ever. In the not-too-distant future, you may not need to lean your phone against the window in hopes of catching an extra bar of cell phone service, because your building’s smart cells can provide the fastest data speeds on the market. . Dead zones in buildings may soon be a thing of the past, all thanks to small cell technology.