Women in a connected city using wireless devices

Delivering wireless broadband for cities on a large scale

It’s hard to beat the exciting rush of big city life, but that rush can slow to a crawl when a large number of people converge in a single area. Physical congestion is hard to avoid, and digital life can be equally frustrating when cellular networks overload from high usage.

Wireless carriers are engaged in meeting the challenge of dense data usage in major metropolitan areas. Densifying networks will require new types of sites in urban locations. It includes the deployment of 4G, and 5G technologies on a large scale. According to Accenture Strategy, wireless carriers need to add 10 to 100 times more antenna locations in connected cities to expand and densify their networks for 5G.

4G and 5G networks will be deployed with small cell technology, providing data rates of 100 megabits per second or greater in metropolitan areas. 5G also enables hundreds of thousands of simultaneous connections for wireless sensors – the bedrock of the Internet of Things (IoT) that will power smart city applications.

Small cells will help overcome poor signal reception due to loss of line-of-sight between cellular transmission towers and mobile users, particularly in dense urban environments where in-building RF penetration is a challenge. The biggest challenge addressed by 5G is providing quality mobile data service for millions of devices used on sidewalks, in vehicles and sensors scattered everywhere for smart city solutions.

Deploying small cells in dense markets poses several challenges for wireless carriers, they need:

  • Prime city real estate that is close to street level to enable line-of-sight connections
  • Fast deployment on a massive scale – they are looking for plug-and-play solutions with quick and easy zoning and permitting
  • Future-proof capabilities to easily transition to other technologies, such as 5G, including 3.5GHz and millimeter wave spectrum, evolving IoT applications and devices for unlicensed spectrum

American Tower is currently exploring ways to help our customers solve some of these issues. Our Innovation team is hard at work on solutions to fast track wireless carrier access to new types of small cell sites in cities.

I’ll be sharing news of this work in future blogs.

Patrice McAree is Vice President of Innovation at American Tower Corporation. He can be reached at patrice.mcaree@americantower.com
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