Leadership & Communication | Technology

Enhancing mobile networks in a 5G world

25 Feb 2019, by Amy Sarcevic

Australia’s fifth generation (5G) broadband rollout is now well underway and is soon set to go live, with Telstra and Optus both committed to selling 5G products and services in 2019; and Vodafone in the near future.

With its ultrafast network speeds and lower latency, 5G is expected to make a big impact on the business and wider community, with significant potential in terms of industrial – and personal -automation.

But just how well does existing network infrastructure support this technology? Ahead of the Ovum 5G Summit, we spoke with Paul Coffey of Dense Air, who warned of some potential pitfalls.

“5G will really stretch the capacity of existing macro-sites”, said Paul. “The order of magnitude of 5G networks and lower latency will require the use of higher frequency spectrum.

“Current 3G and 4G networks use much lower frequency spectrum than will be required for the 5G uses cases being predicted. However, the challenge with high frequency spectrum is that it won’t propagate as far as it does with today’s networks; and mobile operators will need to build many new sites, creating a dense mesh where the usage is high. These new sites will need to be built much closer to the end users, where the usage and demand is occurring”.

Paul says that that the challenges surrounding frequency allocation in a 5G world will be particularly exacerbated by the move towards ‘smarter’ buildings, as part of a global quest to achieve greater energy sustainability.

“At the moment trends in architecture are moving towards features like metalised glass to help insulate buildings and keep the sun out. It will not be possible to get good 5G coverage in these sorts of buildings, with the continuing use of macro-site infrastructure”.

To address these challenges Dense Air recently acquired Spectrum and plans to deploy ‘small cells’ as a wholesale neutral host solution to mobile operators, in a cost effective way, whilst preserving the aesthetics of the cityscape.

“A small cell is a lower power device not much bigger than a shoe box that will cover a much smaller geographical area. They will be deployed indoors and on public street furniture such as lamp posts and traffic lights”, said Paul.

“With our neutral host solution, one single small cell can simultaneously serve multiple mobile operators, reducing the need for multiple boxes and reducing the cost of deployment for all mobile operators.

“Through the use of artificial intelligence (AI) technology and big data analytics we are able to pinpoint exactly where the networks are performing well and where they are not; and deploy small cells where it matters, to enhance coverage in a much more targeted way”.

At present, Dense Air is active in Ireland, Belgium and Portugal and is midway through technology trials, prior to full commercial service later this year.

“The reaction and engagement has been really encouraging so far”, said Paul. “The general narrative from mobile operator community is along the lines of ‘who are you and how can you help us densify our networks for the arrival of 5G?’”.

Presenting at the Ovum 5G Summit – 12 March 2019 Sydney, Paul Senior, CEO of Dense Air, will talk more about this exciting solution and how it will accelerate Australia’s progress in the 5G rollout.

You may download the full agenda here.

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