Everybody’s talking about small cells

Global mobile data usage is exploding, surprise surprise. By 2020, an estimated 5.5 billion people will have mobile phones. What that means is carriers need a way to provide coverage and capacity. Buying spectrum is one way, but that is an expensive, finite resource. The alternative? It’s the hottest topic in telco right now (if anything can be described that way): small cell deployments. Sprint just announced their intention to add small cells to their network, something Verizon has already done on a much larger scale. However, because small cells have narrow ranges and must be approved by local municipalities, there are still many regulatory issues to be worked out when it comes to deployments.

At the 2017 Wireless Infrastructure Conference, small cells were a frequent topic of discussion in many of the keynote speeches. At the small cell/DAS breakout session, panelists discussed their thoughts on the near-term future of small cell deployments.

The key takeaways were:

  • Carriers are intently invested in adding small cells to address coverage and capacity
  • Small Cells are a great fit for powering mid-size buildings (up to 500,000 square feet)
  • Education for commercial real estate sector on small cells a pressing necessity
  • More uniform small cell standards must be adopted and implemented
  • Carriers need to put real weight behind small cells that are viable and easy to install with practical safeguards
  • Must get close to wi-fi (40-50 cents/sq ft.) in terms of cost
  • 2-5 years for widespread small-cell deployments; however, getting agreements from carriers still a key challenge

In addition to small cell, another popular topic was street furniture, a term used to define objects in public spaces that – in the context of wireless infrastructure – house small-cell units in boxes and are considered visually commonplace and acceptable to the public. Common examples of street furniture outfitted for small-cell networks include billboards, lamp posts, lit signage, and other structures in the public right-of-way. Panelists described how collaboration with municipalities is key to getting street furniture approved.

Whether it’s small cell, DAS, or street furniture, all of these include project deployments that need to be managed. That’s where we come in. SiteTracker cloud software was created specifically with the small cell boom in mind. Project managers who now have double the number of projects to manage can no longer rely on spreadsheets or outdated internal systems. SiteTracker gives PM’s the tools they need: robust mapping and intelligence, real-time reporting and dashboards, automated forecasting and a modern integration framework that allows for connection to corporate systems. The small cell revolution is COMING, and we are STOKED about it!