As cellular antenna providers and electronic hardware vendors gain momentum in rolling out fifth-generation (5G) data networks, a quirk of the new technology means they will have to install far more base stations than 3G and 4G networks have needed to support the new system, an industry report says.
The promise of 5G is a network that can carry much larger bandwidth, lower latency, higher reliability, and more connections than the legacy technology used in current smartphones and internet of things (IOT) devices, according to the Cambridge, U.K.-based analyst firm IDTechEx. Those attributes are set to usher in a new age of IoT applications for supply chains, such as the remote monitoring of conveyors and forklifts, inventory tracking and employee performance.
But the electronic frequency bands that enable that high performance—sub-6 GHz (3-7 GHz) and mmWave (24-48 GHz)—don’t carry as far as 3G and 4G wireless signals do, IDTechEx said in its report, "5G Small Cells 2021-2031: Technologies, Markets, Forecast.”
To get over that “signal attenuation” hurdle, data communications providers will need to build ultra-dense networks of a large number of small cells to complement typical network designs and boost data capacity. Compared to today’s macrocells, the new generation will include femtocells, picocells, and microcells, depending on their output power, the firm said. And they will arrive en masse, with IDTechEx forecasting that 45 million 5G small cells will be installed by 2031.
Users can expect to find this host of cellular antennas at semi-indoor spots like sports stadiums, train stations, and markets, as well as outdoor locations like lampposts and billboards, and public areas like airports, universities, restaurants, factories, hotels, and offices, according to the firm.
“As of mid-2021, the majority of the 5G commercial rollouts are still focused on enhanced mobile broadband—installing 5G macro base stations to provide networks with high capacity for consumers using mobile devices,” study author Yu-Han Chang from IDTechEx said in a release. “However, the new use cases such as industrial IoT 4.0, cellular vehicle to everything (C-V2X), new entertainment experiences, and smart cities, are where the real innovations are occurring and the huge market potential lies. 5G small cells will play an essential role in supporting those industries to become fully digitalized and the potential realized.”
45 Million of 5G Small Cells Will be Installed by 2031: After years of waiting, 5G is finally here. 5G not only greatly improves network experiences for mobile consumers, but more importantly, will bring digitalization into every industry,… https://t.co/B8uUs85ROP pic.twitter.com/MfTRM6iQjO— IDTechEx (@IDTechEx) July 12, 2021