Small Cells Unplugged

5G and Small Cells Industry Article


From ISE magazine to the Wall Street Journal, small cells are the headline-grabbing technology that is transforming wireless networks. Outdoor small cells are used to provide network densification, which means adding more cell sites to increase network capacity, as well as coverage in areas not reached effectively by macro cells such as urban canyons. While small cells are useful tools for 4G/LTE networks, they are absolutely essential for 5G and its requirements for ultra-low latency. However, since these small cell devices are placed closer to the end users and further away from the base station or the mobile switching center, deployment is not always straightforward.

Backhaul is one of the primary considerations for placing small cells, though it is often easier to resolve due to the abundance of fiber optic and coaxial cables. A bigger issue is siting and permitting, time-consuming activities that often encounter delays due to objections from municipalities, historical preservation societies, and, lately, consumers and politicians concerned with the impact of radio frequencies on health. Despite these issues, small cell deployment is proceeding, albeit at a slower pace than forecasted. Still, even after the method of backhaul is defined and siting is approved, the network provider must deal with another, often under-the-radar issue: how to power the small cell.

Remote power is generally divided into 2 categories:
1. Remote Power Over Twisted Pair, or
2. Remote Power Over Coax.