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Three key trends impacting how the next-gen 5G Wireless Networks will look like

Over the past year, the Covid-19 pandemic has led to a surge in mobility and remote working which have driven the demand and highlighted the importance of a robust telecoms network infrastructure as well as the need for business-critical connectivity amongst users.

Commscope sees a need for the industry to continue building more resilience in the network ecosystem and identifies three trends that will determine the future of Outdoor Wireless Networks. 

5G & Massive MIMO takes flight

Although lockdowns globally and the disruption in supply chain have impacted the deployment of 5G networks, the rollout of networks is expected to keep pace with the launch of 5G compatible phones such as Samsung’s Galaxy S20 and Apple’s iPhone 12. Operators are likely to focus on pragmatic implementation of 5G networks through the use  of active massive MIMO (multiple input/multiple output) deployments. 

Massive MIMO can substantially increase spectral efficiency to deliver more network capacity and wider coverage. However, preliminary higher-end massive MIMO deployments in certain geographic locations have struggled to meet the power demands and are routinely shut down for hours to conserve energy. 

Commscope believes operators will have to determine if the extra costs and real-world power requirements associated with active MIMO deployments are justified or if a passive antenna configuration will suffice. 

Explains Vice President of Wireless Network Engineering at CommScope Michael Wolfe: “ From our perspective, massive MIMO deployments are optimally suited for dense urban deployments, while suburban deployments can benefit from passive antenna solutions. 

“However, massive MIMO deployments face challenges even in urban environments, where upper floors of tall buildings may not be adequately covered if the most appropriate solution isn’t selected.

“Choosing the optimal antenna technology for each deployment will therefore be a priority for MNOs in 2021. 

“For high data traffic, operators will look toward 64T64R for dense urban high-rises, 32T32R for urban low-rise structures, 32T32R or 16T16R for suburban locations, and 32T32R (FWA) for rural areas. 

“For sites with moderate traffic requirements, MNOs will deploy 8T8R solutions to adequately cover urban low-rise buildings, as well as suburban and rural areas.” 

Clearing the spectrum for the future of connectivity

Conventionally, most of the low-and-mid band spectrum across the glove has been used by the military, commercial satellite operators, wireless internet service providers (WISPs) and utilities. Clearing this spectrum will accommodate more users and data that are essential to enabling truly ubiquitous connectivity and accessibility for all.

To repurpose the bands for next-generation connectivity, incumbent users and government regulators ought to be actively involved, as well as engage in discussions to mitigate the impact on existing services.

Wolfe further elaborates: “Despite the above-mentioned challenges, we expect governments in 2021 to continue taking the initiative to clear the spectrum for 5G and beyond. 

“In the United States, for example, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently finished auctioning Priority Access Licenses (PAL) in the 3.5 GHz band and is poised to begin the auction of 280 MHz of mid-band (C-band) spectrum for flexible use (including 5G) within the 3.7–3.98 GHz portion of the band. 

“With regards to the latter, operators will continue scoping out sites during 2021, with the first use of C-band slated to begin in late 2021 or early 2022 in urban areas. 

“For many suburban locales, C-band won’t be accessible to MNOs and their subscribers until June 2023. In addition to CBRS and C-band, 100 MHz of contiguous mid-band spectrum in the 3.45-3.55 GHz band is planned to be made available for 5G over the next 18 months.”

Open RAN gains traction

With the ability to truly support open and interoperable interfaces within and between the various subcomponents of RAN – radio, hardware or baseband unit and software – the open RAN will usher in a new generation of products and innovative technology. Its deployment will spur growth of an expanded supply ecosystem, while reducing capital costs and single vendor ‘lock-in’ through open interfaces and commodity hardware platforms. 

Joe Madden chief analyst of Mobile Experts, an independent research company, notes that Open RAN hardware and software can be cheaper while still achieving coverage similar to traditional architectures. 

Wolfe also highlights the advantages of Open RAN: “Firstly, Open RAN helps lower costs with commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) processing equipment for the baseband unit (BBU) and commoditization of the RU hardware. 

“In addition, Open RAN supports the disaggregation of software from proprietary hardware, thereby facilitating the creation and rapid deployment of new services and operational solutions.” 

As the world edges forward to a new era of remote working, businesses can no longer ignore the trends that will shape the future of ubiquitous connections. 

Keen to find out more? Here is the link to watch the 2021 Trends in Outdoor Wireless:

Sponsored by Commscope.

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