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Microcell Technology: What is it and How Does it Work?

Microcells, like other small cells, are essentially “mini cell towers” that provide mobile connectivity to internet-enabled devices, like smartphones, laptops, and tablets.

Microcells offer a variety of advantages over their macrocell counterparts: they’re smaller, cheaper, require less maintenance, and can be implemented in a variety of different network-expanding applications where traditional cell towers simply cannot be utilized.
Microcells
Microcells also provide a number of financial opportunities for landowners, especially those with property located in congested urban centers where there is a need for more bandwidth, but no room to accommodate large cell towers. Because high density urban centers cannot support the installation of traditional macrocell sites, cellular providers turn to small cell technologies like microcells to expand their coverage.

When the cellular providers want to expand their coverage in dense, urban environments, they often have to enter into a microcell lease agreement with landowners to acquire the rights to install the necessary transmission equipment needed to expand bandwidth in the area.

In return, the landowner will receive monthly rental payments for the duration of the microcell lease, which can sometimes amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

What is a Microcell and Why is it Important?


The world as we know it is being restructured and re-invented by the internet. With the birth of the IoT (Internet of Things) and the proliferation of high-speed networks, it won’t be long until everything we touch is somehow connected to the web.

However, current and future advancements in IoT devices will require more advanced, more efficient networks, which means that we either need to construct new networks capable of meeting the increased demand, or that we improve, or “densify” (industry speak) existing networks.

Traditionally, cellular networks were expanded with cell towers or “macrocells”; however, cell towers and other macrocell sites require an inordinate amount of space—space that is simply no longer available in many urban areas.

Macrocell sites are also quite expensive to build and even to maintain, and there’s also a whole host of zoning regulations that have to be carefully navigated during their construction as well.

All of these issues can cause severe delays to network expansion plans, which ultimately hurts both the cellular provider and the consumer alike, and which is the reason why microcells have become so popular in recent years.

Microcells and other small cell systems provide cellular developers the ability to densify a struggling network by expanding signal coverage and giving consumers more access points to the internet. By adding microcells to the network, a layering effect occurs in which connected users are automatically “offloaded” from a macrocell signal to a microcell signal, which leads to higher bandwidth speeds and better battery life due to the user’s proximity to the microcell and its lower-powered signal.

Microcells vs Femtocells: What are the Differences?


If microcells sound familiar, it’s probably because microcells are often compared to similar technologies like Femtocells. However, there are significant differences between the two, with the most important being their capacity to densify a network.

Femtocells, which can only support a dozen or so mobile connections at a time, are primarily deployed in small indoor and outdoor locations (e.g., seating areas outside Starbucks, small shopping malls, etc.), whereas microcells are typically deployed in larger outdoor locations such as stadiums, amphitheaters, and college campuses, as they’re capable of supporting more than a handful of users.

Microcell vs Femtocell Breakdown:

Microcell vs Femtocell
Although microcells have a greater densification effect, microcells also consume more power than femtocells, and they also cost significantly more to construct, install, and maintain.

Accordingly, when attempting to densify a network, it’s important for developers to gauge what kinds of stresses the network is likely to experience during day to day operation; otherwise, the network might end up having too little bandwidth, or too much bandwidth, which is simply not cost-effective.

Microcell Deployment


Because microcells are relatively small—about the size of a small backpack—they can be deployed in a variety of different locations without taking up too much space.
mini cell tower
As such, microcells are often deployed in elevated locations such as rooftops, street lights, telephone poles, and even on the sides of buildings.

Like Distributed Antenna Systems, a popular application for microcells is to utilize them during outdoor events held in stadiums or amphitheaters. Events such as NFL games are known for putting a tremendous amount of stress on macrocell networks since the influx of users can cause a rapid decay in the quality of available bandwidth.

However, due a microcell’s range being relatively limited, microcell antennas are typically set up in an array to allow multiple access points near where people’s devices will be, ensuring that they can receive internet connectivity throughout the venue. Deploying an array of microcells throughout the area helps keep bandwidth speeds fast, which is especially important as users move about the venue.

As individuals move about the venue, they will automatically and seamlessly be transferred from one access point to the next, which helps eliminate drops in cellular connectivity and improves the reliability of the network by preventing any one system access point from becoming overwhelmed.

Microcell Problems & Issues


Like other small cells, microcells must be installed in a location where there is available backhaul. This backhaul typically exists in the form of fiber optic cables either installed in the ground or routed through existing conduits built for existing infrastructure (i.e., power, telephone, etc.).

If this backhaul does not exist in the desired location, then it will have to be installed in order to provide connectivity. Additionally, if the desired location of the microcell location happens to be atop the rooftop of, say, an apartment building, then the fiber optic cables will not only have to be somehow routed to the building, but through the building as well.

For rooftop setups, the fiber that connects the microcell to the network will need to make its way to the roof, which means that the cables will need to be routed through the building’s walls, stair cases, and other important internal structures.

While this sort of installation typically doesn’t result in any problems, it is still something that the landowner should take into consideration before entering into a microcell lease agreement with a developer.

Opportunities for Landowners


As mentioned, the development of microcell technology presents a significant financial opportunity for landowners with property located in congested urban centers where potentially millions of internet ready devices reside.

If you’re a property owner in such a location, and there happens to be a need for more cellular connectivity, it may be possible for you to obtain a microcell lease or some other sort of small cell lease.

Microcell and other small cell leases can be worth thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars over the life of the lease, so it’s a huge potential opportunity for significant new revenue streams.

However, it must be noted that obtaining a high-value microcell lease is dependent on a variety of different factors, and in most cases, local competition will ultimately drive down the monetary value of most leases.

It is only when a property is located in an area where there is existing backhaul, limited competition, and a big need for expanded internet connectivity that a high-value lease gets offered.

microcell technology

The Future of Internet Connectivity


Microcell solutions and other small cell systems are poised to become one of the primary methods for network expansion efforts, as their advantages over macrocell systems are simply too great to be dismissed.

With microcells, cellular providers can expand and improve internet connectivity in every nook and cranny across the country, allowing mobile users to connect and share data faster than ever before, from more locations than ever before.

But that’s not all, because these technologies are still evolving: in the future, microcells will no longer be dependent on backhaul as new wireless transmitters come to market. These transmitters will likely adopt the new 5G standard, and as such, can offer significantly faster data speeds than what is currently available.

These new types of technologies will help make network expansion efforts cheaper for developers, which will ultimately make the internet faster, more accessible and even more useful than it is today.

Contact Landmark Dividend Today


If you are the owner of a microcell lease, we may be able to offer you a large, lump sum payment for the entire value of your lease.

While the monthly rental payments from a high-value microcell lease can provide many future financial opportunities, receiving the entire value of your lease now may enable you to make much better investments for a much larger long-term return.

If your cell site meets our criteria, we can provide you with a no-obligation analysis and valuation—so please, don’t hesitate to call us at 1-844-722-0113 or click here to fill out our contact form to submit your information online.