Small cells, like full-sized cellular towers, provide access points by which groups of individuals can browse the internet, send and receive text messages, and make phone calls; however, unlike cellular towers, small cells take up significantly less space.
Because of their reduced size, small cells are able to be placed in a variety of locations where traditional cell towers can’t be deployed, such as the rooftops of apartment buildings, indoor shopping malls or other destinations that don’t have enough room for a traditional tower.
Small cells offer flexibility too, from the smallest installations which are about the size of a college textbook and feature only enough bandwidth capacity to support four individual mobile users, while larger small cell installations can be roughly the size of a large duffle bag and can support a few hundred individual mobile users.
The phrase “small cell” is actually a blanket term used to refer to a whole array of different compact cellular access points, including microcells and femtocells. These types of cellular technologies, when compared to their traditional macrocell counterparts, differ greatly in implementation. Small cells, for the most part, tend to be utilized more so in tightly congested urban locations (i.e., city plazas, outdoor shopping malls, parks, etc.,) whereas macrocells are usually utilized in rural areas and along lonesome highways.
Why Choose Small Cell Networks?
In many respects, our modern world is becoming a mobile-first world, with everything from our smartphones to our laptops requiring a stable internet connection in order to function at full capacity.
Without the benefit of a readily available internet network, our smartphones, tablets, laptops, and other mobile devices cease to provide us with real-time access to information. This is, after all, their essential function, and without an internet connection, these smart devices that we’ve come to rely on so heavily really aren’t all that smart at all.
Modern day mobile users have an insatiable thirst for bandwidth, and with the introduction of Smart City initiatives popping up all across the country, the need for more bandwidth is likely to continue growing at an exponential rate. As a result, carriers have been forced to increase the size and scope of their data networks, especially within dense population centers, where space is a highly prized asset.
Creating More Connectivity
Cellular providers across the United States have been struggling to keep up with the rapidly increasing demand for more data, and have gotten creative about generating new connectivity channels by offloading traffic from existing networks onto new complementary networks in order to ensure that there is enough available bandwidth for new users. That’s where small cell technology comes in.
Small cell networks provide the cellular companies with a quick and relatively inexpensive alternative to expanding their bandwidth capacity. In the past, cellular providers would simply construct additional cell towers wherever they required more network coverage; however, because of the congested nature of our developing urban landscape, traditional cellular towers are no longer the best solution to meeting the demands for additional connectivity.
Traditional cellular towers are expensive to build, and require a substantial amount of land, but they also require navigating tricky zoning regulations and other issues that make them cost-prohibitive in certain locations. Because of these issues, traditional towers require not just a substantial investment of money, but also time. Some cellular providers (especially the ones with a forward-looking strategy), realize that time is of the essence, and that their paying customers won’t simply sit around waiting for them to install new traditional towers, so they’ve relied on small cell deployments to help keep up with increasing demand.
Small cell deployment allows cellular providers to alleviate network strain within specific, tightly congested urban areas where there is a need for more bandwidth; and, because the signal broadcasted by the small cell site can only be accessed by those within a close proximity, the cellular service their users receive tends to be exceptionally fast and responsive (often better than that from a traditional tower!).
Users connected to a small cell site should also experience better battery life on their mobile device as well, because small cells operate at low radio power levels, making mobile devices on their networks operate more efficiently while transferring data. Furthermore, small cells are currently compatible with any existing 3G or 4G mobile device and there is no need to download or install any new software in order to make use of a small cell network.
When the user of a mobile device is in close enough proximity to the small cell site, their mobile device connection will automatically switch from a macrocell site to the small cell site, without even alerting them to the switch. This transfer ensures that both networks are being used optimally and that new network users can connect without experiencing any interruptions.
Because of all the benefits regarding their installation, maintenance, and user experience, is it any wonder that that cellular providers are opting to deploy more small cells instead of traditional towers? The dynamics of small cell technology provides cellular companies with the capacity to quickly expand their network coverage over a specific area much faster than they ever could before, and it offers a better experience for cellular consumers. As a result, we anticipate seeing an ever more rapid adoption of this technology in the years ahead.
Small Cell Site Problems
Small cells, however, are not without drawbacks. Like any other cellular access point, small cell devices require a broadband infrastructure so the signal can travel from the provider to the cell site where the signal is then broadcast by small cell antennas. This small cell backhaul is comprised of internet cables and fiber optic lines that carry data from one location to the next.
And, unfortunately, this part of the process does require more traditional installation techniques. Routing these cables to small cell devices can be a rather costly affair if the installation site possesses certain unfavorable characteristics.
In fact, in some situations, cellular providers will be required to drill into many important structures of the apartment, school, or office buildings they wish to use for a small cell site. And some of these structures, such as stairwells, can seriously compromise the structural integrity of the building they’re housed in if the drilling is done incorrectly. Other structures, such as rooftops, can end up leaking or becoming unstable, which can void certain roofing warranties and make the property owner responsible for the entire cost of repair.
Fortunately, recent years have seen a big push in the development of small cell wireless backhaul technologies in order to help mitigate these troubles. By routing the internet connection wirelessly from the source, cellular providers, business owners, and private property owners can reduce the hassles and risks associated with deploying small cell technologies at their desired locations.
Small Cell Installation Locations & Leases
Because of the varying sizes of small cell architecture, the range of locations that are suitable for installation is virtually limitless. The only limiting factor to a small cell installation is the backhaul infrastructure, but with careful installation, nearly any location can be utilized, especially network needs are steep.
Ideally, small cell sites need to have a clear line of sight to the area around them. This means that small cells cannot be placed inside storage closets like a traditional server, because then the broadcasted signal will be of too poor quality to the network’s users. Rooftops, flagpoles, street lamps and other similar locations typically make the best destinations for small cell installations, as their elevation tends to keep them free from surrounding line of site obstructions.
For indoor locations, small cell installations can be integrated right into the ceiling or other structures, such as business signs. It is important to note, however, that when utilizing small cell installations for the purpose of expanding indoor network capability, the signal being broadcast will only be available to those inside the walls of the facility. Those outside the facility will be unable to successfully connect to the network without experiencing some kind of network interference.
Benefits For Property Owners
Small cell technologies present a great opportunity to increase revenue streams of property owners everywhere, as cellular providers often need to lease part or all of the location they wish to use for their cellular equipment.
And while small cell leases typically don’t pay out as much as traditional tower leases, they can pay up to $4,000 a month for a single antenna installation. Typically, small cells can only support one carrier at a time, meaning that some highly sought after locations may also need to be leveraged to feature multiple antennas for different cellular providers, each with their own small cell lease.
Small Cells Are Here To Stay
Small cell technology is the likely future of network connectivity. By layering network connectivity with different small cell, macrocell, and traditional cell tower access points, cellular providers will be able to provide the best possible network experience to their customers.
The expansion of small cell technology will ensure that all of our mobile devices and the thousands of interconnected devices being implemented in our homes and cities have the bandwidth they need to function as they were intended, allowing the highly-touted “Internet of Things” to truly flourish.
If you have a cell tower lease, or a small cell lease, please contact Landmark Dividend today to find out about opportunities for turning your lease into a large lump sum payment. Call us now toll-free at 1-800-843-2024 or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.