Every day, the 5G network expansion is picking up speed, permeating through nearly all countries across the globe. In the US, CTIA expects small cells to reach 80% of all infrastructure deployments by 2026 — and other developed countries are not that far behind.
Since the velocity of the 5G rollout relies heavily on the quick and efficient installation of small cells, it might be interesting to take a look at how the typical process for small cell deployments works at Encepta, starting with what small cells actually are.
Small cells (which encompass microcells, picocells and femtocells) are essentially low-powered wireless antennas, especially when compared to macrocells. While macrocells have a range in excess of 30 km (in open rural areas), small cells only work at up to 2 km but are most frequently used at even shorter distances than that.
The benefits of deploying small cells then is the ability to cover densely populated urban areas. Such density of the antennas is becoming critically important for 5G networks due to their wavelength spectrum.
At the same time, optimizing small cell networks is a challenge because you have to take future expansions into consideration, in a way that wouldn’t reach the capacity of existing plants.
Here’s a quick intro to how Encepta helps telecommunications companies effectively roll out their 5G networks across Canada.
On every project, we tend to invest extra time and energy into planning. One of our essential steps in the process is called Pick the Right Pole, where we gather relevant data and field information for chosen sites and share necessary information with RF planners right at the beginning of the project.
As a result, we don’t invest into working on poles that will become disqualified later in the process for any number of reasons that typically get discovered much later in the process. For example, planning ahead helps us identify areas that avoid unnecessary road crossings, which is one way to substantially reduce civil costs and other potential build challenges.
We follow a similar process for every project, always customizing to our client’s needs, whether covering a small rural area with a few dozen small cells or expanding across the region with thousands.
The key to Encepta’s design process when it comes to small cells is looking at the big picture. We don’t only plan for the single project that we are working on, we also think about the network as a whole and the infrastructure that is needed to support future growth and changes in technology.
Similarly, we don’t just design for specific locations — we take into consideration other sites in the area and analyze what it would take to invest in the infrastructure there when that need becomes apparent.
While some small cells can be attached to private buildings or utility poles, a large amount of infrastructure that needs to be leveraged for small cell deployment is owned by cities’ street light departments, especially in large urban areas.
We work with carriers and municipalities directly to come up with unique solutions that meet everyone’s needs. It’s not just about applying for construction permits — we collaborate with municipalities to help them evolve their processes to get ready for all instances of 5G deployments.
Working on small cell deployments across Canada, we always try to engage construction partners that are local to the specific area. If underground construction is required, for example, we want to work with a partner that has a lot of knowledge about these specific underground conditions.
Before any construction process begins, we walk through the installation sites and explain our decision-making process, consulting and collaborating with construction companies to identify anything that could be done differently.
We then optimize our designs to work for all parties: not only our clients and construction partners but municipalities as well.
Because we use a data-driven design approach, our QC engineers are able to run automated tests throughout the design process to ensure no poles are double-counted or incorrectly assigned. The same level of support continues during the build phase so we are able to quickly troubleshoot even the smallest inconsistencies during construction.
Our unique approach to data collection and automation allows us to make all project information (e.g. construction drawings) tangible and accessible through various data inputs. During any project, our clients have the exact data we have used to make any design decision.
We also present our information in visual data formats, which are easy to maintain and come back to at any time. All this allows telecommunications companies to have a holistic view of how their network is built and how it is interconnected.
Now you can see how our six-step process based on careful planning and data-driven design results in small cell deployments that not only fulfill the objectives of today but also serve as a foundation for the networks of tomorrow.
As an engineering company involved in everything, you can imagine that we are a tight-knit group of people. With the emergence of COVID-19, however, all our personal interactions in the office were cut off, and we had to devise other ways to stay in touch and remain productive throughout the day.
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