What is Small Cell Technology?
Small cells, like traditional cell towers, are specialized equipment designed for expanding cellular connectivity.
However, unlike traditional cell towers, small cells take up significantly less space, with many small cells only being about as big as a college textbook.
With this reduction in size comes a reduction in network capacity, as many small cells can only support a few users at a time, requiring that network developers use small cells in an array to densify their networks.
Please note: the term small cell is a blanket that term that actually encompasses a wide variety of cellular technologies, like microcells, femtocells, and picocells.
Why Choose Small Cell Networks?
Because small cells possess a relatively small form factor, they are capable of being deployed in a variety of locations, like street lights, rooftops, flagpoles, or any other location that is high off the ground and free from obstructions.
What about Traditional Cell Towers?
While traditional cell towers have been to the “go-to” for many years, their development and implementation have slowed.
This is because traditional cell towers, or “Macro Cell Sites”, take up an inordinate amount of space, and for congested urban centers, like downtown Sydney, space is something that is often not available.
This isn’t to say that traditional cell towers no longer have a role to play; on the contrary, traditional cell towers are still the preferred method for expanding cellular connectivity in remote areas, as a single cell tower can serve more far more customers than a single small cell.
Small Cell Deployment Opportunities
Because of their size and relative ease of deployment, there are many opportunities for LTE small cells to make a difference in Australia.
In fact, Telstra recently announced plans to roll out new small cells across the country, with 50 4G small cells being recently deployed in Melbourne. In the next 3 years, Telstra plans to roll out close to 1,000 small cells in locations like Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide, and Perth.
With small cells becoming more commonplace, new cellular applications can be developed.
5G Cellular Networks
One of the biggest impacts that small cells will have is in the development of 5G cellular networks. What’s the big deal with 5G networks?
Current 4 LTE networks can reach data transfers speeds of up to 1 gigabits per second; however, this speed is considered “theoretical”, and as most cellular users can attest, this speed is rarely achieved in regular, everyday use.
On the other hand, 5G will be able to reach speeds of up to 10-20 gigabits per second, which will enable mobile users to download and stream digital media like 4k movies and use demanding augmented reality platforms.
And it’s not just data transfer speeds that will improve with 5G implementation: 5G also offers the promise of improved network reliability and stability for consumers. With improved network stability, services like self-driving cars, automation, and robotics can flourish.
The age of the driverless car is fast approaching, and small cells look to play a key role in making sure that these systems work as efficiently as possible.
The success of driverless cars is heavily dependent on the rollout of stable, city-wide wireless connectivity; after all, while you can preload driverless cars with sensors and map data, for driverless cars to truly evolve into an autonomous entity, driverless cars will need more than just onboard technologies.
For driverless cars to evolve into a reliable autonomous technology, they will need to effectively communicate with the following: Vehicle to Vehicle (V2V), Vehicle to Infrastructure (V2I), Vehicle to Pedestrian (V2P) and Vehicle to Cloud (V2C).
However, this functionality requires stable wireless connectivity, which is something that small cells can provide.
Automated systems, such as robotics, rely heavily on synchronized movements and wireless communications to perform their tasks.
While it’s true that many of these tasks can be preprogrammed into the machine, there are times when a machine needs to react dynamically to its environment, as is the case when an adjacent machine starts to break and behave erratically.
When this occurs in, say, a car manufacturing plant, severe damage can occur to both the car being constructed and also to the machines. This type of breakdown can be extremely costly to the manufacturer; however, with a fast and reliable network deployed in the plant, functions like predictive maintenance can help prevent mechanical breakdowns before they occur.
Additionally, with a fast wireless network in place, manufacturers can enjoy a new level of productivity as their robotic systems can now work more efficiently and faster than ever before.
Small Cell Drawbacks
While small cells have numerous advantages over other cellular expanding technologies, it is important to note that they also have some serious drawbacks. Like any other cellular expanding device, small cell antennas require a broadband infrastructure, or backhaul, to operate. And since small cell antennas can only support a handful of users at a time, the amount of small cell backhaul and infrastructure modification that needs to occur can put a tremendous amount of financial strain on the cellular developer.
For example, if a cellular developer wanted to install a small cell, high-speed network in a location like an indoor shopping mall, there would be a number of requirements that would need to be met before the system could go online.
First, each small antenna would need to be directly connected to backhaul (e.g., a fiber optic line), which means that access points will need to be constructed for the cable to run through. If the building does not already have a network of fiber optics already installed, then it will have to be created before a small cell network can be deployed (additional cost).
Important to note for developers: when we use words like “constructed” and “installed”, we mean drilling holes in the structure of the building to run cabling through. While typically not a big deal, this type of construction does carry a bit of risk, as such a modification can weaken a building’s structural integrity or cause leaks if the small cells are located on the roof.
Fortunately, wireless backhaul is a technology that’s becoming more mainstream as time goes on, which will help mitigate some of the issues associated with developing a network consisting of fiber optics and small cells.
Small Cell Leases: A Promising Financial Opportunity for Landowners?
As mentioned, space for cellular development is limited, especially in areas like major cities where land comes at a premium.
In these situations, cellular developers are forced into leasing land from property owners for the placement of their cellular expanding equipment, and in exchange, the owner receives monthly rental payments that can often amount to tens of thousands of dollars of additional annual income.
However, this additional income isn’t the end of the story; in fact, there are ways in which a landowner can turn their cellular lease into a more financially flexible asset, like a cell tower lease buyout.
LDC Infrastructure’s Role
As one of Australia’s largest lease and ground rights acquisition companies, we can help turn your cell tower lease into a large, lump-sum cash payment.
While monthly rental payments are nice, there are times when it’s simply not enough. For example, many of our customers have used the cash received from their cell tower buyout to retire early, invest in a new business venture, and even purchase additional property.
Contact LDC Infrastructure Today
Even if you don’t need cash right now, doesn’t it make sense to know the value of your lease rights? If your site meets our criteria, we can provide you with a no-obligation analysis and valuation. Please call us at 1300 149 499 or click here to submit your information online so that we may contact you.