New study looks at barriers to small cell densification

The anticipated commercial deployments of 5G networks from next year will further enforce the trends towards denser small cell deployments. To make network densification feasible in the envisioned 5G rollout timelines and commercially sustainable there is an urgent need for radical streamlining and innovative approaches in both the deployment and operation of small cells.

This is where Global5G.org comes into play. As a coordination and support action within 5G Infrastructure Public Private Partnership (5G PPP) one of the priorities of Global5G.org is on small cell deployment and regulatory aspects to help the EU and its Member States identify the most effective way to lower the costs of network densification towards 5G. The on-going study is taking place alongside innovations in the 5G PPP and the industry at large to address this network densification challenge.

The Global5G.org initial study centers on EU policy priorities, including the 5G for Europe Action Plan which specifically notes the need to “…Identify immediately actionable best practice to increase the consistency of administrative conditions and time frames to facilitate denser cell deployment, in line with the relevant provisions of the proposed European Electronic Communications Code.”

The Global5G.org study has analysed the legacy regulatory frameworks and related factors influencing dense small cell deployments, whilst taking into consideration the perspectives of the different stakeholders in the small cell ecosystem. It is notable that small cells will have diverse indoor and outdoor locations, which has implications in terms of the variety of stakeholders who may benefit from (or be affected by) dense deployment of small cells. The Global5G.org study has looked into these different stakeholders, explored exemplary case studies and highlighted potential areas of regulatory interventions to facilitate dense deployments.

The study conclusions touch on several issues. One of these is the recommendations for a general and harmonised definition of small cells across the Member States and starting to formulate regulations that enable full exemption or ‘light regulation’ of small cells.

The study also highlights the need for harmonisation across Member States, in terms of the processes for approvals, licensing and permits for small cell deployments. This is essential for supply side stakeholders, such as mobile network operators, system integrators and small cell infracos, all of whom have operations in multiple Member States.

The Global5G.org study also recommends that the sharing of small cells should be actively encouraged and in many cases mandated. The fact that network densification is moving indoors while at the same time local authorities are increasingly adopting measures to declutter their cities means that sharing is the only feasible way for multiple operators to densify their networks.

Finally, the study noted the need for research and field measurements to ascertain the extent to which overly conservative exposure limits (typically based on max transmit powers) constrain dense small deployments. The ongoing contentious debates around the potential human exposure to emissions from dense small cell deployments would certainly benefit from sound scientific evidence.

Interesting times ahead as policy makers and regulators across the EU Member States look into actions they can take to facilitate dense small cell deployments for the 5G era. The Global5G.org project will be a keen follower of these actions and will update its study to reflect the various developments.

This was a guest blog post by Global 5G for Small Cell Forum. To find out more about Global5G.org and receive updates you can follow: