Rural coverage is big news in the UK at the moment with the Government keen to encourage operators to invest in reaching those in rural and remote areas.
One of the proposals reported in The Times this week was for permission to build taller masts to extend the range of existing and new macro sites. While the proposals only talk of masts up to 25m tall, the suggestion has not gone down well with countryside campaigners.
Taller towers are certainly one solution to providing decent 3G and 4G coverage for those in rural Britain, but there is a better way.
With small footprints and easy installation, small cells are an alternative way of delivering targeted coverage and capacity to remote villages and communities. For the locals this means that they can get onto 3G or 4G networks much quicker and without worrying about imposing towers. For operators it’s a much easier and less expensive process compared to the approvals required for changing or building new macro base stations.
Of course it’s not that simple though – and that’s why Small Cell Forum is currently looking at rural and remote scenarios as part of Release Five, to be published at MWC next year. The release content will address the challenges that exist in deploying small cells in remote locations, from backhaul considerations through to the business case and who actually pays to make it happen.
Delivering coverage to everyone is no easy task but it’s one with clear economic and social benefits, so it’s unsurprising that Governments are pushing hard to make it happen. Small cells have a big role to play for both the operators looking to meet coverage obligations and also for the communities they look to serve, and while there will certainly be challenges that remain, the next part of the Release Program will go a long way to addressing them.
You can find out more about Release Five: Rural & Remote here