By Richard Kennedy
Mobile World Congress is a global show, but its location in Spain means European issues loom large. One of these, in 2019, will be the regulatory climate for densification.
It is vital, for the region’s 5G prospects, that it is significantly easier and cheaper to deploy small cells at scale, especially in cities. SCF has been very active in informing the debate and played a major role in lobbying the European Union last year. MWC will be a great opportunity to continue to put the argument for a uniform, streamlined process for dense deployments, ahead of some key EU decisions in this area, in 2019.
European operators have, so far, lagged behind some other regions in deploying small cells at scale, and one reason has been the inconsistent, cumbersome processes to win equipment and site approvals in urban environments. SCF has worked with the GSMA and IEC to formulate a set of proposals for a lightweight regulatory approach, which would remove those barriers and open the floodgates for densification, just in time for 5G.
There has already been significant progress towards a regime in which small cells which conform to a standard set of specs (size, height, power emissions etc) are exempt from a lengthy approvals process. That alone would reduce the time and cost of deployment and make dense outdoor networks, e.g. for smart city applications, economically viable.
This comes at a time when the US regulator’s groundbreaking efforts to ease siting issues for small cells are being strangled by political wrangling. Europe, then, could take the lead in establishing clear guidelines, which would deliver the benefits of ubiquitous wireless to both cities and service providers, and offer a blueprint for other regions of the world to follow.
SCF is determined to continue to be involved in pushing this work to its conclusion and addressing any new regulatory issues which arise linked to higher levels of densification in 5G. For instance, the introduction of high frequency spectrum and MIMO antenna arrays, as well as low power radios for IoT applications, will all add to the variety of site types that will be required.
As dense urban networks diversify in this way, it will be more and more important to invest in very detailed radio planning and optimization in advance of deployment. This is another area in which SCF has cutting edge work items, with inputs from many of its members. Along with a better regulatory climate, the availability of best practice and advanced optimization tools will help to improve the process and economics of densification, and help Europe come off the back foot in city 5G roll-outs.
See here for a summary of SCF’s proposals for the EU light deployment regime. (Summary of work to date www.scf.io/doc/213 )