A Wireless future: based on cable

5 Jun 2019

In a 5G world, unlimited access to unlimited data becomes a reality.

Accessing 5G will be, for most of us, via our mobile devices so it’s easy to overlook the fact that 5G will actually require a huge investment in physical infrastructure to make it happen.

The sheer volume of data is the issue: running 5G relies on the capacity of fibre optic cable and in increasing quantities.

Even with existing data usage we are rapidly reaching the limits of current wireless technology.  Not only is mobile usage growing faster every year, but each user’s bandwidth is expected to grow nearly 50% every year.

And that’s before we throw 5G into the mix, with its promise of 10 gigabit-per-second speeds.

4G macro cell towers relied on radio frequency spectrums which are able to travel great distances.  So excellent coverage is achieved by a limited number of towers in any area.

However, 5G networks will use higher frequency millimetre waves which can only travel about 250 feet.  Because of this, telecom companies will be forced to switch from large cell towers to low cost, low power small cell sites that can be scattered more densely around on streetlamps and buildings.

What this looks like in reality is demonstrated by the biggest-yet pilot of wholesale, 5G-ready small cell infrastructure.

Being trialled in the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham (population 180,000 in an area of 6.3 square miles) the project is being delivered through collaboration between full fibre infrastructure provider CityFibre, and Arqiva, provider of communications infrastructure.

The network consists of CityFibre’s fibre ring with over 90 cabinets to allow for the sharing of the infrastructure.  Arqiva, meanwhile, uses the borough’s street assets – including lampposts – to place their equipment.

Every one of these installations requires both power and data cable plus the associated connectivity and fixings. 

The explosion in demand for high-speed broadband explains why manufacturing volume of fibre optic cable is growing at 11% per year and our own product development team in the UK is focused on developing and ever-great range of connectivity solutions.

Not such a wireless world after all.

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