Advantages of Small Cell versus Tower Installations

Over the brief history of cellphone technology, the primary challenge of telecom providers has been how to provide reliable wireless network coverage to their customers–how to make sure their phones could connect to the signal and transmit and receive data. Traditionally, the solution to this problem has been to build vast networks of cell towers (known as “macrocells”) to transmit the wireless signal over large areas. But more recently–and especially with the advent of 5G technology–companies are turning to “small cell” installations to provide coverage to their customers. As a result, small cells are rapidly becoming the new standard for wireless networks.

What Are Small Cells?

Small cells are, as the name suggests, much smaller than traditional cell towers. They are typically about the size of a backpack and can be installed on or near buildings and other structures. Small cells are often used to fill in gaps in coverage or to boost the signal in certain areas, and their primary purpose has historically been to provide coverage in specific, limited areas. However, telecom companies are increasingly using them to provide denser coverage over larger areas. They are also used to provide coverage for 5G networks, which require a much denser network of cell sites than older networks.

The Advantages of Small Cell Sites

While the coverage area of small cell installations is admittedly smaller compared to macrocells installed on towers, there are still numerous advantages to using them, especially when creating a thicker infrastructure of network coverage over an area. For example:

  • Small cells are much less intrusive than tower sites. They can be installed on existing infrastructure like buildings and light poles, and they do not need dedicated land to install.
  • Small cells can be deployed much more quickly than tower sites. It can often take months or even years to get the necessary permits to build a tower, but small cells can be installed in a matter of hours.
  • Small cells consume less energy. They are low-powered devices that tap into existing fiber-optic systems easily and with less environmental impact than tower sites.
  • Small cells offer much more bandwidth. Because small cells can transmit data on the mid- to high-band radio spectrum (a requirement for 5G networks), they can accommodate much larger amounts of data in far less time–allowing for ultra-fast downloads even during times of high usage.
  • Small cells are backward-compatible with previous generations of wireless signals. While they’re valued for transmission on mid- to high-bands, small cells can also accommodate low-band frequencies associated with 4G and LTE, so people who have not yet upgraded to 5G can still benefit from the signal.

Will Cell Towers Become a Thing of the Past?

Not necessarily. Tower installations are still useful for providing network coverage over broad rural areas, and many towers are being upgraded to carry 5G, as well. But small cell installations are much more conducive to providing reliable 5G coverage to larger numbers of people, particularly in high-population areas like NYC and the vicinity. As 5G technology continues to develop, small cells will become an increasingly important part of the wireless landscape.

At Tri-Power Electrical, our technicians are highly skilled in 5G small cell installations, and we can help you stay competitive by offering ultra-fast 5G service to your customers. To learn more, contact us today.