American telecommunications regulator, the FCC, has published a document explaining how it will streamline the deployment of test 5G sites. This announcement follows a number of others that point towards the FCC seemingly hurrying along the industry to test, develop and ultimately roll out the next generation of mobile cellular data networks. At the time of writing, the world has yet to finalize the 5G networking standard but operators and telecommunications businesses all over the world already have an idea of what to expect. We have seen carriers across the world work with their respective regulator in order to assemble and trial 5G networks: for the American carriers, the FCC’s announcement should make things much easier during the initial testing. This in turn will accelerate the process of developing the 5G network and in turn this will speed up how quickly the new masts may be deployed.
The crux of the Federal Communications Commission’s document is that it will no longer run through the traditional “preservation review” that is applied to all new site requests providing “small facility deployments” do not have an adverse impact on historical sites or locations. In other words, operators can deploy small scale 5G network test facilities as long as their equipment does not cause an adverse impact on landmarks and similar. This should make life much easier for operators keen to build out their test networks, especially in dense urban environments where the higher frequencies that 5G technologies are expected to use could encounter severe difficulties. The reason for this is because the higher the frequency of the spectrum being used for radio communications, the faster the potential data transfer speed but the steeper the signal degradation over distance or when encountering objects such as buildings or even trees. Carriers are having to develop new ways to tackle existing problems and are working on schemes to either cover a small, urban area with many small 5G cell sites, or using reflection and repeater technologies to improve coverage.
Of America’s carriers, arguably Sprint has the most experience of dealing with high frequency network issues thanks to its 2,500 MHz spectrum, which is higher than most other operators. Sprint has been deploying its high frequency LTE spectrum to boost coverage and network speed in order to be the best network in a particular location, but its network plans see the business tackling this one city at a time. Carriers around the world are preparing to launch trial 5G networks from as soon as 2018 with wider networks in place by 2020.