The growing adoption rates of multiple-input and multiple-output (MIMO) antennas are likely to lead to increased tower rental fees, with a number of tower companies such as American Tower and SBA Communications recently suggesting as much during conference calls with investors and analysts. Tower firms are presently deliberating such moves because many MIMO antenna technologies come in the form of modules that are physically larger and heavier than previous wireless solutions installed on their towers.
While the network operators in the United States appear to be aware of the possibility of such a trend starting in the near future, the prospects of MIMO antennas are still largely seen as too attractive to pass up, with such solutions promising improved speeds through the existing spectrum, both in terms of low-band and high-frequency waves, SBA Chief Executive Officer Jeff Stoops said during an earnings call earlier this week. Cutting-edge MIMO modules may weigh up to twice as much as previous hardware and will hence warrant higher tower rental fees, the industry veteran said, having specifically referenced the case of T-Mobile and Sprint that are now trying to merge and are expected to continue their advanced MIMO deployment efforts in the future.
MIMO technologies are a crucial component of the 4G LTE standard and will in a way also play an important role in the context of 5G, the next generation of wireless connectivity that's expected to largely rely on Massive MIMO hardware. While traditional MIMO modules usually use two or four antennas, Massive MIMO systems leverage dozens of them; there's no industry-wide antenna number requirement for any solution to be categorized as Massive MIMO but the wireless sector already managed to deliver solutions with well over a hundred antennas per a single module. Besides Massive MIMO, 5G is also expected to largely be based on small cell stations due to its reliance on millimeter-wave spectrum that isn't capable of allowing for long-distance travel of radio waves.