Wireless Communications Small Cell Facilities

Small Cell Facilities: What Are They and How Do They Work?

As people become more reliant upon technology in every aspect of their lives, the need to provide access to the internet continues to grow. Traditional cell towers are large and can take years to be approved by state and local governments before being built. One solution to meeting the needs of a population for fast internet access is to install small cell facilities.

What Are Small Cell Facilities?

Small cell facilities are essentially miniature wireless internet coverage areas that provide service to a small space, such as a city block. They consist of small antennas that can be affixed to roofs and buildings, or mounted in public rights of way. (Approximately 66% of small cell deployment was on electric and telephone poles or street lights in 2018). They differ from traditional cell towers which normally provide coverage over larger regions, spanning several miles. These smaller internet coverage areas boost internet service in areas with high volumes of people which heightens the additional need for coverage. Examples include sites such as stadiums, office buildings, parks, public squares, and downtown locations.

Basically, small cell facilities enhance wireless networks by boosting the grade of service using antennas and low-power cellular radio nodes. These installations require three elements to work:

  • An installation permit
  • Backhaul (either microwave or fiber optic cable to transmit to the main network)
  • Power

This technology decreases the demand for larger cell towers. Though this infrastructure can include equipment as large as a refrigerator, it is tiny in comparison to macro cellular sites.

Who Can Benefit From Small Cell Internet Coverage Facilities?

People living or spending a great deal of time in crowded vicinities can benefit immensely from small cell facilities. For example, college students at large universities who require fast and reliable wireless connectivity to complete their schoolwork from various locations on campus could benefit from this infrastructure. Additionally, people living in large cities without space for multiple macro cell towers can find their ability to stream shows and live out their daily lives enhanced with the nearby installation of these facilities.

How Are They Built?

Before small cell facilities can be constructed in any given location, they must be approved by the local government and granted all relevant permits by the town or city. Additionally, the infrastructure must meet federal and state requirements. In 2018, the Federal Communications Commission issued its Declaratory Ruling and Third Report and Order. This order eradicated certain regulatory obstructions that unnecessarily caused delays and added costs to the construction of the facilities.

An industry expert, such as V1 Fiber, develops a plan for where to place the small cell equipment in accordance with local restrictions. Once the legal red tape has been overcome, the structures can be positioned in the approved locations. Small cell facilities are relatively quick to install and can normally be placed in just a few hours.

Small cell facilities enhance wireless coverage in densely populated areas where traditional macro cell coverage is no longer sufficient. The equipment is relatively small and unobtrusive, allowing users to enjoy fast internet usage with a minimal impact to the aesthetics of the neighborhood. Contact an expert in the construction of wireless communications for information on enhancing your town’s internet experience.


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