The challenges and solutions for widespread mmWave deployment

5G mmWave networks remain limited in most markets today. Learn how mapping tech can help expand mmWave coverage.

5G mmWave networks remain limited in most markets today. Expanding mmWave coverage - and meeting the technology’s potential - will require meticulous planning. 

At a glance:

  • 5G coverage is growing, but the availability of super-fast mmWave bands remains limited
  • Rigorous and precise planning is needed to expand mmWave coverage
  • Learn about barriers to the spread of high-band millimeter wave networks
  • Discover how geo-spatial mapping technology can support the industry

Consumers believe that ‘high speeds’ are by far and away the most significant benefit of 5G networks - according to a recent survey of 16,000 people worldwide. It’s no surprise that people expect rapid download speeds with 5G. Marketing departments at telecom firms have strongly promoted the idea in advertising campaigns. 

However, networks with mmWave—the fastest possible 5G download speeds—remain limited. Only a handful of countries have 5G millimeter wave spectrums available. 

If telecom companies are to deliver on the potential of 5G, they will need to expand true mmWave coverage significantly. So why is this not happening yet, and what needs to be done? 

The 5G network: synonymous with speed

5G provides much faster download speeds than earlier generations of wireless internet technology. However, the 5G spectrum is relatively broad and includes several spectrum bands. Generally speaking, these new bands will allow users with a ‘5G-ready’ device to download and upload content much faster than with 4G or 3G wireless internet. Nevertheless, for most consumers, the mid-band 5G spectrum will only feel slightly faster than today’s 4G internet.

In between these two extremes lies the mid-band spectrum. Mid-band 5G offers a good balance between speed, coverage, and penetration. It delivers noticeably faster data rates than 4G and offers better range and signal strength than mmWave. This makes mid-band a crucial part of the 5G rollout strategy, as it can provide a good user experience in a wider range of settings.

Obstacles to supporting mmWave

There are several reasons why telecom providers have struggled to roll out mmWave coverage - many of which are out of their control:

  • Limited future investments: the significant financial burden telecom companies face due to the substantial costs of acquiring spectrum licenses. Additionally, the current environment of elevated interest rates further constrains their ability to allocate funds for future investments in this area.

  • Low market penetration of mmWave 5G devices: To receive 5G mmWave signals, mobile devices need specialized hardware and equipment on the devices. At present, building a mmWave-ready smartphone costs manufacturers more money, so the devices are sold at a premium. And while costs are coming down, price remains an obstacle for the near term. 

However, some of the biggest challenges to expanding mmWave coverage are related to the technology and rollout strategy of providers:

  • Reliance on existing 4G network: Many telecom providers have opted to reuse their existing 4G networks to build out their 5G upgrades by installing 5G base stations on pre-existing towers. This is fine for mid-band 5 G but is not suitable for supporting mmWave. 

  • mmWave needs density: mmWave bands require high-density networks that support massive MIMO (multiple input, multiple output) cells. They cannot just be installed on existing 4G cell towers—instead, they need to be deployed in greater numbers and depth around cities. 

  • Attenuation: mmWave bands are easily attenuated by physical obstacles such as walls, billboards,  and foliage. This means that base stations must be installed more densely, and technicians must ensure there are no obstacles in the base station’s ‘line of sight’. However, mmWave uses beamforming techniques to focus the signal towards users, which can help mitigate some of these limitations.

Related: mmWave 5G will disappoint without better planning

How to expand mmWave coverage

Expanding mmWave coverage will be vital for telecom providers to prove to consumers that 5G is worth all the hype. 

Of course, it won’t be available everywhere. For instance, its inherent attenuation issues mean it can’t offer the extended range needed in most rural areas. Nevertheless, making mmWave bands available to owners of 5G devices in more places will be essential. 

And this is where meticulous planning will be needed. To seriously expand mmWave coverage, telecoms businesses need to:

Conduct extensive market research 

Using PopMaps, for example, telcos can visualise where people with 5G devices live and travel, how dense the population is, and how they use their devices. 

Plan base station rollout effectively

Choosing 5G mmWave base station locations will require meticulous research and planning. Operators need to be aware of line-of-sight obstacles and carefully plan the position and angle of base stations. for this, LuxCarta's City Planner 3D can help since we provide high-resolution 3D buildings, vegetation and even bridges to help telcos plan more effectively. 

Use accurate geospatial maps

LuxCarta provides telecom providers with state-of-the-art geospatial maps that offer unparalleled accuracy and insights into urban environments. RF planners can use our technology to visualize obstacles in dense cityscapes, including objects such as trees or bodies of water that can attenuate 5G mmWave signals. That helps significantly speed up your mmWave coverage planning and project management. 

Learn more: Our research into vegetation and 5G propagation

True mmWave coverage will be the differentiator.

Despite the growth of 5G networks worldwide, high-band millimetre wave network growth must continue evolving. 

This represents a challenge but also an extraordinary opportunity. Whichever telecom firm can deliver serious, extensive, and widely accessible mmWave coverage on their networks first will undoubtedly become the market leader. 

And LuxCarta is ready to help. We provide reliable, detailed city maps globally, enabling telecoms to meticulously plan mmWave base station rollouts.

Contact us today, and learn how we can help you expand your mmWave coverage. 


Similar posts