A recently released report from IDTechEx forecasts that the overall number of 5G small cells will reach 45 million by 2031. Crucially, 5G will not be realised without small cell development.
With two new frequency bands, sub-6 GHz (3–7 GHz) and mmWave (24–48 GHz), included in 5G, 5G provides much larger bandwidth, lower latency, higher reliability, and many more connections in comparison with previous generations of mobile networks. The benefit of 5G not only accelerates the growth of mobile consumer networks but also has huge potential to revolutionize industries such as automotive, entertainment, computing, and manufacturing.
However, there are a series of challenges that need to be addressed. One of the main challenges is the signal attenuation of high-frequency signals. This means that the signal propagation is much shorter compared to the previous cellular networks such as 3G and 4G. Small cells are proposed to address this big challenge. Creating an ultra-dense network by deploying more small cells plays a key role in 5G as it allows it to complement the macro network and therefore boosts data capacity.
Small cells can be categorized into three types: femtocells, picocells, and microcells, depending on their output power. Because of their smaller size compared to macro base stations, the material choices and the overall technology trend will be different from their macro infrastructure counterparts.