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Tower market set for 4G spoils

Discussion in 'GENERAL Wireless Discussion' started by Fire14, Sep 21, 2009.

  1. Fire14

    Fire14 Easy,Cheap & Sleazy
    Senior Member

    Sep 27, 2002
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    New networks, new opportunities

    Wasn’t it just yesterday the wireless industry was all abuzz about third-generation networks and how they would revolutionize the way we communicate? Taking a look at the headlines today that tout the same life-altering benefits of 4G and you would almost think those 3G networks were not worth the circuit boards they were printed on.

    The same could be true for the tower industry, which is expected by many to experience a greater lift from 4G deployments than what it witnessed from the rollout of 3G networks. New technologies such as LTE and WiMAX will need space inside of cell sites; new spectrum to support those technologies will need new antennas to be sited, as well as new locations to provide coverage; greater network capabilities will require more robust network backhaul – all good news for tower players.

    However, the current economic malaise has carriers looking for ways to trim deployment costs wherever possible, and one of those areas is expected to include network hardware when possible.

    “I don’t see much of a challenge for the tower companies themselves [in preparing for 4G services] as a lot of what the carriers plan to do is reuse existing cell sites as a way to control costs,” explained Nadine Manjaro, mobile network senior analyst at ABI Research. “This is the case with Verizon with its LTE deployment as well as Clearwire with WiMAX. This is very important as in a lot of cases any changes to infrastructure at the cell site could results in violations of current lease agreements or require new lease agreements.”

    For carriers like Verizon Wireless and AT&T Mobility that plan on rolling out LTE networks using different spectrum (700 MHz) than their traditional cellular services, deployments will require new antennas on cell towers and room for new equipment in the racks. These needs might be delayed as initial 4G deployments are expected to concentrate in urban areas that rely less on traditional cell towers and more on rooftops. The fight for this space could be lucrative for site owners. In addition, the larger antennas required to support 4G networks using 700 MHz spectrum – which one industry observer said could be in the range of 8 feet to 10 feet in height and more than a foot in width – could make such deployments that much more difficult to secure.

    Back to the network

    Backhaul needs for the new equipment could also prove a challenge. In many instances current 3G networks can get by with T1 lines for backhaul needs, but with the promised multimegabit per-second speeds of 4G networks, carriers will neemore robust solutions. These are likely to take the form of more advanced fiber or microwave solutions.

    “A lot of operators like Verizon that have been planning for this for several years will likely not be surprised by the backhaul needs,” Manjaro said. “They have been migrating their backhaul already to Ethernet over fiber-based solutions and I think for most of their LTE plans they will use Ethernet over fiber. They have been making those arrangements for the past three years.”

    Manjaro said she expects carriers to start with backhaul capacity in the 10 to 50 megabyte per cell site range with plans to ramp up to 100 megabytes of capacity of needed. Manjaro added that carriers need to be careful to not skimp on backhaul needs.

    While Verizon Wireless and AT&T Mobility are expected to rely heavily on fiber backhaul solutions, Clearwire Corp. is banking its needs on microwave solutions that are quicker to deploy.

    “In the end it doesn’t matter what sort of spectrum efficiencies you gain from wireless technologies if you don’t have the backhaul in place to support the data rates,” Manjaro said.

    Bypassing the tower

    One challenge for the continued dominance of tower owners is the increased use of femtocell solutions that will allow carriers to bypass traditional cell towers and place the burden of increased coverage onto their customer base. A number of operators have already begun to roll out such solutions to enhance voice and data coverage of their 2G and 3G networks, and many believe those plans could accelerate with the move to 4G as greater backhaul needs could be offloaded onto a consumer’s high-speed Internet connection. LTE backers have acknowledged the need for such a solution by baking femtocell standards into the 4G technology’s protocol.

    But, many are convinced that despite the challenges facing traditional tower players when it comes to supporting the rollout of 4G networks that the segment will remain the bedrock for carriers.

    “Carriers are always going to go into their network planning phase looking to build out the core of their network using traditional cellular towers,” said Peter Jarich, research director of telecom infrastructure, mobile networks and carrier core, at Current Analysis Inc.

    New networks, new opportunities - RCR Wireless News
  2. RadioRaiders

    RadioRaiders RF Black-Belt
    Senior Member

    Apr 2, 2007
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    I'm still wondering what the need for larger antennas for 4G networks are :confused: maybe need for more antenna elements with MIMO? Maybe More sectors and narrower beamwidth? The frequency difference between 700Mhz and 850Mhz is minor. Here's the specs of a 700Mhz LTE (with MIMO) antenna, the size is on par with existing 800Mhz GSM antennas (this one is 7 ft):

    (see attached PDF for full specs.)

    Also, as just a general rule, lower frequencies need larger antennas in order to have better directionality and gain. Here's some dual-band 900/1800 antennas, meaning it is one physical antenna that houses antenna elements for both systems. If you look at the lower band, you can see on the specs it has between 1-3dB less gain than the higher band, and also in some cases the horiz beamwidth is 5° wider (ie: less controled/focused) than the higer frequency:


    Attached Files:

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