This content is part of the Essential Guide: 5G explained: A deep dive into the features and facts

Do businesses need to install 5G small cells inside their buildings?

5G's high frequency can handle more capacity, but the signal can't penetrate buildings easily. That's why you may need to install a 5G small cell in your office.

Fifth-generation mobile wireless technology, or 5G, is thought to be revolutionary. It's expected to introduce new forms of communications and data gathering that will propel IoT, advanced data analytics and digital transformation projects to new levels.

Compared to 4G cellular data technologies, 5G offers 10 times more data transfer speeds, significantly increased capacity and much lower latency numbers. From a network performance perspective, these 5G features mean mobile devices and IoT sensors can operate as if they were directly connected to the corporate LAN.

That said, 5G will only be revolutionary if you receive a solid 5G signal where you need it. At this point, 5G is still in early testing stages for most U.S. cellular carriers. Then, even when it's rolled out, you still may not receive a signal in some areas. This is particularly true for especially remote locations and within large buildings. Building penetration has been an issue with previous generations of cellular data technologies. However, it might be especially problematic with this latest generation.

5G small cells inside buildings

5G is designed to use several different wireless frequencies for data transport. Some of the frequencies that 5G uses operate at higher frequencies within the radio frequency spectrum. The higher the frequency, the more capacity it can handle. Yet, at the same time, higher frequencies equate to less penetration. Depending on which frequencies are used, it could mean 5G cannot easily penetrate a signal into your building.

5g small cell
Carriers could install 5G small cells throughout cities to extend network coverage.

To solve this issue, carriers will likely install multiple 5G small cell towers -- as opposed to a single large tower -- at many locations where higher frequency signals are used. This should help with the penetration into buildings. Additionally, businesses with large buildings should keep in mind that they may need to install one of these 5G small cells within their building itself.

Small cell technology is not new. Many buildings today have 3G and 4G small cells already installed. With 5G, however, more in-building installations may be required. Therefore, even though you may not have a small cell station in your building today, you may need a 5G small cell installed in the near future.

This was last published in July 2019

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