Many Antennas
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Do You Know Why 5G Requires So Many Antennas?

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With the roll-out of 5G now underway in earnest, the nation’s mobile network providers are competing for market dominance. You can see that competition in so many antennas being installed in large and mid-sized cities from coast-to-coast. Perhaps you have noticed that 5G requires a lot more antennas than 4G. But do you know why?

According to Houston-based Blazing Hog, a leading provider of 4G rural internet service, 5G is designed to solve many of the problems inherent to the older technology. Overcoming those problems requires systemic changes. Among those changes are antenna design and deployment.

As you read the explanation below, bear and mind that it will probably be many years before rural internet providers start offering 5G service. You will understand why by the time you reach the end of this post.

5G at Higher Frequencies

The first thing to know is that 5G networks exist at frequencies that are much higher on the spectrum than 4G. Network designers chose frequencies that are pretty much unpopulated. This gives them the ability to do certain things – like building scalability into the system – without having to worry about the inherent problems associated with spectrum overcrowding. That’s interesting, but higher frequencies alone don’t indicate the need for more antennas.

Directional Signals

Current 4G technology relies on the old model of sending signals in all directions from a cell tower. That may not be a problem in the middle of a major city but get outside the city limits and the model becomes inefficient. Cell towers start beaming signals to areas where they are not needed.

5G networks address that problem with directional signals. A single antenna sends and receives data in one direction. While this has benefits in terms of speed and resource preservation, it creates problems in making sure that the signal gets to every location where it’s needed. More antennas answer that.

Shorter Distances

In order to prevent signal degradation, 5G signals are purposely designed to cover shorter distances. That way, there is less of a temptation to let customers on the outer edge of a network languish with poor reception and slow speeds. To make up for this design feature, a network requires more antennas to pick up and relay signals.

Smart Signals

Underlying the entire design is the ability of the 5G network to adapt to the type of data it is transmitting. Adaptation reduces latency and increases both upload and download speeds. To make it work though, you need a bunch of small servers scattered throughout the network. These servers run the software the network needs to adapt.

Networks need more antennas to take advantage of these servers. The more servers in a network, the more antennas you need. This is not necessarily a problem in urban environments where small servers and antennas can be mounted on everything from utility poles to building facades. But in rural America, the concept doesn’t work so well.

Figuring It Out

The major mobile carriers are in the midst of rolling out 5G in urban and suburban settings. What they learn from that roll-out will prepare them to offer 5G to rural America, should they decide to do so. They are figuring it out at this very moment.

5G is leaner, meaner, and faster than 4G. But the system requires more antennas to account for directional signals, shorter distances, and smart networks capable of adapting to data type. It is all pretty amazing when you stop and think about it. It also makes you wonder what they will come up with to eventually replace 5G. Any guesses?

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