Communications Day 21 December 2017
5G networks will usher in key changes to deployment economics in Australia, says local wireless rollout specialist CPS Global – with associated challenges and opportunities not just for companies like itself, but also for building owners prepared to work with network operators.
Independent and Australian-owned (by MD and founder Scott Munro), CPS Global is one of Australia’s longest-running wireless infrastructure deployment firms.
In 25 years of operation it has played a role in deploying sites for each generation of mobile technology, even rolling out some of the first analogue sites in Australia. Competing in the local market with players like Service Stream and Kordia, it has around 70 inhouse staff plus over a hundred external subcontractors and counts all the Australian mobile carriers on its customer roster – alongside many of the other major providers rolling out wireless infrastructure – with a concomitant annual turnover.
Munro told CommsDay that while the cost of macrocell deployments had changed little in the past two decades, the extensive microcell networks needed to support 5G would present a challenge to roll out at scale without incurring a big cost bump. “5G antennas deployed to date have been of a size that doesn’t fit in the microcell space, so that will have to change,” he noted. “Site locations will also be more challenging, given [5G’s] low to zero latency requirements.” There’s also the likelihood of public concern around electromagnetic emissions and the visual impact of new infrastructure.
Munro acknowledged that the ongoing use of 4G alongside 5G would mitigate some of these issues, and said there was still significant scope for mobile network operators to further utilise 4G.
But he also highlighted an opportunity for dedicated deployment firms and MNOs to work more extensively together on addressing the 5G rollout challenge. “There is a greater move to outsourcing than we have seen historically… MNOs are always trying to get the right balance between controlling the process to reflect their changing needs and giving the provider the autonomy to reduce overall costs and increase speed,” he said. “The challenge for deployment specialists like CPS is to demonstrate real partnership with the MNOs. This means offering both flexibility and low costs. Increasingly, it also means providing innovative solutions as well.”
“Deployment costs for macro and micro cells are largely driven by the service element – SAED, project management, construction and commissioning – rather than the cost of the physical goods and equipment. The challenge for service providers and vendors is therefore how to innovate in the service area of deployment in a way that continues to reduce costs and maintain quality,” continued Munro.
However, he added that while the hardware deployed had traditionally been of a standard format, “small cells will necessitate innovation with design from the OEM and deployment specialists.”
Munro also flagged opportunities for building owners to work with MNOs to get the latest technology into their properties but, conversely, warned that “building owners that create barriers for MNOs are likely to be bypassed or put down the priority list.” “Many building owners struggle to get the balance right between treating telecommunications as both a cost and a revenue; it is a cost and a disruption but it also makes buildings more valuable [and] generates incremental income as well,” he said. “This tension will grow with 5G where we are likely to see not just a proliferation of small cells in metro areas but increasing equipment at the network’s edge.”
“The challenge for building owners is… to understand how they can make their properties more valuable with 5G, for example through [network edge equipment to support use cases such as] autonomous vehicles or the Internet of Things) and how to share those benefits with the MNOs so that everyone benefits.”