What is network densification?
With the growing number of digital users and the advent of 5G, the demand for network capacity is exponentially increasing. There are three ways to add a network capacity – Densifying the network, making the spectrum more efficiently and buying more spectrums. Basically, network densification means increasing the capacity by adding more cell sites, macro sites, macro site sectors or small cells.
Whenever there is a load on traffic in certain sites, cell sites are installed to offload them and add capacity to the network. The cell sites can be deployed near urban areas and large locations where there are large numbers of digital end-user.
Newer structured cabling solutions such as ultra-high density fiber shelves, optical distribution frame racks, and wideband multimode fiber options are the ways of achieving densification. These techniques increase the bandwidth per rack space to achieve higher network density.
The growing relevance of network densification in 5G
The digitization is growing at a rapid pace. It is estimated that there will be 220 million digitally connected vehicles by 2020 and the videos will be 82 percent of internet traffic by 2021. Certainly, these can be achieved by fast and stable 5G network.
The increasing volume of traffic and increased data rates requested will surely impact how the mobile networks are deployed. The requirements of higher system capacity and per-user data rates invoked the creating of 5G technology. Network densification will increase the number of cells and thus the traffic per square meter which will in turn increase with the number of network nodes. These increased network nodes will consequently reduce the base to terminal distances and hence achieving the 5G network with improved data rates.
Strategies for 5G densification
Implementation of 5G through densification means the network will need small cells estimated between 200 to 1000 feet distance. It will require around 8 miles of fiber per square mile to connect the small cells and hence Densifying the network. This means just to empower the US with 5G network will need 1.4 million miles of fiber cable network.
However, the cost-effective and large-scale spatial densification can be achieved by intercell interface management and self-organizing network. The full utilization and benefits of densification can be achieved by backhaul densification and using advanced receivers which will aid in canceling the interference.
Alternatives to network densification
Some may ask, what can be other strategies for improving network capacity beside densification? Well,
there are some as below.
Wi-Fi – Wi-Fi carries 80% of traffic and can be a boon to offload the traffic from Mobile Networks. However, in dense urban areas mobile will exhaust and hence Wi-Fi will have limited offering towards improving network capacity.
Smart Antennas – While it is possible to optimize the existing spectrum of base stations by incremental
step-ups but with lower annual traffic growth rate, this alternative is time-consuming.
New Spectrum: – This is a great alternative which utilizes the spectrum of higher frequencies, which is not used until now. This will reduce the cell size but on the contrary. The only drawback is that it will not be supported on the older phones.
Re-farm 3G and GSM network – We could use 3G and GSM spectrum to re-farm but it means to switch OFF these networks and services. These are an existing and very stable technology, switching it OFF is not the best way forward.
Network densification is many times the number of base station and reuses the existing spectrum multiple times over. It will radically increase the network capacity and thus the per-user data rates.
However, we need to take special care on the user experience by effectively using small cells with careful planning, lower radio, and software.