More Toys, Tablets, and Phones Results in More Towers and Small Cells

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Every time Apple or Microsoft introduces a brand new, must-have product the demand for wireless capabilities skyrockets. At NATE UNITE 2014 in San Diego, Michael Fitch, Principal of Fitch Strategies and former President and CEO of PCIA, shared that newer smart phones use about 600x the amount of data than feature phones, and tablets use about 800x more data. This is driving the demand for wireless infrastructure, but it’s also dictating what type of infrastructure we need. Rural America is a huge expanse of geography and there, towers will very much be the preferred option instead of crowded, metropolitan areas. However, this wasn’t always the case. “A few years ago it was macro site towers. In a few exceptional circumstances a DAS installation was justified,” Fitch explains. “At that time the industry was not as enthusiastic about DAS, it was expensive, more complicated, unlike the tower side DAS hadn’t sorted itself out. If there was going to be host sites or the mobile carriers were going to build and install their own DAS sites. There were a number of issues of DAS in the front end, but the situation flipped when people realized the benefits of DAS compared to macro cell sites. So then there was a pressure to do DAS instead of macro sites for a while. All of that has leveled out to a large degree. Local jurisdictions understand that they each have their trade offs and they each have their issues—as does most infra in one way or another.”

Michael Fitch pointed out that the factors that are driving the demand for wireless infrastructure are more wireless lines, users, and devices, more data per usage, more applications that increase usage, new frequency bands now require new antennas, increased throughput requires cell splitting, and large or indoor venues have different requirements. The location, population size, and amount of data usage will determine whether tall towers or small cells will work best.

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