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En Route To 5G: Benefits And Challenges Of Implementing C-Band


5G is set to bring forth a slew of new connectivity features, including better cellular coverage and hefty speed improvements over previous cellular generations.

However, as networks transition from 4G to 5G, mobile network operators, or carriers, must have the right infrastructure in place — one that is built on 4G, but has the capacity to deliver 5G service.

5G requires a new framework including broad, dedicated channels and multiple antennas to ensure strong signal, said William Shouldis, vice president of engineering at Intenna Systems, a provider of in-building wireless solutions.

Shouldis said that to provide users with 5G-quality service, mobile network operators are implementing C-Band — or midband radio frequencies that help provide speedy connections and wide-ranging coverage.

“If not for C-Band, enjoying 5G benefits could be something we will all be waiting on for a long while," Shouldis said. "To achieve the full potential of 5G, the carriers need more expansive channel sizes to allow large amounts of data to pass through and provide the speeds that everyone is waiting for. We need those big channel sizes, which is where C-Band comes in. ”

He said that currently, the 5G phones people have are not capable of delivering 5G service nor can the speed be faster than the current 4G LTE because the necessary infrastructure is not yet in place.

While the big three operators, Verizon, ATT and T-Mobile, are working to build these new networks, C-Band is seen as a "middle ground" between mmWave and legacy midbands. While the mmWave has a large channel, the signal doesn’t transmit far. And while legacy bands transmit signals the farthest, sizes are smaller and therefore offer lower throughput speeds.

“The C-Band is an ideal balance in the spectrum, giving good coverage that will allow for reasonable deployment costs, but also provides the channel sizes that are required to get the 5G experience,” Shouldis said.

Despite the benefits, Shouldis said there are challenges to getting C-Band into buildings from outdoor networks. In order for C-Band to work well, an in-building radio frequency design that is tailored to the unique building materials and environment of each building would be required. Each system requires a head end location that can allocate cellular signals from the core network as well as enough room in telecommunications closets for the distribution amplifiers to reside.

Additionally, he said, some manufacturers have been facing issues with building the right equipment due to supply chain shortages and issues with materials getting delivered on time for service providers to install.

“Throughout 2022, there’s been a challenge to get access to the components that can support a C-Band network,” Shouldis said. “By mid-2023, the equipment manufacturers should have the components needed for us to build C-Band networks, but there have been slowdowns through 2022.”

To ensure that indoor wireless can function with optimum performance, providers such as Intenna Systems may still need to install a distributed antenna system, or a group of antennas responsible for delivering cell signals within a building. That allows recipients to have a strong and clear cellular connection.

“A lot of the building materials that are used in today’s construction to achieve the LEED compliances may block cellular signals,” Shouldis said. “Building owners are going to need to provide their building with a DAS that can support C-Band because as the operators begin to deploy their networks in higher frequency ranges, the outdoor network isn’t going to penetrate the indoor environment as well.”

Although users may have to wait a while to experience the full spectrum of 5G, with the right building infrastructure and equipment in place, an in-building provider can install C-Band along with a DAS to deliver a 5G-quality coverage. 

“The carriers developing the right equipment and elements of their network is what’s going to carry us through the coming years as 5G rollouts,” Shouldis said. 

This article was produced in collaboration between Studio B and Intenna Systems. Bisnow news staff was not involved in the production of this content.

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