Who pays for small cell deployments in the evolution to 5G?
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Muquid Ali, European VP of Operations, AWTG
The technical challenges of small cells, in terms of functionality and feature sets, are being met and resolved. However, the main remaining challenge facing the industry now is not technical, but financial – who pays for the deployment and operation of small cells? Operators are reluctant, as they see it as a difficult business model with uncertain return on investment, while users are also hesitant to invest, as they see this as a service that operators should offer them as part of their contract. So small cell and deployment vendors are stuck in the middle, with all parties reluctant to step forward.
Yet they must, as small cells will play a critical role in the provision of 5G services. Some 20 to 30 times more small cells will be need to be deployed to meet new capacity demands. Operators need to deploy a lot more infrastructure as they move towards becoming digital service providers, and will have to partner with governments and local authorities to deploy small cells and hence realise the potential of 5G.
Filmed at: SCWS World, London, 2017