Ericsson says it will add 5G capabilities to its Radio Dot indoor small cell this year, and make the solution commercially available in 2019. The company says mobile network operators will not be able to meet indoor coverage needs with 5G outdoor radios. Even today, LTE networks do not offer sufficient coverage in many buildings, and the millimeter wave frequencies that some operators will use for 5G are even less capable of penetrating walls.

Ericsson is promising a 5G indoor small cell by 2019 even though a final 5G standard is not yet in place. Last month, international standards body 3GPP finalized the non-standalone 5G New Radio (NR) specification, which uses new 5G modulation schemes for data transmission, but falls back to LTE for the control of that data in the network. Ericsson is highly involved in the development of the 5G standard.

The 5G Radio Dot will support frequencies from 3 to 6 GHz. Ericsson said it will deliver up to 2Gbps, and will leverage the same local area network cabling used for existing LTE Radio Dot installations.

The elements of the Radio Dot system are a small, circular ceiling-mounted antenna/radio unit, a contoller, and a baseband unit which modulates and demodulates the signal and connects to backhaul. The controller and baseband hardware can be located together or separated.

Analysts expect to see significant growth in deployments of controller-based small cells, which are seen as an alternative to active distributed antenna systems. Like DAS, controller-based small cells have the potential to cover even the largest office buildings and can support more than one frequency band.

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