Small cells will be key to enterprise, industrial 5G applications

HONG KONG–During its annual 4G/5G Summit, Qualcomm executives repeatedly called out the role 5G could play in opening up new enterprise and industrial applications. Because the vast majority of connected activities enterprises and industries rely on take place inside, coupled with the challenges that come with an inside-out approach to in-building coverage, that means bringing RF signal inside with small cells.

Qualcomm’s Durga Malladi, SVP of Engineering and general manager of 4G/5G, discussed this dynamic during a keynote panel led by Patrick Moorehead, founder of Moor Insights and Strategy.

“There’s something very interesting. If you were here last year we talked a lot about how millimeter wave is going to look in a dense deployment in downtown areas, dense urban areas. That was an outdoor base stations serving outdoor users. As we have kind of have looked into it a lot more…what we considered earlier as a challenge–the idea that you want to serve indoor users from outdoors–we said, ‘Well, that’s going to be a problem because of the propagation issues.’ Actually it’s an opportunity.”

He continued: “Now you can have indoor base stations, indoor small cells, serving users inside. These private networks can go into enterprises, they can go into stadiums and hot spots…this kind of is a very unique situation with millimeter wave where now we’re beginning to understand what we can do with it both in outdoors but also indoors.”

Qualcomm Senior Director of Technical Marketing Rasmus Hellberg also discussed bringing 5G indoors in a separate presentation for media and analysts. Outdoor millimeter wave propagation faces challenges like bouncing off of trees, he said, but that’s not as much of an issue in indoor environments like a stadium.

“It’s perfect for the stadium,” he said. “You have a lot of line-of-sight, you can address a lot of users. We also want to extend millimeter wave to enterprises.”

More on enterprise and industrial applications of 5G: Hellberg said the industry “to some extent has struggled to define use cases for this mission critical” aspect of 5G that brings low latency, high throughput and ultra-reliability. “That’s exactly the need of the factory of the future. Today in a factory we have a lot of fixed things. They want to get rid of this fixed Ethernet connections and make everything wireless. That link has to be extremely reliable and low latency and that is where this mission critical comes in. It can take out or replace the fixed Ethernet with wireless…to get more reconfigurable, flexible factory of the future.”

Also on the small cell front, Qualcomm made an announcement during the 4G/5G Summit with Samsung, which is using Qualcomm’s FSM100xx chip to make its small cells capable of supporting sub-6 GHz and millimeter wave frequencies. Samsung projects it will sample the new small cells in the 2020 timeframe.






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