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Taking Next Generation Mobile Technology Challenges Head On

By Gayan Koralage, Director of Strategy, edotco Group.

We live in a time where we use our devices to book holidays, fill up on groceries, pay our bills and track our fitness regimes. Our mobile phones have even allowed us to replace owning a car with the emergence of ride hailing apps. But have you stopped to think about what goes on behind the scenes, from the first request tap to when your ride arrives at your doorstep? More interestingly, have you thought about the map of data that transfers as hundreds of people book their holidays, receive their packages and auto pay their bills?

Healthcare, transportation, retail, manufacturing, financial services – one thing all industries have in common is that they have embraced technology to progress. Acknowledging that everything we do these days is data driven, improved connectivity and strategic investments in telecommunications infrastructure is key in actualizing this progress.

Gayan Koralage, Director of Strategy, edotco Group

The average Malaysian spends close to 4 hours per day on their mobile phones. Average data consumption has increased from 2GB per month in 2016 to the 8GB per month range per user today and is expected to reach 1GB per day per user by 2022.The mainstreaming of Internet of Things (IoT), with machine-to-machine connectivity as a prime driver, will continue to grow the nation’s appetite for data even further. This, coupled with developments within the telecommunications industry to be 5G ready, necessitates infrastructure providers to develop and evolve quicker so that they can keep pace and satisfy seemingly insatiable data demands. The introduction of 5G will create new demands on the telecommunications industry as things like high definition videos and augmented realities become a part of our day to day lives.

Keeping up with this evolution means telecommunications infrastructures need to evolve from traditional sky-scraping structures and must be designed to be agile and scalable to accommodate increased coverage and capacity requirements. Mobile network operators will need to be able to provide data at rapid speed, in low latency and in large volume.

Adding a layer of complexity is that some areas within the urban make up are denser and have a higher appetite for connectivity. Cities also require concise planning to ensure these structures fit within the maze of today’s concrete jungles while ensuring they are aesthetically appropriate and everyone gets the required amount of capacity. So how do we prepare for such densification especially in areas which don’t allow for traditional steel lattice telecoms infrastructures?

Enter smart lamp-poles and smart street furniture. The telecoms infrastructure industry must look to the development of small cells, a radio access point with low radio frequency (RF) power output, footprint and range that can be deployed indoors or outdoors.

Small cells are a practical solution for dense, vertical urban environments with little available land as they require up to 80% less space than traditional macro cells. What it basically does is condense a traditional tower site into a gadget the size of your palm. An added advantage is that they do not have to be mounted at high elevation, making bus stops, billboards and such suitable platforms for added connectivity.

Here is where independent telecommunications infrastructure providers can add value. With small cells and improved location planning, we have the expertise and capabilities to provide better coverage while reducing redundant structures, maintaining the aesthetics of an urban skyline. Street level infrastructure, camouflaged structures and lamp poles are all viable alternatives to addressing our nation’s digital needs.

As technology advances, panels of bus stops can be converted into radio antennae while transmitters and boosters take on the form of pseudo-manhole covers. These solutions are ideal for densely populated indoor spaces that experience sudden surges of heavy traffic such as airports, campuses, malls and even subways due to their sleek designs.

Another option that will serve connectivity needs, especially during crowded events are Cell on Wings (COW). These drones with radios attached to them are particularly useful during states of emergencies such as floods where power outages cut coverage and traditional Cell on Wheels that require land transportation cannot be deployed.

With the rollout of 5G on the horizon, small cells will play an increasingly pivotal role in the future of telecommunications. Malaysia, known for its progressive people and early adoption of digital technology is a prime test bed for small cells solutions. We have already seen camouflage structures constructed in Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya, BTS Hotel solutions in Cyberjaya and experienced the enhanced coverage in the Bukit Jalil stadium since it was fit with In-Building Solutions. We are also in the process of testing the regions first multi-operator small cell solution in Kuala Lumpur.

Ultimately, telecommunications infrastructure must be designed with the end user in mind. It is paramount that new technology and services are continuously adopted and adapted to address future demands. As we dash towards Industry 4.0 and the digitization of the economy, telecommunications infrastructure will be the foundation on which this nation building aspiration is built upon. So, what are we waiting for?