2019-07-29 17:13:00
Author: Wang Xin – Communications Industry Network


In the 5G era, the tepid small cell (SmallCell) that has been developing in the country will usher in a new outlet.
This has become the consensus view of the industry. Many authoritative organizations and industry experts also make predictions on the scale of 5G small base stations.
CCID Consulting predicted in the “White Paper on 5G Industry and Application Development 2018” that 5G will adopt the “macro station + small station” network coverage model. In the next five years, in hot areas, the number of small station constructions in China will be macro. The number of stations will be 9.5 million.
At the same time, Wei Leping, executive deputy director of the Communication Technology Committee of the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, also pointed out in a recent public speech that there will be huge opportunities for small base stations in the 5G era. The number of small base stations in the Chinese market is expected to be in the tens of millions.

In the 5G era, a wealth of small base station products will enter “ten thousand households.”
The market scale of ten million is stimulating the vitality of the domestic small base station market. At present, head communications equipment vendors such as Huawei, Ericsson, Nokia, ZTE, and China Information Technology have all launched 5G small base station products, while companies such as Ruisikanda, Sunsea Intelligent, Bangxun Technology, and Xinhua are also exerting their own advantages. Actively develop 5G small base stations to seize a new round of commercial blue ocean.

Surging abroad

Small base stations do not need to be installed on iron towers and are relatively small in size. They are generally used in hotspots with large numbers of users and large traffic requirements, such as shopping centers and large-scale event centers.
From the perspective of the basic structure, both the small base station and the macro station are composed of RRU (radio frequency processing unit), BBU (baseband processing unit), active antenna, and repeater (repeater). Small base stations have low transmit power, typically between 100mW and 5W, and are lightweight, only 2kg to 10kg. According to the form of small base station, it can be divided into micro base station (MicroCell), pico base station (PicoCell), and femtocell (FemtoCell).
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From the perspective of deployment methods, micro base stations are generally deployed outdoors, mostly in the form of light pole stations, while pico base stations and femto base stations are mostly deployed indoors, providing supplementary coverage of hotspots.
In fact, since 2007, small base stations have taken the lead in commercializing in the United States. Since then, the development of small base stations in Europe, America and other countries has been advancing all the way. In the 5G era, foreign demand for the construction of small base stations is even higher. For example, the US FCC decided in 2018 to simplify the deployment permit and site selection process for 5G small base stations, speed up the approval process for small base stations in various places, and hope to deploy 800,000 5G small base stations by 2025.
Due to various factors, in the 5G era, the domestic small base station market will also usher in an inflection point.

Inflection point in the country

Several industry experts told the reporter of the Communication Industry News (Net) that in the 5G era, business scenarios are shifting to indoors, ultra-dense networking, small base station performance innovation, flexible deployment and other reasons. Small base stations will usher in blowout development.
First, there are more indoor business scenarios. Leading companies in the industry have proposed that indoors will carry about 70% of 5G services. In the 5G era, typical business scenarios will shift more from outdoor to indoor, such as 5G’s VR / AR, 4K / 8K ultra-high-definition video live broadcast, telemedicine, and many other services will occur indoors.

Small base stations play the role of hotspot coverage indoors. Therefore, from the commercial 5G of the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in South Korea to the first domestic 5G airport, 5G subway station, 5G train station, 5G smart hotel, etc. are all based on 5G small base stations.
Secondly, use Ultra-Dense Network (UDN) to improve spectrum efficiency and service rate. To address the traffic needs in hotspots, ultra-dense networking will be implemented. As we all know, 5G is deployed in higher frequency bands, which makes the coverage of macro stations smaller. If 5G achieves the same network coverage as 4G, more macro stations are needed. However, the macro station deployment cost is high, and the site resource acquisition is difficult. Therefore, in the future, the macro station + small station method will be used for dense networking.

Thirdly, with the help of 5G standards, the performance of small base stations is innovated. Like the macro station, the small base station is composed of RRU, BBU, active antenna, and repeater (repeater). In the 4G era, small base stations need to integrate the functions of two devices, RRU and BBU. Due to the limited volume requirements, the chip processing capability is different from that of traditional macro base stations. Therefore, users’ complaints are common due to the abnormal operation of base station software. However, under the 5G standard, based on the CU / DU architecture, placing the physical layer functions of the original BBU in the AAU can reduce the processing requirements of the small base station chip and avoid the problem of abnormal operation of the small base station to a certain extent.
Finally, deployment is flexible and saves energy. Subject to the 5G energy consumption problem, operators will deploy 5G networks more targeted, and small base stations, due to their flexible deployment advantages, can be deployed on light poles, hidden locations such as large trees, and will become the operator’s first choice.

Market vitality emerges

Under the strong market appeal, domestic small base station enterprises are erupting.
Therefore, according to incomplete statistics, there are currently more than 20 companies in the world that can provide small base station products. In the 5G era, in addition to communication equipment vendors such as Huawei, Ericsson, Nokia, ZTE, and China Information Technology, Ruisikanda, Rihai Chinese companies such as Smart and Bangxun have stated that they are actively researching and developing 5G small base stations.
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At present, the development of domestic small base stations presents several characteristics.
First of all, head companies form a comprehensive solution for indoor and outdoor 5G small base stations, covering 5G mainstream frequency bands. For example, Huawei can provide AtomCell series of highly integrated small cell products outdoors, and can provide LampSite, Pico and Service anchor solutions indoors.
Secondly, the indoor deployment scheme is changing the traditional DAS (passive room division) method and shifting to DIS (active digitalization). Earlier, China Mobile explicitly stated in the TD-LTE network construction that a large number of new room division systems including digital room divisions should be adopted for new room divisions. Huawei, Ericsson, Datang Mobile and other companies have launched digital indoor deployment solutions.
The traditional DAS system is a passive room division system with low construction cost and mature technology, but cannot support 3.5GHz high-frequency, xTxRMIMO technology. The DIS system has flexible deployment, good coverage and capacity, and can achieve indoor accurate positioning and visual operation and maintenance functions, but the construction cost is relatively high.

Once again, emerging small base station companies expect cornering to overtake. Xinhua San launched a 5G white box small base station in June with Intel and China Telecom, hoping to use the open source white box small base station to fight the small base station market with traditional equipment vendors.
White box small base stations can achieve white boxing of BBUs and white boxing of RRUs. BBU white-boxing is based on general-purpose server baseband processing, introducing software and hardware decoupling, enabling IT vendors to join in, and realizing hardware generalization; white-boxing of RRU realizes approximate selection of key devices by sharing hardware design among equipment vendors Unify, lower the market threshold for small base stations, and increase system flexibility.
Finally, the light pole station may become the “head card” of the small base station. Small base stations have been constantly changing in shape, and small base stations may be hidden in infrastructure such as manhole covers and light poles. With the blowout development of 5G small base stations in China, light pole stations that can get along with the social environment will become the breaking point of domestic 5G small base station construction.
Light pole station becomes a breaking point

At present, Guangzhou, Jiangsu, Wuhan, Anhui, Chongqing and other provinces and cities have put the construction of light pole stations on the agenda, and Guangzhou, Wuhan and other provinces and cities have issued relevant policies to clarify the construction goals of light pole stations.
For example, Wuhan issued the Wuhan 5G Base Station Planning and Construction Implementation Plan, which clearly states that 3000 macro base stations and more than 27224 micro base stations will be constructed. In 2019, it will provide 5G network commercialization for Wuhan Military Games. In 2020, a 5G network covering the entire city will be built and fully commercialized.

At the same time, Guangdong Province stated in the “2019 Guangzhou 5G Network Construction Work Plan” that it is necessary to accelerate the promotion of smart light poles from two aspects: road construction and urban renewal. 4,157 smart light poles will be built (reconstructed) in 2019. .
Market analysis agencies predict that in the next five years, the number of light pole stations in China will reach 60% of the total number of small base station constructions, with about 6 million units. The average construction cost of a small base station is about 15,000 yuan, which means that the market size of light pole stations will reach 90 billion yuan.
At present, Huawei, ZTE, Ericsson, Nokia, China Information Technology and other five major equipment vendors have launched multi-functional smart light pole solutions, which are also highly recognized by the market. However, it is worth noting that the development of multifunctional smart light poles still faces the problem of non-uniform standards, which will bring challenges to later management.
Therefore, it is necessary to form a unified standard at an early date and form a benign industrial chain in order to form an industrial scale.