There is a long held vision of very high capacity networks using small cells in areas of high demand. With the expected availability of large quantities of mmWave spectrum for 5G, this opportunity in principle becomes even greater. But the economics of small cell deployment have proved very challenging in practice – and this challenge will only increase at mmWave frequencies, where coverage of an individual cell is typically even smaller. Unless the industry can find ways to reduce the per cell building, operation and maintenance costs, the opportunity to build out small cell networks using mmWave spectrum will be severely constrained.
This NGMN report aims to identify and assess different approaches to improving the economics of small cells through some form of cost sharing between operators (with 5G small cells possibly anchored to an LTE coverage layer). This study considers different economic models (including such as independent “neutral host” or jointly owned infrastructure companies) as well as technology aspects.