Risk of resistance to neighbourhood 5G access points
5G technology coupled with an explosion in demand for mobile broadband may mean there will be a cellsite on almost every street within several years, experts say.
Network company Chorus, which is building most of the ultrafast broadband network, says it could add a network of 5G access points to its fibre network to avoid the need for unnecessary duplication.
By 2025 it was possible that there could be fibre-connected 5G access points every ‘‘couple of hundred metres apart’’, if not closer, spokesman Ian Bonnar said.
But he dismissed the likelihood of Chorus getting involved in the mobile market in competition with the existing players, suggesting instead that any role Chorus took would be in wholesaling infrastructure.
5G is not yet a settled standard, but is expected to bring much increased mobile broadband speeds and reduced lag.
Telecommunications Users Association chief executive Craig Young said the mobile operators had built their own networks up to now, and sometimes relied on roaming agreements.
But they had taken a big step by
"We might get an environmental pushback." Telecommunications Users Association chief executive Craig Young
agreeing to share infrastructure that would be funded under the second leg of the Government’s Rural Broadband Initiative, in a collaboration which also involves sharing radio spectrum.
‘‘That shows the technology is there now to allow that to be done,’’ Young said.
‘‘If you are a wholesaler like Chorus and you’re thinking about what the future looks like, then here is an opportunity. Timing wise, I think we are talking two or three years.’’
Young said the 5G ‘‘micro sites’’ he had seen were boxes about the size of a ‘‘decent computer printer’’ that might be put on poles or attached to the sides of buildings, and were not ‘‘overly attractive’’.
AT&T chief executive Randall Stephenson took a model to the White House in June to demonstrate its vision of how it could install 5G in US cities.
Young speculated that the New Zealand Government might be drawn into a debate on how the technology was introduced.
‘‘We might get an environmental pushback as a society, saying we don’t want three mobile towers or companies putting in three access points every few hundred metres.’’
The installation of ultrafast broadband (UFB) to the street is due to be completed by the end of 2022, and after that Chorus might have little work to do other than maintaining it.
Young agreed fixed-line broadband providers had found it difficult to earn large margins selling UFB because they were all selling a common input.
‘‘Mobile companies like to control their own networks, so they own the end-to-end process and also the margins.’’
But they might face a tipping point once they worked out how many 5G sites they actually needed, he said.
Young was unsure whether relations in the industry were currently good enough to promote infrastructure sharing.
Spark and Chorus have clashed repeatedly over the former’s promotion of wireless broadband over the latest copper technologies wholesaled by Chorus.
However, Bonnar said a lot could happen in the time it took for 5G technology to unfold.