Top three challenges for 5G antenna system performance

APR 19, 2021



With each previous generation of mobile connectivity, from 2G through 4G, we’ve seen a steady increase of complexity in the antenna tower architecture. With the arrival of 5G, mobile operators and infrastructure providers are challenged to roll out more frequencies, antenna systems and other equipment into tower tops than ever before. This results in greater signal complexity, which causes an increase in interference, especially PIM. In turn, PIM and other factors can lead to uplink degradation. This can hold back the downlink and network capacity as a whole. At the same time, finding a cost-effective and space-efficient way of addressing the PIM and uplink challenges is a challenge in and of itself. 

Mobile operators and infrastructure providers who effectively address these challenges will be poised to set a new standard of excellence in network performance in their market. In this sense, the challenges can also be seen as great opportunities. 

1. Increased signal complexity poses new interference challenges 

With the addition of 5G to the mix of existing frequencies, we’re entering a far more complex frequency world. This is especially the case considering that 5G demands higher frequencies such as 3.5 GHz. The fact that 5G is also being deployed on a non-standalone (NSA) basis alongside 4G is another contributor to the increase in signal complexity. We also have more equipment closer to or integrated into antennas and are stuffing more frequencies into the same box. 

All of this means that we have far greater signal complexity and more frequencies in closer proximity to one another. As a result, the risk of interference, especially PIM, is now higher than ever. 

2. A weak uplink could be the Achilles’ heel of your network coverage 

As much as the downlink is often prioritized in 5G, it’s important not to forget an essential fact: there’s no downlink without an uplink. In turn, downlink degradation due to a weak uplink can be caused by PIM in NSA deployments with the uplink on insufficiently strong 4G. The uplink can also severely affect the downlink performance in 3.5 GHz SA mode due to link imbalance and PIM. 

One of the most significant signs of an insufficient uplink is to compare uplink and downlink network coverage. This is where we often see that the uplink does not reach as far as the downlink. As a result, you can only effectively serve customers and generate revenue as far as the uplink reaches. 

All of this demands new and more effective approaches to uplink amplification as well as excellent PIM performance. 

3. Overcrowded towers lead to cost inefficiencies 

Increased signal complexity also takes up more tower-top space, and that can be problematic for several reasons. One is that tower landlords charge many operators by the number of boxes. This means that costs can increase as you add more boxes to accommodate the needs of 5G. If you aren’t careful, your box count can increase rapidly – both to deploy the additional signals and to optimize them. 

Tower loading is also a crucial parameter for cost control and avoiding a greater regulatory burden. More boxes result in more weight. But more importantly, multiple antennas can be heavy, and the MIMO antennas used for 5G tend to require large areas. These can also add a significant amount of wind load to the tower. 

Solving the interference and uplink challenges involves even more equipment, including interference filters and amplifiers. As a result, mobile operators and infrastructure providers like you are challenged to find smart ways to save space and keep costs under control while further optimizing network performance. 

How to overcome these challenges 

Meeting these challenges without compromising on either performance or space is no simple task. To help you along the way, we share more in-depth analysis of these three challenges along with insights and best practices for how to solve them in our guide. Get your free copy of “Securing excellence in antenna system performance for 5G and beyond”. You can download it and read more at Guide.png

Don’t hesitate to get in touch with us to discuss next gen antenna system performance for your markets and your needs. At Kaelus, we believe it will be essential for all of us to gain increased knowledge and insights to ensure the best possible mobile network. Let’s enable the connected society of tomorrow together.