Telcos push for more mobile phone base stations around homes to deliver faster downloads
THOUSANDS more mobile phone base stations could be installed near homes and playgrounds under a plan by Australia’s telecommunications industry to deliver next-generation mobile internet technology.
The industry is lobbying the Federal Government to relax strict rules around installing mobile phone infrastructure in residential areas, and to streamline regulations for freestanding mobile towers in cities to accelerate the introduction of 5G networks.
The new networking technology promises to deliver mobile download speeds up to 100 times faster than today, and enable innovations including driverless cars, remote surgery, smart homes, and even smart street lighting.
But the Federal Government has already warned “some members of the community have expressed concerns about … increased telecommunications infrastructure” in their neighbourhoods, and telcos should consult with communities before installing equipment.
The revelations follow the release of a comprehensive report on 5G infrastructure by the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association this week, and come just one week after the Federal Government announced it would establish a working group to drive its deployment in Australia.
The 5G Mobile report, prepared with Deloitte Access Economics, found Australian mobile phone providers would likely spend $5.7 billion on mobile network this financial year alone, and 5G would support innovations such as smart home technology, autonomous cars, and more robotics in industry by the time it arrived in 2020.
But it also noted 5G would require significantly more mobile phone infrastructure, and recommended the federal government “broaden” laws around installing mobile base stations, and reconsider “stricter regulations around deploying low-impact facilities in residential zones.”
“Given increasing demand for mobile services and capacity constraints, as well as the potential need for network densification, the government could reconsider whether the stronger regulation reflects community views and preferences,” the report recommended.
Though the international standard for 5G networks is still being formalised, the technology promises to deliver internet download speeds of up to 10 gigabits per second, and up to 100 times more speed than currently advertised 4G speeds in Australia of up to 100 megabits per second.
The speed boost could mean users would download a full high-definition movie to their smartphone in seconds, but it could also make advances like remote surgery possible, and 5G’s low latency, or quick reaction times, would deliver almost real-time traffic data for smart vehicles.
5G technology could also connect more devices to the internet at once, allowing smart fridges, lighting, door locks, and televisions to communicate independently of a broadband connection.
But Telecommunications analyst Paul Budde said 5G networks required more mobile base stations to achieve these connections and faster speeds, and potential users did not realise just how many more antennas and towers would be littered throughout cities, and possibly suburbs.
“I don’t think consumers realise how much infrastructure will increase,” Mr Budde said.
“5G uses a different spectrum and you’ll have far more capacity but over shorter distances, so it requires many more towers to provide that high-capacity data.
“There will be so many antennas on buildings around town that, eventually, you might not even notice it.”
READ MORE: Australians will be among the first to use 5G networks
France’s independent telecommunications regulator estimated 5G would require 10 small mobile base stations installed for every existing mobile phone tower, possibly on bus shelters, lampposts, and billboards, in addition to larger antennas on existing towers.
But AMTA chief executive Chris Althaus said the mobile phone base stations required were “not much bigger than a coffee cup” even though there would be “lots of them”.
Australia would probably be one of the first nations in the world to use 5G technology, he said, following trials at next year’s Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, and demand for higher speeds was “very high”.
Mr Althaus said the Federal Government would need to move quickly to ensure carriers could install new base stations to deliver the technology, though he said some residents may have health concerns about more phone towers.
“There’s certainly been some commentary but there’s no expectation of any variations in the current standards from a health point of view,” he said.
“The frequencies that you’re talking about have been around in the industry for some time. Airport scanners, for example, have used this sort of frequency.”
In its 5G whitepaper, the Federal Government said it recognised the need for more mobile base stations but telcos should work with communities and should consider “consultation requirements for future 5G networks”.