Mobile network operators are already planning and deploying new C-Band radios, ahead of the first wave of spectrum that will be cleared and available in December of this year. This new spectrum will play a critical role in filling the spectrum gap between millimeter wave and sub-6 GHz frequencies, according to Trey Nemeth, General Manager and Senior Vice President of Small Cell and R&D at Raycap. C-Band airwaves have better propagation and penetration characteristics than mmWave and can support wider bandwidths than existing lower cellular frequencies.
Raycap has unique insights on C-Band deployment, as a company that not only manufactures infrastructure products that connect, protect and conceal wireless tech, but is involved with the concealment deployment process all the way from advising on potential options early in the site acquisition process to providing photo-simulations or drawings that assist with local approvals, and then working directly with construction managers and installers after approval. Raycap is already seeing carriers prep for C-Band deployments that will incorporate new radios and antennas that will go on rooftops and existing macro tower sites, Nemeth says.
“These C-Band radios have very robust 5G functionality, and the carriers are really focused on this at the moment,” he adds.
Although C-Band is still considered midband spectrum, it’s a higher frequency than has been used in traditional cellular deployments, Nemeth notes. The introduction of new radios and spectrum means that Raycap must carefully assess and test the structural, thermal and material design of concealment products to make sure they support the specific characteristics of the band and the technology.
“These frequencies are very sensitive to what kind of concealment material is being used,” Nemeth says. Raycap has conducted testing that has shown older concealment materials that have a high glass content, such as fiberglass, degrade C-Band radio performance. Since operators are initially pursuing putting C-Band gear on existing sites so that they can deploy quickly, they and their site contractors need to be aware that they could run into issues where the existing concealment materials could impede C-Band signals.
“With the concealed sites, you really have to look at the concealment material,” Nemeth explains. “There have been concealed cell sites being built since the mid-1990s. We were involved in a lot of them. And so, there are tens of thousands of them out there, and as you go to deploy C-Band on one of these existing sites, step one is to look at what kind of concealment material was used originally during the construction, and is it compatible with the C-Band frequencies? If not, we have to look for ways to retrofit those.
“Even though these existing concealments may have worked fine for the lower frequencies, once you put these new, higher frequencies with 5G functionality, like C-Band has, you can run into some problems,” Nemeth says, going on to add, “We’re seeing this becoming more common.”
To address this issue, Raycap has a full line of C-Band compliant concealment materials, available in a full portfolio of form factors from radomes to rooftop screenwalls to even larger panels for use in clock or bell towers. Retrofitting is a more complex proposition than just adding a new radio on tower, Nemeth says, because it’s important to maintain the structural capacity of the site as well as to make sure that the new concealment material matches the aesthetic of the existing one while still being C-Band-friendly.
“Ultimately, it’s important to partner with an experienced concealment expert, with materials that are approved by the carriers, and really make sure that we’re ensuring proper site performance after installation,” Nemeth says.
The full video interview with Nemeth, in two parts, is available below. For more information about Raycap’s C-Band-compliant product portfolio, click here.
The post A hidden challenge of C-Band deployment: Legacy concealment infrastructure appeared first on RCR Wireless News.