Small cells increase telecoms network range and capacity in densely populated urban areas which cannot be sustained by macro cells on their own, filling coverage gaps and increasing bandwidth. This is particularly important in the age of increasing mobile data usage, smart cities and the Internet of Things.
Small cells are key drivers of 5G communications. Network operators will not only use the low and mid-band spectrum that existing mobile networks rely on; to deliver 5G they will also need to use the high-band spectrum. This spectrum only carries over short distances (as opposed to the longer distances covered by lower frequencies), so carriers will need a much more dense collection of access points.
These access points, or nodes, are the small cells required to power 5G. They might well be situated on city lamp posts, on commercial buildings or on traffic lights.
Small cells are capable of transmitting high data rates in distances between 10 metres and 2 kilometres, both indoors and outdoors. This is important because macro antennas sometimes have a hard time providing coverage indoors, and small cells are ideal for use in just these places where macro antennas cannot reach. Sports stadiums, college campuses and exhibition halls can all be very well served by small cell sites.