Considering the densification and role that small cells will play in 5G, it’s no surprise that Ericsson is introducing the 5G Radio Dot, a small cell radio designed to meet the needs of advanced indoor mobile broadband in the era of 5G.
Ericsson said the 5G Radio Dot will undergo trials in late 2018 and will be commercially available in 2019. It did not name partners for the trials but said the 5G Radio Dot takes less than half the time to install compared to other indoor solutions, and it will support bands from 3 to 6 GHz with speeds up to 2 Gbps.
“Adding small cell solutions to our 5G portfolio is a natural part of the network evolution,” said Nishant Batra, head of Product Area Network Infrastructure at Ericsson, in a press release. “Enterprises have been asking for first-rate connectivity indoors, as well as higher speeds and capacity to serve advanced use cases that cannot be addressed by traditional indoor systems. Our 5G portfolio, bolstered by small cells, will enable operators to meet these demands.”
Daryl Schoolar, practice leader at Ovum, commented in the release that this new indoor solution from Ericsson is going to be attractive for operators wanting to offer enterprises good indoor performance for enhanced mobile broadband and new industrial applications that can’t be met by Wi-Fi or 5G base stations deployed outdoors.
“Now that first 5G standards are here, vendors are going to need multiple radio solutions to help operators roll out their new 5G networks," Schoolar said. "Ericsson takes an important initial step in this direction by adding indoor small cell 5G solutions to its already existing outdoor 5G RAN portfolio."
Ericsson's Radio Dots are small mobile broadband antennas that weigh around 300 grams and are designed to boost mobile coverage. The company launched the small cell product in the fourth quarter of 2014 and previously has said it’s a cost-effective means of quickly boosting capacity and network performance.
Ericsson has an advantage in that the Ericsson Radio Dot system is already deployed in 4G networks. As an evolution of the Ericsson Radio Dot System, operators will be able to deploy 5G Radio Dot next to 4G solutions using the same cabling infrastructure, same network architecture and dot locations. Ericsson said that will make it easy to add frequency, capacity and technologies for existing customers.
Martin Ljungberg, strategic product manager for small cell solutions at Ericsson, told Global Telecoms Business that Ericsson has about 70 customers for the existing version of Radio Dot, including big volumes from China, Japan and the U.S., but the new 5G Radio Dot operates in bands that are not available for 5G in the U.S.
(A spokesperson told FierceWirelessTech that while the U.S. does not have those bands for 5G, Ericsson will discuss with customers for a U.S.-specific solution.)
Meanwhile, the Radio Dot System has been deployed in places like office buildings, shopping malls, hospitals and airports. Over time, the small cell solution will also support 5G industrial applications from connected factories to more extreme cases such as connected mining. Ericsson says it’s a pioneer on this front, and its collaboration with Boliden shows how Radio Dot technology can improve safety and efficiency through the remote control of machines that keep people out of the most dangerous areas of the mine at the most dangerous times.
Editor's Note: Article updated Jan. 18 with information about the U.S. market.