(Click here to view article in digital edition)Collection of vast swathes of this so-called ‘ubiquitous data’ poses a significant challenge, and the demand for mobile data requirements is set to grow by more than 50 per cent by 2021. This data overload would cripple existing wireless networks – leading to an almost complete loss of connectivity in high traffic areas – and so there is a pressing need for new connectivity solutions. ‘Small cell’ networks are currently viewed as one of the only feasible solutions capable of solving the pressing data capacity problem in mobile communications. These low-powered radio access nodes typically have a range from 10 metres to hundreds of metres or more, and offer increased capacity by allowing the same frequencies to be used many times over within a larger geographical area. Small cell technologies are developing rapidly, and the latest generation devices offer self-organising, self-optimising multipoint-to-multipoint microwave communications that can be rapidly scaled to suit changing demand. The networks automatically adapt as new nodes are added, providing the flexibility essential to meet the ever growing data traffic demands of city centres. To maximise the benefits of this technology, small cell nodes should be easy to deploy and maintain, with a small physical footprint to allow cost-effective and discreet installation by non-specialist engineers.Unfortunately, there are a number of challenges currently facing the widespread deployment of these 5G enabling solutions in urban environments, with reliable outdoor operation proving a significant obstacle to success. Designing robust and easy to install small cell nodes which are able to withstand ambient temperatures ranging from -20 °C and up to +40 °C – as well as being dust- and waterproof – is particularly difficult, requiring the development of a number of specialist components to ensure reliable long term operation. Bulgin was tasked with delivering a cost-effective solution offering ‘fit and forget’ connectivity for both data (RJ45) and power (3 pin) transmission for small cell nodes. With a target installation time of just 15 minutes for the complete node, rapid assembly was a crucial consideration. Our solutionBulgin was able to provide cost-efficient connectivity solutions for power and data transmission that could be assembled quickly and operate across an extremely broad temperature range. The company’s 400 Series power and standard Ethernet connectors were chosen to provide secure, highly reliable and environmentally-sealed connections that would be unaffected by weather conditions such as rain, snow, dust and extreme temperatures. These IP68 and IP69k rated connectors offer exceptional environmental protection, with power connectors providing a high power rating in a small form factor – as well as carrying CCC, UL, CSA and VDE approvals – and RJ45 data connectors enabling data transfer rates of up to 100 MHz. Using these connectors instead of hard wiring the individual nodes allows them to be installed and set up within the allotted 15 minutes, enabling straightforward and practical growth of small cell networks as required. Now carrying UL certification, small cell nodes using Bulgin’s robust and proven connectors are currently operating in field trials around the world. By providing an easy to install and reliable solution for the rapid expansion of small cell networks, this will help to support 5G networks in urban environments and meet the world’s future data demands.
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