The three telecommunications carriers of KDDI, Softbank, and Rakuten have announced that they will perform verification tests for communications employing joint-use antenna facilities for “5G,” the next generation of wireless network technology. The tests will be conducted from April through September 2019. Joining hands with TEPCO Power Grid (PG), an electricity transmission and distribution company, they will set up joint-use antennae on utility poles. 5G requires more base stations than the current 4G does, and the companies aim to reduce their investment costs by employing joint-use facilities.
To date, telecommunications carriers have shared facilities in subway tunnels and other places where it is hard to install antennae, but it has been rare for carriers to share facilities in ordinary areas. From the perspective of safety, the installation of antennae on utility poles has generally been limited to one per utility pole, it is said.
TEPCO PG will install joint-use antennae on its utility poles in the Kanto region, and the mobile carriers will each install a base station on the lower half of the pole. The details of the tests, including where they will be conducted, will be decided in coming days. The tests will mainly examine radio interference and stability.
The companies aim to reduce the burden of their 5G investment by installing joint-use antennae. The radio waves used in 5G do not travel as far as those employed in 4G. For example, the frequency of the 28 GHz frequency band, which has been allocated to 5G, is said to be able to travel a radius of only a few hundred meters. More base stations must be set up to build a network that is easily connectable. NTT Docomo and KDDI each plan to invest 1 trillion yen in 5G over the next five years.
The three companies are mulling also working with other electricity transmission and distribution companies in addition to TEPCO PG. Docomo says, “We are mulling participating in the testing once the 5G radio waves have actually been allocated.”
The Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications says that securing places to install base stations will be an issue in the roll-out of 5G. At the end of 2018, the Ministry announced guidelines for the joint use of some facilities indoors and outdoors.