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5G Small Cell Deployments are Booming — and Redefining the Requirements for Coaxial Cables and Connectors
Kevin Moyher, Product Manager, Times Microwave
Global connections and data sharing needs are growing by the day, making a high performance communication infrastructure vital to support economic, social, and infrastructure activities. 5G has emerged as a network that offers a high level of interconnectivity with the promise to deliver increased peak data speeds, ultra-low latency, enhanced reliability, enormous network capacity, and increased availability.
However, this revolutionary technology requires substantial expansion and upgrades to existing network infrastructure. For example, to deploy 5G, the network must be densified, which means more cell sites in more locations to get the signal closer to users. Small cells are one of the most practical means of attaining this densification.
5G small cell applications use MIMO antennas to enable the delivery of data in the millisecond speed range with low latency. This type of antenna has multiple-in/multiple-out feeds, which has led to substantial growth in the number of RF ports, making installation increasingly complex. Furthermore, 5G antennas are also shrinking in size as higher frequency bands are used to accommodate larger bandwidth requirements, which translates into more antennas — as well as the corresponding RF cables and connectors needed to attach them — in a much smaller space.
The cables, connectors, and RF solutions deployed in 5G applications are integral for successful signal transmission with minimal loss or interference. Emerging bundled coaxial cable and cluster connector solutions support the high- density infrastructure needed for 5G. Key considerations for optimizing RF interconnect systems to accommodate the unique requirements of 5G deployments include component density and low PIM performance.
Component density
In urban and suburban areas, direct line-of-sight MIMO antennas are capable of meeting the speed, coverage, and latency requirements of 5G, but operating at millimeter wave frequencies, their range is short and thus requires a dense network of antennas. These small cells are also packed much closer than traditional telecom towers were years ago; some are only about 100 yards apart.
This densification creates numerous challenges related to installation, torquing, ensuring proper weather sealing, and more. Designing a crucial interconnect system that will perform well and withstand extraordinary environmental and technical conditions, reliably and consistently over long periods of time, involves many critical decisions. In addition, 5G small cells have limited space for equipment so minimizing

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