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IDC Technology Spotlight: The Elevated Importance of 5G RF Propagation Modeling

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IDC TECHNOLOGY SPOTLIGHT Brought to You by NETSCOUT, Powered by IDC The Elevated Importance of 5G RF Propagation Modeling April 2020 Written by: Patrick Filkins, Senior Research Analyst, IoT and Mobile Network Infrastructure Introduction With an initial focus on consumers, and later on business customers, communications service providers (SPs) are now investing to launch 5G-based services. While the promise of new revenue streams from these services is appealing, the reality is that network planning will be significantly more challenging in the 5G era than in an LTE world as communications SPs race to achieve positive return on investment (ROI). The emerging playbook is to reuse existing spectrum (e.g., low band) and to deploy 5G in new, midband and millimeter wave (mmWave) spectrum to deliver ultra-high-level data capacity and downlink speeds surpassing gigabytes per second (GBps). In particular, at the higher frequency bands, factors such as proximity to natural or man-made obstacles, strength of an RF signal at a particular distance (path loss), heightened interference between radio sites, and RF signal penetration of hard surfaces must be more carefully considered in the RF propagation modeling process. Background 5G is, in many ways, an extension of LTE; however, 5G is expected to leverage several resources that firmly differentiate it not only as a technology but also in planning for the implementation of 5G network capacity. For example, in many regions, 5G service providers will exploit three main spectrum bands simultaneously: » Low band (sub-1GHz) » Midband (1–6GHz) » High band (24GHz and above) This IDC Technology Spotlight is a guide as to why RF propagation modeling takes on elevated importance in the budding 5G era, particularly as communications SPs look to deploy 5G networks across a range of spectrum, including mmWave bands. AT A GLANCE KEY TAKEAWAYS » With 5G communications SPs expected to deploy 5G across a wide array of spectrum, the network planning function takes on heightened importance. » mmWave spectrum promises some of the highest advancements in mobile communications; however, planning for these networks becomes more challenging than planning for other spectrum bands. » RF propagation modeling can potentially provide a significant benefit to the communications SP's network and business performance.

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