One way of looking at new 5G-driven business and revenue opportunities, as well as “do it yourself” private premises networking, is the whole matter of “indoor signal reception,” which is not a new problem for mobile service providers, but will be more acute as millimeter wave frequencies become more common.
Since the advent of 2-GHz frequencies for 3G and 4G, consumers and providers alike have become accustomed to the idea that indoor signal coverage often will be an issue. Such problems will be worse when frequencies above 3.5 GHz start to be used commercially (28 GHz, 39 GHz, 60 GHz as examples).
Not all problems with indoor coverage are related directly to frequency, of course. Some parts of any network might be locally congested because of high traffic. Some parts of any network might have received signal power issues or other “weak signal” issues caused by terrain or foliage, for example. In other cases, service providers might not be able to place cell sites in the optimal locations because building owners will not allow such radio sites.
Tall buildings, in some areas, might have problems when users try to connect to local cells that are not as tall as the buildings they are in, in urban areas. Some users might be able to receive signals from several cell sites, but not an especially strong signal from any of them.
Even energy-efficient windows and buildings designed for energy efficiency will further degrade indoor signals.
So one way of looking at 5G business potential is to position mobile operators primarily as “outside the building” coverage providers. Indoor coverage essentially starts to look more like the private network (local area networks, premises wiring networks Wi-Fi networks) scenario, creating a potentially bigger role for “indoor connectivity” business models of various types.
“Do it yourself” always is an option, as it has been for Wi-Fi and other indoor access networks. Then there are “venue network providers,” which might be enterprises such as hotels, third party providers such as Boingo or perhaps new providers of neutral host infrastructure that charge a fee to all mobile network service providers.
Most service providers have tended to stay away from indoor small cell operation themselves except in large venues (sports and entertainment venues, big shopping malls). Outdoor small cells make better sense, in most cases.
So the issue is whether a new group of “indoor wireless connectivity” specialists emerges.