In the era of 5G millimeter wave communications, one long-standing problem in wireless communications will assume new importance: indoor signal coverage. That has gotten to be a bigger issue as mobile communications have migrated up from 800 MHz into the 2-GHz range, and will increase as we move into the millimeter wave bands.
Wi-Fi or a distributed antenna system (DAS) is in many case the present “solution” for data or voice access. When not available, “going outside” or use of signal boosters (customer-owned or carrier provided femtocells) is the workaround.
That might continue to be the case for millimeter wave signal access, although many believe a whole new category of “indoor coverage” options will emerge.
To a greater extent than at present, mobile carriers will be the best option for any “outdoors” use cases. But, in many cases, indoor coverage might be the domain of a new breed of infrastructure provider, devoted exclusively to indoor coverage.
Precisely what business models might emerge is yet unclear, but private networks owned and operated by enterprises is one model, where the objective is simply better performance inside buildings. That is most analogous to the way enterprises deploy Wi-Fi. In other cases some entity (enterprise, third party or carrier) might create an indoor multi-tenant infrastructure that is open to use by any mobile service provider. Just how big an opportunity that might be is unclear. But the business might be analogous to today’s Distributed Antenna System business. In that case indoor infrastructure is an interesting niche, but still a niche.