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Dustin Blythe: The importance of small cells

Dustin Blythe, Director of External Affairs for Iowa and Nebraska

Nebraskans, like consumers across the country, are using their mobile phones and tablets to view movies, TV shows, share video clips, watch football and much more. And why not? The convenience of entertainment on the go is appealing to everyone. In fact, mobile data traffic on the AT&T network has grown more than 360,000% from January 2007 through December 2017.

With an increased demand and extreme pressure on mobile networks, AT&T has had to look towards new, innovative ways to enhance networks, prepare for the next generation of technologies and services and provide a better experience for consumers.

One innovative way in which we are helping to meet the explosive demand for mobile data is through small cells. These small, unobtrusive devices help to bolster network capacity and allow for faster downloads and improved call quality within its coverage area. They are able to be readily deployed to specific locations where needed, often including those where customers are prone to connectivity issues or in areas that cannot effectively be served by traditional cell towers. Typically, these areas can include dense urban environments where capacity is an issue or small geographical areas, such as rural regions, where the macro cell is further away.

They can be placed in buildings or outdoors depending on the need. Often when placed outdoors, small cells can be attached to existing utility poles, light poles or exterior walls of buildings. When placed indoors, small cells can often be placed above ceiling tiles, attached to drop ceiling mounts or placed in telecom closets.

The deployment of small cells can bring many great benefits to states, cities and communities. By bolstering network capacity, small cells can allow for more information to be shared. This can be especially important during times of need such as a large-scale emergency or natural disasters. In emergency situations, users can often face a surge in mobile network traffic. Small cells can help users tackle that challenge by allowing for increased network capacity, which could mean consumers are more readily able to utilize the mobile networks they need, when they need them.

Additionally, small cell technology can allow for new, innovative and life-saving healthcare solutions such as remote medical care. Patients can have the ability to connect to doctors from around the world by utilizing video conferencing apps on their tablets or smartphones, making healthcare more accessible than ever. Further, in emergency cases, first responders to send critical patient information to hospitals ahead of arrival on high-speed networks, allowing medical staff to be prepared even before a patient is admitted.

Small cells are a big step forward for consumers. Not only do small cells work to help us provide a better LTE experience today, but they also help prepare for future technologies such smart cities and the Internet of Things (IoT). Smart cities will work to connect things like lighting, water, parking, energy grids and public transportation to the internet. This will allow for cities to save money, preserve natural resources and even build better relationships with their citizens.

Many states have already adopted policy to encourage deployment of small cells and many more, including Nebraska, are preparing for advanced wireless technology as they craft policy to modernize, streamline and standardize statewide rules governing the deployment of small cell technology.

These policies, which are designed to simplify and speed the placement of smalls cells, generally include fair and reasonable terms, conditions and rates to access Right of Way (ROW) and city infrastructure.

The goal is to proactively welcome this technology and give businesses and residents superior wireless speeds, coverage and reliability.

You may not even notice them, but these small devices can make a big difference for consumers on the Silicon Prairie and are powerful building blocks for next generation wireless technology.

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This content is sponsored by AT&T.

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