With talk of a 5G mobile network slated to launch sometime in 2020, cellular carriers and consumers in the know are equally delighted: 5G will mean more than 10 times the current capacity of even the best 4G LTE. Still, with the announcement of this and other technological advancements, some are concerned about what the debut of new technology could mean for the cellular industry as we know it.
While there are technologies that could augment cell towers, some experts in the field suggest there are ways to relay data that could replace towers altogether. But when we take a reality-based look at cell tower alternatives, none of them really seem feasible, even in the distant future of a 5G, 6G, or even 7G world.
Some suggest that tower sites will eventually be hosted in outer space — that carriers will work with tech experts to create cell towers that won’t need to be anchored to Earth. We already have much of what it takes in terms of know-how to accomplish this but building out the infrastructure would come with an incredible price tag, making this option unviable due to its (literally) astronomical cost. The cost to launch just several hundred towers into the stratosphere would surpass more than a billion US dollars, and that expense doesn’t account for technological upgrades and any necessary repairs that would require some hybrid of astronaut and cell tower technician to fix; another inordinate cost.
There is also the impending technology that will allow mobile and handheld devices to “find one another”. Some pundits say this could also waive the need for cell towers; but again, that theory seems lacking in merit. Sure, device-to-device tech will help with geo-location and could augment low signal areas, but at the end of the line, there is always a tower propping up the entire schema.
One thing that will assuredly happen is that there will continue to be more and more cell towers and perhaps even larger towers will be needed to support these advancements in technology. While that doesn’t necessarily mean that smaller towers will suddenly become unnecessary; carrier’s needs, evolving technology, and industry consolidation are realities that can and will continue to affect the evolution of the industry as a whole.
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