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5G Small Cells: Complete Explanation

What Are 5G Small Cells?

Small cells are low-powered cellular radio access nodes. In 5G, small cells are a cost-effective method of extending coverage and filling coverage gaps.

Why Are 5G Small Cells Important?

Small cells are vital for expanding 5G networks and providing targeted coverage in specific spaces. Unlike larger macrocells, small cells use little power and provide high-band high-speed 5G service to smaller areas.

5G networks use three different spectrum bands to broadcast. The high, mid, and low bands are used to balance speed and coverage to make nationwide service possible. Small cells play an essential role in broadcasting high-band 5G, which provides the fastest speeds at the shortest range.

Small cells help companies distribute high-performance cellular service across a wider area, and in some cases, for specific applications. For example, large machines and metal walls inside factories pose a challenge for using 5G reliably. Indoor small cells provide reliable targeted coverage to specific industrial IoT applications and help eliminate dead zones within enterprise environments.

Lastly, small cells help rebroadcast signals across the high band to improve the signal performance. For example, 5G mid-band transmissions coming from an outdoor antenna might not be reliable enough for your indoor applications. Rebroadcasting this signal using strategically placed small cells improves signal reliability and performance.

Types of 5G Small Cells

There are a few variations of small cells that can be used in a cellular network. Each cell has slightly different ranges, costs, and backhaul needs. Organizations can use a mix of these small cells to design networks that meet their particular needs.


Femtocells cover the shortest radius, use the least power, and offer the least amount of traffic capacity. These cells rely on fiber or wired backhaul networks and tend to be the lowest cost option for small cells. These small cells typically resemble a Wi-Fi router and are used inside office environments to cover indoor areas.


Picocells provide more coverage, capacity, and transmission power than Femtocells, but not as much as microcells. Picocells use a fiber or wired backhaul to transmit data and can be used either indoors or outdoors. Picocells can be used to cover a large indoor space or act as an outdoor wireless bridge between two or more buildings.


Microcells offer the most coverage, capacity, and transmission power of all other small cells. Microcells can use a wired, fiber, or microwave backhaul for transmission. These cells tend to be more expensive than the previous small cells and are ideal for outdoor environments.

You can find microcells in stadiums, outdoor venues, and college campuses. Microcells offer better performance than large macrocells when devices fall within their range of coverage.

Microcells benefit from using intelligent connections to overcome a limited line of sight and poor conditions. If a connection between two small cells is broken, microcells can find another nearby cell to reroute the connection.

How Can Enterprises Use 5G Small Cells?

Between smart cities and public transportation, small cells will pave the way towards a 5G future. Thanks to advancements in private cellular technology, enterprises can now build their own private networks using small cells for a number of applications.

Unlike commercial networks that restrict your data usage, private 5G solutions operate on the private cellular spectrum (e.g., CBRS in the United States) allow enterprises to fine-tune their network requirements on the application level. For example, hospitals can use a series of small cells to ensure their life-saving equipment is always online.

Private cellular solutions take that reliability a step further by allowing businesses to design specific latency and throughput requirements for each application. Let’s explore a few different scenarios where small cells are used.

Mission-Critical Applications

Every enterprise has its own collection of applications that must be online and perform within a certain standard. In a private 5G network, businesses can pick exactly which programs, devices, and groups require priority and set the cellular resources that must always be available.

On the back-end, artificial intelligence ensures your service-level objectives for bandwidth and latency are met by dynamically routing traffic, assigning cellular resources and monitoring for interference. Small cells that are operating within the private cellular spectrum - instead of an extension of the public cellular network - are the infrastructure that allows these signals to reach their destination on the last leg of their journey.

Strategically placed small cells can guarantee that cellular traffic is always in range of a failover cell and provide specific coverage to key areas that need it the most.

College Campuses

College campuses resemble small cities when thousands of staff and students need reliable cellular connections. Outdoor small cells that operate on the private spectrum can provide network connectivity to outdoor learning areas, shared student spaces, and high-traffic areas between campus buildings. While large antennas create blanket coverage across the campus, small cells ensure lecture halls, student dorms, and other indoor facilities always have reliable network access.

Venues and Stadiums

High-capacity small cells are typically used in large stadiums and concert halls to handle the high bandwidth and performance demands of thousands of users. With proper network planning, small cells operating on the private cellular spectrum can serve everyone, from the front row all the way to the nosebleed seats.

Celona 5G LAN for Private 5G

Within a Celona 5G LAN, cellular wireless access points can be quickly deployed throughout the facility as plug-n-play, managed centrally via cloud based operations, and ensure service level objectives on critical applications, such as throughput and latency requirements, are consistently met. Celona’s industry-first approach enables enterprise organizations to build their own private 4G LTE and 5G networks as a seamless turnkey solution.

With a Celona 5G LAN, out of the box experience is drastically simplified, operations across a large network can be performed at scale, and onboarding can be done alongside existing wireless and IT infrastructure, without interrupting business operations.

Celona 5G LAN Solution

To get started, check out a live demo of Celona’s solution by visiting us at celona.io/journey where you can also sign-up for a free trial of a Celona 5G LAN.

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