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Telekom swaps phone boxes for 5G small cells

Telekom Deutschland is upgrading its legacy street furniture to 5G small cells, utilising past-generation kit to underpin next-generation connectivity.

Telekom already uses phone box small cells for LTE networks on the 2.6GHz frequency, but will start a 5G rollout using the 3.6GHz band in 2023, having completed a pilot phase.

“We have tested the operation, analysed it, and are satisfied so far”, Small Cell Deployment Technician Sebastian Viet said.

He added that the kit is “much more compact and easier to install” than rooftop masts or tower alternatives. Telekom’s radio planners are looking at “inner-city locations for small cells, preferably pedestrian zones and old town areas”.

The German operator will switch off its public telephone services from the end of January 2023, before dismantling most of its 12,000-street telephone box estate by 2025. However, approximately 3,000 silver and magenta-branded booths will remain. These will be modified, with receivers and keypads removed, and will host the “mini communications” technology, as Viet described it. Telekom said its 5G small cells serve a 200-metre radius.

Telekom is piloting two models in three cities.

  • For the first, launched in Weiden, Bavaria, and set for wider deployment in southern Germany, both the mobile communications technology and antenna are housed in a telephone box. It uses Ericsson kit and is connected via fibre to a nearby exchange. The operator said a speed test conducted 50 metres away from the kiosk delivered respective 5G download and upload speeds of 846Mbps and 101Mbps.
  • The second, currently being tested in Hattingen, North Rhine-Westphalia, and set to be rolled out “mainly” in northern and western Germany, has only the antenna onboard. Data processing takes place at a nearby exchange, with “two separate power supplies” and capacity to support up to 36 small cells with a “centralised baseband” approach, using a Cisco cell site gateway. The operator noted that the separate power supply provides a backup if the other fails.

Telekom stressed its enthusiasm for designs that “fit in with the urban landscape, either by standing out with a decorative design or by harmoniously blending into their surroundings”. The latest roll out of phone box small cells will see 5G connectivity with little to no visual impact on German streets. TelcoTitans

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