The development of fifth generation wireless technology (5G) is spreading rapidly around the world. The initial improvement of up to 10x in speed and 400x in latency, as well as a much larger capacity for simultaneous users, will create endless opportunities for autonomous vehicles, virtual reality, smart cities and the Internet of Things (IoT). In the future, by using additional spectrum, speed improvements could reach 100x and enable applications that we have not even imagined yet. To maximize performance of new 5G networks, telecommunication operators require high-resolution 3D data to develop signal propagation plans and select ideal locations for small antenna systems.
Optimizing 5G network performance
The exciting next phase of wireless technology will operate in the high to very-high frequency domains, with low-band 5G offered on a nationwide basis, and high-band 5G (also known as millimetre wave) offered in dense urban areas and centres with large crowd gatherings like sports stadiums. These high-band signals are easily blocked by obstructions, such as buildings and trees, so the network must consist of many small cells (radio equipment/antennas about the size of a pizza box) located within line of sight to provide maximum coverage and capacity.
Radio frequency (RF) engineering models, based on geographic data including aerial imagery and digital surface models (DSM), are used to identify the best locations for the antennas to optimize network performance. At this time, high resolution (≤15 cm) aerial imagery products are the best data source to attain the levels of detail and accuracy required for high frequency 5G networks.
Increased demand from the 5G wireless market helped put Land Info Worldwide Mapping LLC on the 2019 Inc. 5,000 list of fastest growing private companies in the US. To meet the specific data requirements for 5G networks, Land Info invested heavily in object-based image analysis and artificial intelligence to build out models used by large 5G carriers. The efficient, automated workflow was developed using high-resolution aerial imagery from the HxGN Content Program.
“Hexagon removes all the hurdles so we can easily and quickly access the data and apply our value-added processing,” says Nick Hubing, president of Land Info Worldwide Mapping. “The high-quality imagery and digital surface models allow us to produce accurate 3D building footprints, trees and clutter (land cover) maps that meet the stringent requirements for 5G wireless network development.”
The HxGN Content Program has built a comprehensive library of high-resolution wide area, leaf-on aerial images and DSMs that now covers the contiguous United States and most parts of Western Europe. Wide-area coverage is available at 30 cm resolution, and cities with populations larger than 50,000 in the U.S. are available at 15 cm. Starting in 2020, wide-area collects will be made at 15 cm resolution across the United States.
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