Published   Wireless Watch

HetNet Deployments and Trends 2014 – 2021

Densification becomes “real and urgent” and results in HetNet spending

“That notion of industrialization – a fully automated, rapid process which can be replicated anywhere – is central to the HetNet business case. But this shift will require a radical change in the regulations around sites, especially in areas such as US municipalities’ rules on public rights of way. Shammo acknowledged on a recent earnings call that it can take up to two years to deploy, once ‘you get a location, you negotiate with the landlord, you get the fiber to that location, because every single one of our small cells has fiber backhaul to a macro cell’.”

Densification in 2017 will be a real and urgent part of many cellular operators, strategies to turn the inexorable rise of mobile traffic into profits. In most cases this will be achieved with investment in HetNet (heterogeneous network) architectures, which create a single, integrated pool  of capacity and coverage, using multiple cell sizes and base station form factors; multiple spectrum bands including unlicensed, licensed and shared; multivendor equipment; multiple air interfaces including 3G, 4G, WiFi and future 5G; and potentially multi-operator networks.

A few MNOs in Japan and Korea, blessed with plentiful fiber and access to the latest technologies, have blazed the trail. But for most operators, there are far bigger hurdles in the way of building massive capacity, in targeted areas, into their networks, and so supporting new business cases and laying foundations for 5G.

The essential technologies – various small cell form factors, effective self-optimizing network (SON)
tools and so on – are falling into place rapidly.

The bigger barriers lie in spectrum and logistics:

1. Acquiring and using the best balance of unlicensed, licensed and shared bands, and of high
and low frequencies
2. Reducing the red tape around site acquisition and leasing in order to scale up to huge numbers
of cells cost-effectively
3. Streamlining the deployment process to be less labor-intensive and more replicable
4. Automating as many operational activities as possible.

Now MNOs, especially in the US and other developed markets, are acknowledging that a layer of heterogeneous small cells, spanning licensed and unlicensed spectrum, including WiFi and cellular, and interworking with the macro network, is critical to their business model. They are nearing the capacity ceiling in some areas, affecting the consistent quality of experience which is the main way that high value customers choose their carrier.

The HetNet deployments and trends forecasts were based on a combination of data from:

  • Detailed surveys, interviews and operator-by-operator modeling of the IMG-40 groups.
  • Studies of the deployments and strategies of the top 100 4G operators, as tracked by Rethink Technology Research’s quarterly surveys, interviews and desk research.
  • Deeper interviews with senior executives at 25 tier one operators about their detailed plans for RAN deployments to 2021.
  • Input from ecosystem vendors on shipments, technology strategies and competitive landscape, also updated quarterly.

Based on the surveys of operators and vendors, it was then calculated how those cell sites would be equipped – by base station type, technology, frequency band etc, leading to a detailed unit and market size measurement.

For more information contact:

Chloe Spring (Marketing Manager): [email protected]

Office Phone: +44 (0)1179 257019

Download Executive Summary:

Download a copy of the executive summary.

Multilayer deployments and installed base

Table 1 – LTE or multimode macro layer base station deployments and upgrades, inc software, by region

Table 2 – Deployments and upgrades of small cells, cellular-only and cellular/WiFi by reg

Table 3 – LTE or multimode macro layer base station installed base

Table 4 – Small cell installed base by region, cellular-only and multimode

Table 5 – New deployments of other equipment into small cell sites, by location

Table 6 – Small cell deployments by density

Table 7 – Small cell installed base – shared or separate band

Table 8 – Small cell installed base – interworking with other layers

Table 9 – Deployment  of small cells supporting multiple technologies including public WiFi access points


Multiband spectrum combinations, LTE or LTE/multimode cells         

Table 10 – FDD LTE frequency bands deployed on small cells

Table 11 – TDD LTE frequency bands deployed on small cells

Table 12 – Small cell deployments and upgrades by number of bands

Table 13 – New small cell deployments by type of spectrum

Table 14 – LTE/multimode small cell deployments and upgrades by mode

Table 15 – LTE macrocell installed base by frequency band – bands supported, alone or in combination

Table 16 – LTE macrocell installed base by spectrum combination

Table 17 – LTE macrocell installed base by mode