Published   Wireless Watch

Small Cells – Deployments and Key Trends 2014 – 2021

Small cell forecast 2015 to 2021

“In general, small cells will cease to be a relatively niche, tactical solution to network holes, and become the central foundation for the HetNet as operators chase ever-higher capacity.”

Densification is now a common and important element of many operators’ LTE-Advanced plans. It applies to indoor and enterprise locations – often the biggest driver of data traffic and of premium services – as well as the classic network-on-a-lamppost. As attention moves from LTE coverage to capacity, and MNOs start to make real roadmaps for 5G – which will be inherently based around small cells – the technology will just be part of the accepted toolbox. Indeed, we will stop referring to ‘small cells’ as though they were a breed apart – already operators talk more commonly about heterogeneous networks (HetNets) which integrate any combination of cell domains, base station form factors and spectrum bands.

Virtualization and standard interfaces, such as the Small Cell Forum’s FAPI and nFAPI, will ease the process of mixing and matching these different options, and sourcing from multiple vendors, while allowing for future 5G technologies to be inserted into the existing framework rather than forcing a rip-and-replace.

Development of the new architectures which will enable high levels of density is not just being done by traditional wireless players. Architectures which rely on large numbers of small cells, operating with extremely low cost and power, and connected in meshes to virtualized basebands, are being proposed by various non-traditional organizations, including Facebook with its Terragraph concept design, which creates a dense mesh using 60 GHz unlicensed spectrum and WiGig (the WiFi-like technology for the 60 GHz band).

The report, based on surveys of over 75 leading mobile operators worldwide, shows how densification and virtualization of networks are key to those strategies, and will make small cells, deployed at huge scale, into the foundation of the modern HetNet. The report also highlights important enablers of this trend, which will need to evolve rapidly, including SON

The deployment of dense small cells will increase the reliance on the mobile network edge as a key platform to enable new services which require new levels of QoS, location awareness and latency reduction.

These small cell 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.
  • A survey of 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

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Table 1  – New deployments of small cells 2014-2021

Table 2  – New deployments of small cells by environment

Table 3  – New deployments of enterprise small cells by region

Table 4  – New deployments of urban and rural small cells by region

Table 5  – New deployments of small cells by network technology

Table 6  – New deployments of small cells, relationship with WiFi

Table 7  – New deployments of small cells, by location

Table 8  – Small cell deployments by mode (TDD/FDD)

Table 9  – Small cell deployments – multiband and carrier aggregation

Table 10 – Small cell deployments – total bands supported including multiband

Table 11 – Small cell deployments by architecture

Table 12 – Small cell deployments by density (enterprise and urban)

Table 13 – Small cell installed base 2014-2021 inc residential

Table 14 – Ideal and likely timelines to start deploying public access small cells commercially

Table 15 – Barriers to small cell deployment at scale (top 3)

Table 16 – Drivers to small cell deployment at scale (top 3)

Table 17 – Global revenues from small cell hardware – access points and gateways

Table 18 – Global revenues from small cell services

small cell forecast