Appetite for small cells being held back by technical issues, claims report

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Difficulties in project management, technical issues and negotiations with partners are among the factors that operators believe will lead to a slow rollout of small cells, new research has found.

The report, which was commissioned by Amdocs and written by Real Wireless, found that while 70 percent of operators intend to have small cells deployed by 2018, the majority of them are predicting rollout will be slow.

Operators' main problems were project management (65 percent), negotiating deployment with partners (45 percent) and technical issues (40 percenty).

As a result, 70 percent of telcos said they are willing to partner with a specialist third-party company to overcome obstacles to deploying a small cell network.

Meanwhile, 85 percent of cable and satellite providers (so-called MSOs) thought rolling out small cells was substantially different from their usual deployments. Consequently, only 40 percent of those companies have plans in place to help roll out a small cell network this year.

The report authors said these findings were "surprising", given how 70 percent of cable and satellite companies have deployed public Wi-Fi networks, which has similar requirements.

Elsewhere, the research found automation was crucial, with 85 percent believing it was important for deployment. Eighty percent percent said their current processes were inadequate for the technology.

Charles Chambers, managing consultant at Real Wireless, said: “With mobile data traffic predicted to increase 11-fold from 2013-2018 small cells represent a critical element of an MNO’s strategy to expand mobile network capacity and improve the overall user experience, yet rollout challenges are causing small cell deployment delay.”

According to Chambers, the research has identified that there is a “clear business case” for MSOs to partner with MNOs.

He went on: “MSOs have valuable skills and experience that can be applied to small cell deployments and MNOs are looking for these skills. However, for small cell rollout to be successful it’s widely recognised that appropriate workflow and planning tools are required.”

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