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Small cells' demand 'boosting DAS market'

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The value of distributed antenna systems (DAS) contracts has exploded, as the technology is being increasingly used to fill in gaps in small cell networks, new research has claimed.

The latest bi-annual Infonetics' DAS Equipment report revealed some regions have experienced a decrease in revenue due to competition from alternative technologies. However, the overall market continues to grow and is predicted to do so in  the coming years.

DAS equipment generated €1.4 billion revenue in 2013, a 2% increase year on year, and Infonetics forecasted a 3% compound annual growth rate between now and 2018. It added 1.2 million DAS nodes were shipped last year, but over the next four years this looks set to increase to more than two million.

The average DAS contract was worth just €700k a few years ago, but in 2013 this rose to between €4 and €8 million. In the U.S. this growth has been driven by the rollout of small cell technology. DAS equipment has often been installed alongside microcells and picocells to fill gaps in small cell coverage.

"There are several DAS projects in various countries that are sustaining the market," said Stéphane Téral, Principal Analyst for Mobile Infrastructure and Carrier Economics at Infonetics. "In the U.S., the next wave of DAS installations will be combined with small cell deployments for LTE capacity upgrades. This wave just started last year with a few thousands picocells at AT&T and even fewer microcells and remote radio heads at Verizon Wireless. In both cases, DAS will fill whatever gaps small cells do not address and, therefore, will be complementary.”

Three quarters of the market leaders are US based, with sales in the country growing by 10 percent in 2013. Bucking the overall trend, revenues declined in Asia Pacific, falling 12% in 2013. The drop follows China Mobile's decision to shift to TD-LTE technology but Téral predicted that the market will not fall further.

In Brazil, market growth was influenced by large mobile operators, Vivo, Claro, Oi, TIM, and Nextel, forming a consortium to install DAS into stadiums for the FIFA World Cup in June.