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Small cells as a service boosts equipment market, finds new report

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Deployment of outdoor small cells has finally started in a meaningful way, new research has found, as operators look to boost their network quality.

A report from ABI Research said the sector will experience a compound annual growth rate of 43 percent between 2015 and 2020.

It said longstanding issues within small cells, such as backhaul, power, site acquisition and receiving planning permission, were finally being overcome. This is due to the likes of Alcatel-Lucent, Ericsson and Nokia Networks offering operators small cells as a service.

Nick Marshall, Research Director at ABI Research, said: “Many mobile network operators around the world, including Verizon, Sprint, China Mobile and Vodafone, among others, are now investing in network densification. The results of this can be seen in the ramp of small cells this year. As many networks shift from coverage-centric to capacity-focused, MNOs are finding that small cells are an effective way to boost network capacity in high traffic areas.”

The research agency said 4G small cells were the fastest growing type, as operators looked to improve connectivity in venues and dense urban areas. The number of deployed LTE small cells will double this year and "by a similar factor" in the years ahead. By 2020, LTE small cells will hold more than 85 percent of the value of the total market.

The biggest market will continue to be in Asia-Pacific, driven by heavy LTE deployments across South Korea and Japan. However, by 2017, China and India will account for almost half of the small cell equipment market.