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Small cells boosted by double digit growth, still trailing far behind RAN

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The small cell market is still trailing considerably behind the 2G and 3G radio access network sector, despite recording strong double digit growth during the past year, a new report has found.

Research from IHS said the past 12 months have seen increasing rollouts of small cells, with shipments of 1.4 million units worth $1.2 billion. The growth of 44 percent was driven by deployments in rural and remote areas, as well as within enterprises, an area targeted by the Small Cell Forum.

However, this pales in comparison to the RAN market, which hit sales of $22 billion in 2015.

IHS predicted shipments of indoor small cells will outpace those of outdoor by the end of this year, something which already happens in China. Asia is the biggest small cell market with a 68 percent market share, thanks to activity in China.

However, in value terms, outdoor small cells will be more valuable because of higher costs. The indoor market will shift towards commoditisation between now and 2020 as volumes rise and vendors produce more "plug and play" style products.

The report predicted the global small cell market will be worth more than $2 billion in 2019.

Yesterday, ABI Research said an increasing number of small cell deployments would lead to more than one million sub-6GHz backhaul links being deployed by 2020.

The technology will be essential as operators seek to build higher capacity networks in the likes of metro stations, as well as broaden coverage in remote areas.