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Small cells go large with 75 operators deploying over 10 million units

small cells

via Flickr © Shardayyy (CC BY 2.0)

“Small cells have passed the 10 million barrier,” according to the Small Cell Forum, which has contracted  Mobile Experts to pin down the global numbers. Not sure what the “barrier” is, but if there is one it appears to be taking a hammering. The forum asserts that small cells are now becoming an integral part of operator strategies, with deployments set to accelerate further in the next 12 months. While the majority of small cells have been deployed in ‘residential scenarios’ the research indicates that enterprise and even rural and remote coverage is getting a look in.

It’s been a bit of a slow burn for small cells to now. Femtocells proved to be a dead-end, at least in comparison to the substantial near future that was pegged out for them 5-6 years ago. But small cells as a deployable alternative to macro network expansion -  such as Alcatel-Lucent’s lightradio cubes first announced in 2011 - appear to be gaining traction at last.

The SCF points out that Mobile World Congress saw a blizzard of small cell announcements and demonstrations which, taken together augur well for further expansion this year  -  the year, points out Mobile Experts’ Joe Madden, that the consultancy predicted would see non-residential small cell deployment finally ramp up as “capacity and indoor coverage are now critical for operators.”

According to Chris Buist, director  at Coleago Consulting, many operators now view their small cell deployments as part of their secret sauce and exclude them from network sharing arrangements on the basis that they confer (or will confer) competitive advantage.  

At Mobile World Congress the Small Cell Forum announced its ‘Release Five: Rural and Remote’  use case report, designed to help operators to realise an additional market opportunity worth, the forum estimates,  $163 billion worldwide. The full suite of information is available to download from hppt:/scf.io.

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