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Industry News / Small/Pico/Femto Cells Channel

Carrier-grade small cells to outnumber consumer femtocells in 2016

March 27, 2013
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Mobile Experts has released a new Small Cell Market Forecast, predicting more than 5 million metrocells shipped in 2017.

Based on weak shipment data during 2012, Mobile Experts predicts slow growth for residential femtocells, at only 12 percent per year. Faster growth will come from capacity upgrades, as mobile operators are pushing hard for high-capacity small cells. The new Mobile Experts forecast predicts that, taken together, outdoor metrocells and indoor capacity nodes will overtake residential femtocell shipments in the 2016 time frame.

"The Asia-Pacific market has led the way in small cells, with more than 100,000 public small cells already deployed in Korea and Japan," explained Joe Madden, Principal Analyst at Mobile Experts. "The Asian market is stretching the femtocell into areas where the small cells are handling capacity effectively for operators like KT, SKT, and NTT DoCoMo. Many other operators around the world will follow this example, as the LTE macro roll-out is completed and capacity tightens up in North America, China, Latin America, Europe, and the Middle East. The bottom line is that small cells are 65 percent less expensive than macro base stations, for adding mobile capacity."

This forecast identifies eight different types of small cells, by architecture and by power level. In this year's analysis, Mobile Experts included low-power Remote Radio Head units, multi-band small cells, and Carrier Aggregation into the forecast, with 33 band combinations identified for inter-band CA. The report breaks down small cell shipments by frequency band and identified 38 frequency bands for small cell deployment.

Joe Madden explained the data sources behind the forecast: "Our Advisory Panel of operators and suppliers has been very helpful in guiding us to an accurate forecast for the past four years. More than 50 companies have helped us to compile a huge database of information, tracking individual operators by frequency band, power level, and architecture. By tracking the details, our 2009 forecast has come in within 6 percent of actual shipment figures, while competing analysts missed by 90 percent to 300 percent."

"Every spring, we compile information about the HetNet architecture and all different kinds of radio solutions: Femtocells, Picocells, Microcells, Metrocells, DAS systems, repeaters, and macro base stations. This study presents our expected evolution for the HetNet, and will serve as the foundation for ongoing research into Carrier Wi-Fi, Backhaul for Small Cells, and Semiconductors for Small Cells." 

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