ABI Research expects the market for small cell microwave backhaul equipment to grow to over $6.4 billion in 2017, up from a forecast $1.5 billion for 2012 which represents a 35% compound annual growth rate.

Millimeter wave line-of-sight (MMW LoS) will accumulate 44% of revenue, or over $2.8 billion, with 23% of microwave links in 2017, Orthogonal Frequency-Division Multiplexing Non Line-of-Sight (OFDM NLoS) will capture 31% of small cell microwave backhaul equipment revenue, or $1.9 billion, with 48% of links in 2017, and Wi-Fi will capture almost 19% of revenue or $784 million, with 12% of small cell backhaul links.

“Thanks to its NLoS properties and Point-to-Multipoint (PMP) hub-and-spoke architecture OFDM NLoS becomes the most popular backhaul technology for small cells in 2017,” says Nick Marshall, principal analyst at ABI Research. ABI Research believes that the millimeter wave bands from 60GHz to 80GHz (MMW LoS) will also prove compelling for small cell backhaul in many situations. Traditional Microwave LoS (6-38GHz) equipment for small cell applications is overtaken by these technologies and will represent only 13% of revenue and 10% of links in 2017.

ABI Research also expects fiber backhaul solutions to experience a healthy growth between 2012 and 2017 with small cell backhaul over fiber reaching almost 24% in 2017, up from 7% in 2012, with regions like China and North America favoring fiber as a backhaul solution in many circumstances.

“We believe that 4G/LTE small cell solutions will again drive most of the microwave and fiber backhaul growth in metropolitan, urban, and suburban areas,” continues Marshall.

In a new report, ABI Research outlines the advantages and disadvantages of the main backhaul technologies under consideration for small cell backhaul. These backhaul technologies include backhaul over copper and fiber, sub 6GHz Wi-Fi, microwave LoS from 6-38GHz, MMW LoS from 60-80GHz, and sub 6GHz OFDM NLoS. The report also profiles 20 equipment vendors with small cell backhaul portfolios. These findings are part of ABI Research’s Mobile Backhaul Research Service which includes Research Reports, Market Data, Insights, and Competitive Assessments.