ABI Research’s latest forecasts for indoor small cells, which are also referred to as enterprise and consumer femtocells, predicts a return to growth after lackluster 2011 and 2012 with an increase in unit volumes in 2013 and 2014 and year-on-year growth outpacing our last forecasts. This growth will come thanks to operators like AT&T, Vodafone, Telefonica, Softbank, and Sprint all being at the forefront of driving shipments in both enterprise and residential settings.

In ABI Research’s latest forecast, overall Enterprise and Consumer Femtocell shipments will reach 5.7 million units in 2014 compared to 3.8 million units in 2013. While 3G indoor small cells will continue to represent the vast majority of shipments it is LTE indoor small cells which are expected to ramp up significantly starting in 2013.

This picture is repeated in our forecasts for outdoor small cells with year-on-year unit growth of 125% predicted for 2014 for a value of almost $3.6 billion, with LTE outdoor small cells exhibiting strong growth in the same time period as demonstrated by the recent announcements from AT&T, Sprint, Verizon, and China Mobile which are all among the MNOs driving this market.

Not to be outdone, carrier or service provider Wi-Fi is also emerging as an effective “carrier-grade” small-cell solution for decongestion of mobile networks and we expect the initiatives from the Wi-Fi Alliance, Wireless Broadband Alliance, Small Cell Forum, GSMA, and 3GPP to continue to ease the deployment of carrier Wi-Fi for MNOs and MSOs alike. ABI Research predicts that the number of carrier Wi-Fi access points shipped in 2014 will be three times the number which was shipped in 2012.

“The recent Small Cell World Summit in London also offered some positive signs that the market is growing with attendance up by 50% including 230 operator delegates from 110 companies and with Cisco’s recent acquisition of Ubiquisys there is some real momentum building now,” says Nick Marshall principal analyst at ABI Research.

“Another strong indicator of the emergence of a meaningful and growing indoor small cells market was the almost simultaneous announcements by both Qualcomm and Texas Instruments of latest generation baseband SoC’s for small cells. We summarized these announcements in our Insight ‘Texas Instruments and Qualcomm Announce Small Cell SoCs’,” continues Marshall. 

These findings are part of ABI Research’s Enterprise and Consumer Femtocells and Small Cells and Carrier Wi-Fi Research Services.