ABI Research expects the market for small cell backhaul equipment to grow to over $5 billion in 2018, up from a forecast $487 million for 2013 representing a 48% compound annual growth rate (CAGR).

Sub 6GHz technology will capture over 47% of small cell backhaul equipment revenue, or $2.4 billion with 31% of last mile links in 2018, while millimeter wave technology becomes the fastest growing technology over the forecast period, growing at 113% CAGR to reach a value of $668 million. Traditional microwave equipment remains a top technology for small cell backhaul applications with 34% share of revenue or almost $1.8 billion and 25% share of links in 2018.

“Thanks to its NLOS properties, sub 6GHz backhaul becomes the most popular backhaul technology for small cells by 2018,” says Nick Marshall, principal analyst at ABI Research. ABI Research believes that the millimeter wave bands from 60GHz to 80GHz will also prove compelling for small cell backhaul in many situations.

“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 with backhaul for 4G/LTE small cells reaching a value of $3.1 billion in 2018, growing at 2X the rate for 3G and surpassing 3G in 2016,” continues Marshall.

In two new reports ABI Research outlines the advantages and disadvantages of the main backhaul technologies for small cell backhaul. For wired backhaul we examine the differences between Fiber, DSL, FTTx and Cable/HFC systems and for wireless we distinguish between sub 6GHz licensed and unlicensed, Microwave, 60GHz V-Band, 70/80GHz E-Band, TV White Space (TVWS) and Satellite. In addition our Market Data forecast, MD-SMBAC-101 provides small cell backhaul forecasts by technology, region and population density (urban, suburban and rural).

 These findings are part of ABI Research’s Mobile Backhaul and Small Cells and Carrier Wi-Fi Research Services.