Microwave Journal

Public access small cell market to hit US$16B in 2016

February 26, 2013

Informa Telecoms & Media issued its latest quarterly small-cell market status report for the Small Cell Forum, which highlights that public access small cells are gaining clear market traction and will dominate small cell revenues for the foreseeable future.

New research in the report predicts that the installed base of small cells is set to grow from almost 11 million units today to 92 million units in 2016 - an 8x increase - with a total market value of over US$22 billion. Public access models will dominate revenues in 2016 with a market value of US$16.2 billion - 73 percent of the overall small cell market total - despite accounting for only 4 percent of small cell units deployed. It finds that the 9.6 million femtocells in operation today make up 56 percent of all base stations globally - outnumbering macrocells for the first time. Femtocells will continue to outnumber all other types of cell with 86 percent of the total base station market in 2016 and constitute 12 percent of overall small cell market revenues.

This public access small cell traction is also reflected in operator announcements over the past quarter. AT&T revealed that its public access small cell trial provided close to perfect coverage and increased capacity in the most challenging metropolitan areas and reiterated plans to rollout 40,000 units by the end of 2015. Vodafone UK announced it is currently testing 1000 public small cells and plans to start rolling out tri-mode models (3G, 4G & Wi-Fi) by March, while Verizon also plans to roll out the technology in the second half of the year. Although operator focus is on urban small cells, BT announced that it is to start a technical trial of rural models aimed at bringing coverage to areas where it has traditionally been uneconomical.

The femtocell market continues to progress with NTT DOCOMO launching the world’s first LTE product, while its subsidiary DOCOMO PACIFIC announced it is to deploy enterprise and residential small cells. Orange France launched its first residential offering and Vodafone UK launched a new a new plug-size ‘Sure Signal’ femtocell, while Everything Everywhere launched an enterprise femtocell service. In order to help drive significant further deployments the Small Cell Forum launched a Release programme which brings together all the information operators need to successfully roll out small cells. The first published Release focuses on residential femtocells and assists operators planning newer enterprise, metro and rural small cell rollouts.

“Public access small cells in busy urban areas are set to be one of the defining mobile network trends in the coming years. While operators won’t be deploying them in the same numbers as femtocells, they are arguably their best tool for bringing massive extra capacity to their mobile networks. As this research shows, the vendors who succeed in this space are going to win the lion’s share of small cell revenues. All eyes will be on the deployments taking place in the coming months in order to establish best practice for the many more that will follow over the next few years,” said the report’s author, Dimitris Mavrakis, principal analyst at Informa Telecoms & Media.

“The mobile network is undergoing the biggest and most rapid change in its history due to small cells – they now account for 63 percent of all base stations globally. This revolution may have started in the home with femtocells but in 2013 we’re going to see it spill into the streets, shopping centres and enterprises,” said Gordon Mansfield, the Small Cell Forum’s Chairman. “However, although 47 of the biggest operators have rolled out the technology to the clear benefit of their subscribers – the industry needs to facilitate further rollouts. Our new Release Programme aims to do just this by giving operators all the information they need to get small cell services off the ground.”