Market research firm Infonetics has reported by 2016, those surveyed expect in-building and outdoor small cells (microcells, picocells, and public access femtocells) to handle around 1/4 of mobile traffic.
“The challenge is on for small cell operators. They’ve been scrambling to test and trial a large number of technologies, products, and topologies for outdoor small cells, and they’re under growing pressure to make the rubber meet the road—not only from their technology and operations people, but even their business planners,” notes Michael Howard, co-founder and principal analyst for carrier networks at Infonetics Research.
“But it won’t be easy,” continues Howard. “These operators face some daunting challenges: outdoor small cell gear isn’t small enough or cheap enough yet, and there are problems backhauling in dense urban areas, not to mention municipal regulations regarding the look, size, and color of the equipment and who can mount equipment on streetlights, utility poles and building sides. Even if they managed to solve all these issues, they’re still going to have to pass the fiscal test. Outdoor small cells won’t fly without a viable business model.”
Other findings by Infonetics:
86% of operators surveyed plan to backhaul small cell traffic to nearby macrocell sites via a variety of locations, including buildings, streetlights, and traffic and utility poles
Fiber is the preferred backhaul technology among respondent operators when available and cost effective, but the various forms of microwave—non-line-of-sight (NLOS), standard microwave, and millimeter wave—will be deployed most often
When it comes to cost of ownership, a majority of respondents require the 5-year TCO of a small cell deployment to be within 10% of a typical macrocell deployment