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Published on May 31, 2013

Ready for 4G LTE-driven small cells?

The constantly growing demand for data-hungry services requires the deployment of small cells to increase capacity and coverage between macrocells. So just how important is the small cells market? Let’s look at some numbers.

Worldwide Small Cell Units and Revenue (3G vs 4G)

According to the latest study by Infonetics, the total revenue of the small cell market is expected to hit $919M by year-end. This trend will continue to grow at a 52% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) over the next 5 years, hitting $2.7B in 2017 in a phased rollout.

  • Phase 1: 3G rollout, 2008–2011
  • Phase 2: 3G expansion and upgrades, 2012–2016
  • Phase 3: 4G capacity upgrades, 2013–2017

During Phase 3, Infonetics expects the shift from 3G to 4G small cells to be dramatic in terms of unit numbers.

  • 2013: 51% of units are 4G small cells, representing 54% of total revenue 
  • 2017: 75% of units will be 4G small cells driven by LTE network capacity upgrades

Small Cell Units by Region

By the end of 2013, Infonetics expects Asia Pacific to command 50% of the entire small-cell market, driven by proponents, such as NTT DOCOMO and Softbank Mobile in Japan, as well as LG U+ and SK Telecom in South Korea. 

The forecast is that APAC’s share will remain at or around 51% until Chinese service providers and Indian operators enter the small-cell deployment game later on. 

EMEA, which is driven by the Vodafone factor, is trailing Asia with 34%. This share is expected to fall to 26% in 2017.

North America is next in line with 14% of units. This share is estimated to reach 17% in 2017, fueled by AT&T, Sprint and Verizon Wireless.

For a better understanding of the major challenges related to small-cell backhaul deployment, watch the PTP/1588 Deployment Challenges for LTE Macro and Small Cells Mobile Backhaul webinar.