Press release: Small Cells to Make Up Almost 90% of All Base Stations by 2016

Vendors shift up a gear with the introduction of LTE small cells and integrated Wi-Fi

Informa Telecoms & Media today issued its inaugural small cell market status report which highlights dramatic uptake in small cell deployments. The report finds that small cell are set to grow from 3.2 million in 2012 to 62.4 million by 2016 – a 2000% (or 20x) increase – constituting 88% of all base stations globally. The report also highlights the key advances in small cells in 2012 including several new deployments, including the world’s first LTE femtocell service launch, as well as important acquisitions and new product launches marrying small cell technology with Wi-Fi.

The report finds that small cell deployments are set to be dominated by femtocells with the installed base to grow from 2.5 million in 2012 to 59 million in 2016 – a 2400% (or 24x) increase. Enterprise and public area picocells are set to grow from 140K in 2012 to 540K in 2016 – a 385% (or 4x) increase. Public access small cells which are mostly installed outdoors and encompass microcells and metrocells are set to grow from 595K in 2012 to 2.9 million in 2016 – a 480% (or 5x) increase. It is important to note that between 2012 and 2015, public access small cells will evolve from traditional designs to next generation models. These new models will employ the advances made in the femtocell market including new chipsets, advanced RF and network management, as well as lower cost components.

The small cell market has seen numerous crucial developments in 2012. This includes new small cell deployments from Vodafone Portugal, 3UK, Free in France, regional US operator Mosaic Telecom and the world’s first LTE femtocell deployment by SK Telecom. There have also been deployment commitments from Telefónica O2 and Telenor Group.

Over the same period there have also been important vendor acquisitions and product launches. Ericsson, which recently revealed plans to launch a range of new multi-mode small cells, announced it is to acquire Wi-Fi vendor BelAir Networks. One of the leading providers of femtocell chipsets, Picochip, was acquired by Mindspeed. Numerous other vendors announced that their small cell portfolios are set to include support for Wi-Fi including Alcatel Lucent and Nokia Siemens Networks. In the other direction, Ruckus Wireless announced that it would be adding support for licensed small cells to its public Wi-Fi technology.

“Small cells are set to drastically reshape mobile networks over the next few years as they become comfortably the most common form of base station worldwide. Over the past few months alone we’ve seen a host of new operators make small cell announcements including major players like Telenor and Telefónica O2, as well as smaller providers like 3UK and Free in France whose free femtocell offer looks set to be highly disruptive. Unsurprisingly this sea change in mobile networks is impacting M&A activity with Mindspeed acquiring small cell chipset frontrunner Picochip while Ericsson provided further proof of the importance of Wi-Fi in small cells by picking up BelAir Networks,” said Dimitris Mavrakis, principal analyst at Informa Telecoms & Media.

The report highlights how small cell shipments are, and will continue to be, dominated by femtocells which have 40 publicised femtocell deployments spanning 23 countries and 15 further operator commitments. In June 2011, Informa Telecoms Media estimated that there were in excess of 2.3 million femtocells active both privately in homes and offices, as well as publically in metropolitan and rural environments. As such, there are more 3G femtocells than conventional 3G base stations globally and Informa forecasts growth to continue with 48 million access points in use globally by 2014. Eight of the top 10 mobile operator groups (by revenue) offer femtocell services – this includes AT&T Group, France Telecom Group, NTT DOCOMO Group, Sprint, Telefónica Group, Deutsche Telecom Group, Verizon Wireless and Vodafone Group.

The report defines small cells as including femtocells, picocells, microcells and metrocells. Informa Telecoms & Media independently researched and produced this report for the Small Cell Forum Forum (@smallcell_forum). The report is updated on a quarterly basis and is published free of charge on the Small Cell Forum’s website here – http://mail.informatm.com/c/11I2CMLGzIULz8SlwdHSfv7liV.

About Informa Telecoms & Media
Informa Telecoms & Media is the leading provider of business intelligence and strategic services to the global telecoms and media markets. Our aim is to provide actionable, strategic advice and forecasting on all aspects of the music, mobile and fixed, entertainment markets.

© Informa UK Ltd 2012. All rights reserved.

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