Feature Article

October 28, 2013

Operators Add Small Cells to Boost Macrocellular Network Performance, Says Infonetics

Latest excerpts from market research firm Infonetics Research’s new report on small cells titled “Small Cell Coverage Strategies: Global Service Provider Survey”,  indicates that operators are seriously gearing up small cells for significant macrocellular network enhancements.

As a result, , Infonetics Research’s principal analyst for mobile infrastructure and carrier economics Stéphane Téral believes that the total number of small cells will surpass that of macrocell sites. However, the analyst does not see a dramatic growth in small cells. Furthermore, he added, “Operators need to look at their spectrum resources and apply them as the need for capacity increases. This means selecting the right tool in the coverage and capacity toolbox.”

The Infonetics study shows that 83 percent of respondent operators have deployed small cells, representing an 11 percent increase over 2012 survey. Similarly, 78 percent of respondents rated “multimode” and “seamless integration with macrocellular networks” as very important small cell features. While this year’s survey hinted backhaul as a major barrier to deploying small cells, the study suggests that overall barriers are waning with the exception of outdoor site acquisition, which remains challenging.

Furthermore, the Infonetics’ study indicates that survey respondents are not expecting small cells to take the place of distributed antenna systems (DAS) anytime soon. Instead, they are viewing the technologies as complementary. Meanwhile, new alternatives to small cells like Ericsson’s Radio Dot System hold the potential to reduce the need for DAS in very specific applications such as medium and large enterprises.

In summary, that study shows that a majority of survey respondents will definitely require self-organizing networks (SON) and coordinated multipoint (CoMP) to optimize network performance while diminishing the need for small cell units.

For this small cells buildout plan survey, Infonetics interviewed independent wireless, incumbent, and competitive operators from Europe, North America, Asia, and Latin America.

The market watcher’s data from its second quarter 2013 (2Q13) residential and enterprise Femtocell equipment report shows that the global 2G/3G/4G residential and enterprise femtocell equipment market grew 4 percent sequentially in the first quarter 2013 to $115 million. Likewise, driven by LTE, integrated femtocells are expected to account for nearly half of all femtocell units shipped in 2017. Consequently, Infonetics forecasts FDD-LTE femtocells to grow at a CAGR of 76 percent from 2012 to 2017.

Edited by Ryan Sartor

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