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March 16, 2016

Enterprises and Key Verticals Fueling Small Cell Deployments

The market for small cell deployments has reached a turning point, with enterprises, key vertical sectors and uptake in urban areas driving growth and development. The Small Cell Forum, the main advocacy group for small cells and integrated HetNet deployments, announced the massive shift in the market based on research conducted with independent firm Nemertes.

The group surveyed 500 enterprise organizations in 17 vertical sectors and found that a whopping 60 percent of those queried plan to deploy small cell technology by the end of the year. Concurrent research from analyst firm Mobile Experts projects the number of enterprise small cells shipped will double this year, undergoing a dramatic sales spike of 270 percent to create a market worth $4 billion by 2020.

“The results are in and the evidence is clear,” said Alan Law, chairman of the Small Cell Forum. “There is a growing market for operators, a real appetite among businesses, and an opportunity for new services and solutions that can be enabled through small cell deployment.

He added that the industry still has a long way to go to reach its full potential. “The businesses that understand what small cells can deliver are planning to implement them,” said Law. “However, the research shows that we need to work harder to get our message across to the others and we have a full program underway to help with that challenge.”

That program includes Small Cell Forum Release Six: Smart Enterprise, published late last month. The document features documents, tools and deployment stories focused on the potential of the enterprise market. It also offers practical and technical support and guidance.

According to Helen Stalker, VP of marketing at Cambridge Communication Systems (CCS), a provider of a backhaul system for small cells, the most logical targets for deployments are in areas where there are concentrated users. These include airports, shopping malls and stadiums along with the SME market, which benefits from improved indoor coverage. MNOs have a prime opportunity to take advantage of small cell benefits, and many have already rolled out WiFi calling services that improve in-building coverage while incorporating voice over LTE.

“MulteFire in particular has the potential to open up the market to many new players, as it operates wholly in unlicensed spectrum - bringing down the barriers to entry,” said Stalker. “The aim is to bring LTE-like performance to unlicensed spectrum with the simplicity of WiFi-like deployments. New players are likely to include thousands of enterprises that wish to deploy small cells to deliver LTE services within their own premises.”

Stalker added that one of the challenges with enterprise deployments is when multiple businesses are located in a single building, each tied to a different mobile operator. Installing access points for each operator is cost prohibitive, but a neutral host model with a single small cell network accessed by multiple operators works well in this scenario.

Additional findings from the Small Cell Forum research include the fact that more than three million small cells were shipped last year, and there are currently 13.3 million small cells already deployed. In-building coverage is largely fueling enterprise demand for small cells, with 94 percent of businesses citing poor in-building coverage as having a negative impact on their operations.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi

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