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April 05, 2016

2016: Year of the Small Cell

Small cells and base stations have long been a part of the mobile device environment for some time, with some thinking that this might be the way to help bring some relief to mobile networks congested by video and other high-bandwidth demand items. A new report from Mobile Experts suggests that 2016 may be the year the small cell finally takes center stage.

The Mobile Experts report examined both small cells and “small base stations” like Remote Radio Heads, microcells, picocells, femtocells and others, and revealed that big growth was in the cards for much of the market. Several segments would more than double over the course of 2016, as small cell technology has become a “legitimate mainstream solution” for vendors in mobile infrastructure to help deliver more capacity.

Additionally, since small cell technology is now considered a mature technology,  most of the problems associated with putting such in play have since fallen. The report will be considering the offerings of several major firms from Intel to Google and beyond, as well as inputs from lesser-known firms.

Kyung Mun, who serves as a senior analyst with Mobile Experts, noted “Emerging suppliers are rising to meet the new demands and technology capabilities of the small cell market, and so out of necessity new business models are materializing as well. Small cells are becoming a more legitimate market space that now constitutes a meaningful share of total investment in mobile infrastructure.”

Some here might note that bringing more capacity to the market might be a moot point anyway since 5G connectivity is likely to get into the picture in the next four years or so. Four years is a long time to run on current capacity alone, however, and with mobile device users proving increasingly dissatisfied by the current customer experience, it's easy to see why there's a push to get more coverage out into the field.  The report actually covers small cell shipments before the arrival of 5G, so it's clear the report will at least somewhat factor in the arrival of 5G capability in a few years. Even if capacity isn't an issue, small cells' other uses—like bringing better connectivity to indoor environments or areas with poor line-of-sight like in major cities—should also make these prized additions to many mobile carriers' lineups.

In the end, using small cell technology to make a better mobile experience is a smart idea, and one that many look ready to adopt. Better connectivity never hurts in terms of keeping customers happy, and the end result is better service and users more likely to stay.

Edited by Maurice Nagle

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