Small Cell Sites to Increase 50% from 2018 to 2020

Small Cell Sites to Increase 50% from 2018 to 2020

    Small Cell Sites to Increase 50% from 2018 to 2020

    As 5G networks begin to come to life through operators’ network densification plans, small cell deployments are expected to grow significantly over the next several years. New research involving an operator survey commissioned by the Small Cell Forum indicates trends that nearly 60% of operators are expected to focus on small cells in the first years of 5G deployment, as the densification is needed to support enhanced mobile broadband and similar 5G features. According to the paper released by the Small Cell Forum, 40% of the operators surveyed “expect to deploy between 100 and 350 small cells per square kilometer in the areas they densify (led by transport hubs, urban downtown regions and business parks).”

    While different operators have differing timelines in regards to 5G commercialization, “69% of operators planning 5G deployment before 2023 expect to start small cell deployment in tandem with the macro, or ahead of it.” 58% will “focus primarily on small cells” in the first two to three years of 5G deployment,” while 37% plan “to densify the network for enhanced mobile broadband, and 21% to enable new use cases.”

    David Orloff, the chairman of Small Cell Forum, stated, “The industry is seeing explosive growth in the number of small cell deployments, which provide the densification solution to grow today’s LTE networks, as well as providing a fundamental building block for tomorrow’s 5G deployments… This research shows the confidence and emphasis that operators around the world are placing on the technology, and we at the forum are actively collaborating with both them, the vendor community, and other industry associations to avoid fragmentation and accelerate the shift to true next generation networks and the enhanced connectivity they will bring.”

    The latest market update from Small Cell Forum shows that residential small cell growth is at the highest rate among all sectors, with nearly 2.9 million deployments in 2017 alone. The residential sector isn’t the area with significant growth however, with about 145,000 urban public access small cells deployed in 2017, nearly a 300% uptick in deployment. Small Cell Forum expects this figure to more than double in 2018. Both private and public access enterprise small cells also saw significant growth in 2017.

    The main considerations for operators in regards to small cell deployments include fronthaul and backhaul fiber-based access, easier site acquisition and access, and lower total cost of ownership.

    Beyond 2020, the research carried out by the Small Cell Forum suggest a continuous increase in small cell volume through to 2025, with an average of a little under 1 million small cells being deployed per year until a total of nearly 12 million in 2025. The densification will likely plateau beyond 2025 due to the saturation of the small cell deployment and the introduction of newer technologies that could potentially replace or improve upon the small cell concept.

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