Over the next four years, carriers and other businesses will spend $6 billion globally on outdoor small cell backhaul equipment, according to a new report from Infonetics Research. While there were fewer than 7,000 outdoor small cell backhaul connections in 2012, the market research firm predicts that there will be 850,000 by 2017.
Richard Webb, co-author of the report, said the firm is expecting “outdoor small cells to really kick into high gear beginning in 2014.”
Infonetics is not alone in forecasting a big year for small cells. In July, ABI Research predicted a rebound for the indoor small cell market.
Many carriers are looking to outdoor small cells, which can sit on telephone poles or atop buildings, to extend coverage and capacity in urban areas and add coverage in rural areas. However, as Ronny Haraldsvik, SpiderCloud Wireless CMO, wrote earlier this year, deploying small cells can be a very complex undertaking.
Infonetics co-founder and principal analyst, Michael Howard acknowledged the obstacles but feels that operators will soon overcome them.
“Outdoor small cells or, more accurately, low-power cells, are an exciting new expansion of mobile networking, but they come with challenging backhaul issues,” he said. “As a result, deployments of outdoor small cells are modest right now, as mobile operators sort things out and test, trial and select technologies, products and vendors. But that’s about to change, and fast.”
The Infonetics report on small cell mobile backhaul equipment tracked more than 30 major vendors worldwide including Alcatel-Lucent, Cisco, Huawei, Nokia Solutions and Networks and Samsung.
Many vendors appear to be preparing to compete in this growing market. Cisco made several acquisitions this year, and Ericsson jumped into the market with its new Radio Dot System. Last week, Alcatel-Lucent said that it secured five small cell contracts in Latin America.
But North America is where the action is currently, according to Infonetics. The firm noted that AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, Clearwire and Comcast are all planning and conducting field trial deployments in the region.