A report from NPD In-Stat predicts that due to skyrocketing demand for mobile data services the sale of small cell devices will hit $14 billion in retail value by 2015. These devices will include femtocells, picocells and microcells in areas where “macrocells would be overkill,” the report says.
“The potential that true mobile broadband offers in personal communications, commerce and social networking becomes a curse for mobile operators,” said NPD In-Stat senior analyst Chris Kissel. “Studies indicate that 75% of mobile broadband connections are made indoors. This means that mobile operators have to ensure (quality of service) for subscribers in their homes, at their jobs and at their leisure. Radio access network devices have to show versatility. If thought of as small cells, RAN devices can provide access to as few as four users or as many as a thousand.”
The study cited recent research that showed Eastern Europe will see $265 million in retail value of femtocells by 2015; that roughly 30.7 million W-CDMA/HSPA residential femtocells will be shipped in 2015; that worldwide outdoor metropolitan picocell unit shipments will post a compound annual growth rate of 248% over the five-year forecast period; and that in 2011 the global value of voice and data services hosted by small cell devices hit $3.2 billion.
The small-cell market is indeed being driven by a surge in mobile data services that is placing an increasingly high level of stress on mobile networks that are still mostly designed to handle less intensive voice traffic. A number of carriers have begun to deploy different technologies to handle the challenges of network hungry data services that need to provide coverage in locations that are difficult for traditional macrocells to reach. Those technologies include femtocells and picocells that are usually deployed by consumers using their own backhaul capabilities or in a broader sense by distributed antenna systems that are typically deployed by a carrier or a third-party partner and tied directly into the traditional cellular network.
Highlighting the potential of the market, Crown Castle recently spent $1 billion to acquire DAS provider NextG Networks.
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