Global small cell market is expected to grow at a 48 percent compound annual growth rate (CAGR) from 2012 to 2017, to $2.4 billion, says Infonetics Research.
Operators are deploying small cells mainly to complement and enhance the macrocell layer from a capacity standpoint, to enrich the mobile broadband experience, the report said.
Small cells mainly comprise of femtocells, picocells and microcells. They are designed to complement the large base stations forming the cellular macro network by providing enhancements in coverage and capacity in locations such as homes, offices and public venues.
In addition to these, small cell market is witnessing the proliferatin of 4G metrocells. Beginning in 2014, 4G metrocells will become the main growth engine in the small cell market, driven by in-building deployments in retail malls, stadiums, transportation stations, hotels, and event venues, the report said.
A metro cell is an operator owned and managed wireless access node, using licensed spectrum and providing open access. The metro cell has lower coverage than a macro cell, offering high capacity and serving a smaller number of users.
Geographically, Asia Pacific is showing the highest growth in small cells, which is expected to stay through 2017. The largest macrocell network density, with more than 100,000-site footprints, can be found in China, Japan, and South Korea.
While large service providers remain committed to their small cell deployment plans, the pace of deployment is much slower than expected due to a sad reality: Small cell and macrocell rollouts share nothing in common.
According to Infonetics Research, each small cell technology requires its own internal business processes which have been in place for decades with macrocells but have to be built from the ground up for small cells taking into consideration things like footfall, building dimensions, backhaul availability, and wireless technology.
Co-author of the report Richard Webb, directing analyst for microwave and carrier WiFi at Infonetics, said, “Given that service providers are in the process of retooling their plan of attack, we’re not expecting the small cell ramp to happen in 2013.”