LTE cellcos are getting busy with small cell densification: survey

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A growing number of LTE operators are densifying their networks thanks to profound changes to the architecture and economics of small cells – and that densification activity will intensify in the run-up to 5G, according to the Small Cell Forum (SCF).

Citing a new survey from Rethink Technology Research covering over 50 mobile operators, SCF forecasts that between 2015 and 2025, new non-residential small cell deployments will grow at a compound annual rate of 36%, to reach almost 8.5 million, and by 2025 deployments will be 22 times higher than in 2015.

The research also provides insight into operator’s densification plans, with 40% of operators expecting to deploy between 100 and 350 small cells per square kilometer (indoors and outdoors) in the areas they densify by 2020. Additionally, in the first two to three years of deploying 5G New Radio, 58% expect to focus primarily on small cells.

The research also shows that the industry is already seeing acceleration of deployments in the enterprise, where small cell deployments rose by 98% between 2015 and 2017, and are set to grow by up to 1,600% from 2015 to 2025.

“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,” said SCF chair David Orloff. “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.”

Meanwhile, the SCF also published Release 10, a collection of documents, presentations and videos that present the organization’s vision for the 5G era.

The collection is a response to requirements the SCF spent the summer collating during regional and partner events in India, North America and Latin America. SCF listened to input from operators, across the various geographies, on their key challenges and created a work program designed specifically to resolve the key issues raised.

Where previous releases have focused on network functionality and engineering, Release 10 provides a more accessible format for all levels of organization, including presentations and infographics. SCF’s continuing commitment to ‘digitize the enterprise’ is also reflected as it expand its enterprise campaign into healthcare sector with a detailed guide and business case.

Both the the full research report and Release 10 documents are available for download from

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