APAC and North America lead small cell rollouts as 5G looms: report

small cells
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Small cells are continuing to grow in non-residential scenarios – notably urban and enterprise sectors – with 5G, virtualization and densification playing a strong role in that growth, especially in APAC and North America.

That’s according to the latest Market Status Report from the Small Cell Forum (SCF) industry group. For the first time, SCF forecasts have been extended to 2025 to include the early phases of 5G deployment – and they confirm a major role for small cells in the rollout of 5G.

The report also highlights the significance of ensuring simple, scalable and repeatable deployment processes. SCF says it is working with regulators globally to make this happen.

Key findings from the report:

  • The installed base of small cells should reach 70.2 million in 2025
  • Densification is initially being led by APAC and North America, with Europe lagging as it works to address commercial, technical and regulatory barriers
  • The rate of new non-residential deployments of small cells will see massive annual growth (36%), led by urban and enterprise small cells, between 2015 and 2025
  • 5G cell deployments will overtake 4G by 2024. The total installed base of 5G or multimode small cells in 2025 is predicted to be 13.1 million, over one-third of the total in use
  • The report forecasts a stronger emphasis on virtualization, notably for 5G and multimode 4G/5G small cells. Virtualized systems will grow at a CAGR of 52% to reach 57% of the total in 2025
  • The vast majority of new deployments to be in dense or hyperdense environments by 2025
  • C-Band and high frequency bands will be the most important bands for 5G small cells.
  • Operators are indicating strong support for deployment of 5G small cells as their 5G capacity layer where LTE remains the coverage layer.

SCF chair David Orloff said the report is a timely reminder of how networks must – and will – change and evolve in a very short time as 5G approaches.

“It also highlights the pivotal role of small cells in both the emerging 5G ecosystem and continuing LTE rollout,” he added. “This will become increasingly central to wireless strategies as new spectrum and new revenue models drive densification.”

The survey on which this report was based was conducted by Rethink Research for SCF. It is based on operator surveys, modelling and forecasts, completed between November 2017 and February 2018. A total of 105 operators’ deployment plans were surveyed or modelled.

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