Densification of wireless networks is still a trend, but it come will come in different flavors to satisfy different needs, according to industry experts. For example, while some operators have put small cells in street lights, Vodafone has collaborated with advertising company JCDecaux to put small cells in bus shelters in Amsterdam.
But Ben Cardwell, senior vice president, Mobility Solutions Segment, CommScope, expects more macro network solutions to be deployed in 2016 than small cells, adding capacity through sector splitting.
“Taking a three sector site and turning it into six sectors basically doubles the capacity. Sector splitting tends to be more cost-effective and I expect to see more focus on such macro network solutions this year,” Cardwell wrote in a blog.
All the carriers have been involved in densification, but Verizon stands out more than the others in the last 12 months. Martin Travers, president, telecommunications, Black & Veatch, expects to see that need to grow in the other carriers and for each carrier to choose different capacity solutions.
“One size doesn’t fit all. As the network matures and defensifies there is no cookie cutter approach to network challenges,” he said. “That’s what makes it challenging. We see some carriers using a cell-splitting strategy, others using a small cell strategy, and others using in-building solutions or DAS solutions.”
Alex Gellman, CEO, Vertical Bridge, believes the wireless infrastructure industry is going to be more geographically segmented than in the past, between locations where small cells will make sense and other places where only macrocells should be used.
“The question is where do they overlap and intersperse,” Gellman said. “It has everything to do with costs. What is the right solution for each geography for the carrier? The key is cost per bandwidth delivered.”
Wells Fargo Securities projects that network densification will play a role in carriers’ 2016 network plans and contribute to towercos’ organic growth, with fewer new tower builds than 2014 and 2015.