The latest research from Infonetics provides insights into operators’ current and future plans for outdoor small cells and backhaul in its “Small Cell and LTE Backhaul Strategies: Global Service Provider Survey.”
The challenge is on for small-cell operators, noted Michael Howard, co-founder and principal analyst for carrier networks at Infonetics Research, in a company statement. “They’ve been scrambling to test and trial a large number of technologies, products and topologies for outdoor small cells, and they’re under growing pressure to make the rubber meet the road, not only from their technology and operations people, but even their business planners.”
It won’t be easy, said Howard, because operators are facing daunting challenges. “Outdoor small-cell gear isn’t small enough or cheap enough yet, and there are problems backhauling in dense urban areas, not to mention municipal regulations regarding the look, size and color of the equipment and who can mount equipment on streetlights, utility poles and building sides. Even if they managed to solve all these issues, they’re still going to have to pass the fiscal test. Outdoor small cells won’t fly without a viable business model.”
According to the survey, 86 percent of operators plan to backhaul small-cell traffic to nearby macrocell sites via a variety of locations, including buildings, streetlights, and traffic and utility poles. The same percentage of operators also preferred fiber for backhaul technology when available and cost effective, but the various forms of microwave — non-line-of-sight (NLOS), standard microwave, and millimeter-wave, will be deployed most often.
The survey also showed that by 2016 respondents expected in-building and outdoor small cells (microcells, picocells, and public access femtocells) to handle around one-quarter of mobile traffic.