April 23, 2015 — Last issue I penned a missive on the state of small cells. I guess I am not the only one looking at the small cell landscape and wondering about the state of the platform. I recently came across some interesting metrics that make sense along the road to small cell deployment and making the small cell picture a bit clearer.
The first one being carrier small cells. Two things here are a given. Licensed spectrum will continue to be under the crunch gun, regardless of the evolution of the “Gs,” and macro cells will never be able to cover the world.
Extrapolating, small cells will be the great equalizer. In a recent statement, Verizon CTO Tony Melone, said small cell deployments will be an increasingly cost-effective way to add capacity while at the same time improving cell-edge performance and thus further increasing the value of the spectrum we hold. He went on to say that as small cell technology is improving and backhaul issues are worked out, small cells will move forward.
Next, enterprises are beginning to see the value in small cell deployments. That is significant because now they will put dollars into it. Building owners, hospitals, sports and entertainment venues are feeling the pressure to have ubiquitous wireless connectivity within the premises. And, once the small cell network is in place, MNOs are also seeing the value in connecting that network to theirs. It is a win-win for the enterprise and the MNO.
And, vendors are coming to the table with integrated solutions, not just products. That is a sure sign that they are seeing dollars. Here’s why; Alcatel-Lucent and Nokia have announced plans to merge next year. Nokia has acquired a strong small cell deployment capability in the United States with its recent purchase of SAC Wireless. The company’s program for carriers is called Services for HetNets.
Ericsson has launched Small Cells as a Service (SCaaS) to facilitate deployments for carriers. The network equipment giant wants to deploy small cell networks that will serve multiple carriers from a single location.
And Huawei is partnering with facilities owners that can provide location, power and backhaul for small cell deployments. The company calls its solution Crowd-sourcing Small Cells, and incorporates an open platform which supports third-party interfaces.
Next, the move to higher frequencies is in full swing (see the FCC short below). The higher the frequency, the shorter the wavelength, and the closer the cell. Can you see the obvious here? That is a sure recipe for densification of cells, and small ones are the only logical solution.
Plus, In ABI’s recent report on the small cell backhaul market pegs the dollars at $4 billion in five years. “We believe that 4G / LTE small cell solutions will again drive most of the microwave, millimeter wave and sub 6-GHz backhaul growth in metropolitan, urban and suburban areas with backhaul for 4G/LTE small cells growing at double-digit rates and surpassing 3G in this year,” Nick Marshall, research director at ABI Research, wrote.
Finally, someone told me that VoWi-Fi is going to impede the progress of the small cell segment. Hmmm….aren’t Wi-Fi cells small cells? I don’t really see how adding voice to them changes anything… really.