The hype surrounding the capacity benefits small cells can provide is overshadowing the issue of deploying the technology together with existing macro networks, according to research firm Ovum.
Ovum wants to define the small cell market based on small cell applications rather than technology.
In new reports, Ovum said that while there if no single definition of the small cell market that fits all vendors, it believes defining the market based on small cell applications rather than technology provides the best segmentation.
"The majority of interest in the small cell market today is surrounding the capacity gains of small cells being deployed in a heterogeneous network (HetNet)," Daryl Schoolar, principal analyst in Ovum's network infrastructure telecoms team, said in a statement. "The reasons for this are very clear: as mobile traffic continues to grow, the economics of deploying more macrocells to meet this traffic growth do not add up long term. Small cells promise to provide much-needed capacity injections at a lower cost."
Interestingly, the firm also said that Wi-Fi should be considered a small cell as infrastructure vendors are starting to incorporate Wi-Fi support into their overall HetNet strategies. This interest will, forecasts Ovum, see operator Wi-Fi equipment shipments grow by 84 per cent in 2012 and continue double-digit growth to 2017.
Schoolar also called for operators to share small cell networks. "Not only will it be difficult for multiple operators to deploy 100+ small cells in a given city; governments could even legislate sharing to avoid excessive cluttering."
Ovum also said that having multiple vendors integrating metro cells into the macro network could present difficulties, especially if the macrocell vendor has no reason to cooperate.
- see this Ovum release
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