Backhaul services for wireless carriers, including for small cells, continues to be a noteworthy opportunity for the nation's fiber providers like Lumos and Zayo. Indeed, executives from both companies discussed the small cell opportunity during their respective earnings conference calls this week, noting that demand remains slightly unclear but that the eventual opportunity could be significant.
Sprint's latest small cell is actually a next-generation femtocell targeted at small and medium-sized businesses rather than the residential customers that traditionally represent the femtocell market.
Sprint continues to improve its liquidity as it defers-- or is forced to defer-- network spending. But whether that's a winning combination is far from clear.
CommScope said Sprint has committed to "an extensive deployment" of its small cells in small to medium-sized business locations. And the deal appears to signal Sprint's eagerness to expand its presence in the managed Wi-Fi market.
Level 3 Communications may have not have pursued the tower backhaul opportunity as aggressively as its other fiber-based counterparts, but the service provider continues to see potential in extending its fiber to small cell deployments.
Wells Fargo Security analysts predict wireless carriers' near-term budgets will be allocated more toward distributed network systems (DNS) including small cells, DAS and Cloud-RAN, than traditional macro sites.
Zayo Group is in the process of installing 100 small cells around Wichita, Kans. in order to boost Verizon coverage in the area. But Zayo is holding on off on similar projects while the Kansas Governor's office considers a bill that would shift the permitting process for those types of deployments.
The worldwide market for small cells enjoyed 44 percent year-over-year growth in 2015, according to IHS. But it's still tiny compared to the global 2G/3G radio access network (RAN) market.
IHS Technology said small cell rollouts increased worldwide during 2015 but noted that the small cell equipment market remains tiny compared to the global 2G/3G radio access network (RAN) market.
Wireless operators may still be in the planning and early implementation of small cells, but Lightower is seeing these carriers asking for more turnkey installation and support for the radios.