North American small cell shipments reach 1M in 2014, forum says

BARCELONA, Spain--There are now more than 1 million small cells shipped in North America, according to new data published today by the Small Cell Forum, making the region the leader in the world in terms of small cells.

The group reported that 1.01 million small cells had shipped in North America in 2014, more than double the 419,000 that shipped in the next biggest region, Europe. The firm said the APAC market came in next at 357,000 shipped, and then the Middle East and Africa came in fourth at 282,000 small cell shipments in 2014.

The firm also offered some predictions on small cell shipments in the coming years. The firm said it expects small cell shipments--mainly driven by residential and enterprise markets--will grow to almost 9 million by 2019.

The release of the numbers coincided with the unveiling of the group's new "Rural & Remote" small cell release, which details how operators should deploy small cells in rural and remote areas. The Small Cell Forum's Release Program offers a commercial and technical outline for operators to introduce small cells into specific environments. The Rural & Remote release is the group's fifth such offering; it has previously issued "releases" covering deployments in residential, enterprise and other environments.

In its Rural & Remote release, the Small Cell Forum details how small cells can be used to bring cellular coverage to remote or hard-to-reach areas. For example, operators can deploy small cells with satellite backhaul into disaster areas to aid with communications, or they can deploy small cells into rural areas where residents don't have Internet coverage.

"It is time now for small cells everywhere," said Sue Monahan, CEO of the Small Cell Forum, during a press event here at the Mobile World Congress trade show.

Already, the Small Cell Forum said that there are 17,000 small cells that have been deployed across the world in rural and remote areas--for example, some oil companies have deployed the devices in the Gulf of Mexico to aid in communications.

The Small Cell Forum cited research from Real Wireless that found that small cells could deliver affordable mobile broadband coverage to an extra 650 million users worldwide in remote locations, a move that would generate up to $163 billion in new revenues for operators.

The news from the Small Cell Forum is notable because U.S. operators like AT&T Mobility, Verizon Wireless and Sprint have recently begun major small cell deployments. Indeed, one analyst has predicted that Sprint will spend around $500 million on small cells every year. Typically the devices are being used to provide denser cellular coverage in high-traffic areas. Large vendors including Alcatel-Lucent and Ericsson, as well as smaller vendors, offer small cells.

The Small Cell Forum said that its latest release, Rural & Remote, is the group's fifth and final release. The group said it is now forming regional offices around the world to aid in carriers' small cell deployments. The group also said it will work to integrate new technologies into small cells, including network virtualization and License Assisted Access.

For more:
- see this Forum release

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