Report: Small cells outstrip macro cells as European deployments speed up

Small cell have reached a milestone by overtaking the number of macro base stations installed around the world, according to a new study from Informa Telecoms & Media.

Over the last two months, the number of small cells installed has exceeded 6 million (6,069,224) with macro cells worldwide totalling 5,925,974, according to Informa. The market research firm said although today 80 per cent of small cells are residential femtocells--which will alone overtake the total number of macro cells early next year--the figure also includes enterprise and public-access small cells.

The Informa report highlights the new femtocell deployments made this summer by Telefónica's O2 UK, Orange UK and Bouygues Telecom, meaning that the UK and France have become the first countries globally where all major operators have deployed the technology.

There are now 45 small-cell deployments ,including nine of the top 10 operators by revenue globally, according to Informa.

"The days of small numbers of expensive cell towers have given way to the era of high numbers of low cost mini access points. Without this change, the mobile network simply could not sustain the continued growth in data usage," Dimitris Mavrakis, principal analyst at Informa Telecoms & Media, said in a statement. "Such a dramatic network transformation opens up interesting new models and over the past quarter the Small Cell as a Service (SCaaS) idea has been gaining traction. It allows third parties to build networks that several mobile operators can use, thereby reducing costs and time to market. At the moment, this is being targeted at major operators that are looking for a simple route to establishing a small-cell network as well as smaller players that have found the barriers to entry too high to date."

In the SCaaS space over the past quarter, Informa said that Virgin Media has announced it is trialling LTE small cells in the UK ahead of launching its SCaaS offering, while Colt Telecom is already in trials with a major European operator. Two new companies, Cloudberry Mobile and ClearSky, have launched their own SCaaS offerings in Europe and the United States, respectively, aiming to appeal to smaller operators.

For more:
- see this Informa Telecoms & Media release

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