Femtocell vendors can expect a "very big 2013," according to research firm Infonetics, which predicts growth will come from 3G and LTE femto sales.
For the full year 2012, the femtocell market totaled $425 million, up 21 percent from a year earlier. Sales of 2G, 3G and LTE femtos began ramping up late in 2012, growing 66 percent sequentially in the fourth quarter from the third quarter. Price-per-unit has been falling and shipment volumes increasing, though both have moved too moderately to drive a more rapid acceleration in adoption, explained Richard Webb, the firm's directing analyst for microwave and carrier Wi-Fi.
"That said, we believe femtocells have sufficient market drivers and support among operators to sustain continuous annual revenue and unit growth through at least 2017, starting with a very big 2013, driven by strong 3G femto sales and fast-ramping 4G femtos," he added.
The firm predicts 4G femtocell revenue will expand at a 165 percent 5-year compound annual growth rate from 2012 to 2017.
Public-space femtos accounted for slightly more revenue than consumer femtocells in 2012. And femto devices are evolving. Integrated femtos, which are built into broadband consumer-premises equipment such as DSL routers/gateways, made up 3 percent of units shipped in 2012 but are expected to encompass about half of all units by 2017.
According to Infonetics, the femto market share leaders for last year were Airvana, Samsung and Cisco/ip.access.
Infonetics also released excerpts from its latest microwave equipment report, which showed spending declined 10 percent worldwide for the full year 2012, due to price erosion and capex conservation by service providers. "We expect the market trough to hang around a little while longer before renewed growth begins in late 2013," said Webb.
Infonetics forecasts the microwave equipment market will reach $5.2 billion by 2017, thanks largely to continuing demand for backhaul capacity at macrocell sites.
Ericsson (NASDAQ:ERIC), Huawei, and NEC maintained their positions as the top three microwave equipment vendors in 2012's fourth quarter, but fourth-place Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE:ALU), which is the leader in the all-packet segment, has closed in considerably on NEC. Aviat Networks replaced Ceragon in the fifth-place position during the quarter, said Infonetics.
- see this Infonetics release and this release
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