Infonetics: Small cells taking off, femtos leaving home

Infonetics Research issued a report Friday indicating that small cell deployment already is taking off among mobile operators, and that femtocell deployment is starting to be seen occurring outside of the residential sector.

About 83 percent of mobile operators interviewed by Infonetics said they had deployed small cell, with the rest indicating they would do so this year. About 28 percent of the operators added that they already have deployed femtocells in public spaces, a figure that not only shows carrier interest in small cell architectures, but also suggests that carriers are experimenting in different types of deployment scenarios with a solution that had been aimed primarily at in-home signal coverage.

Infonetics said that figure could jump to 44 percent by later this year. The research firm added that the mobile industry is in the beginning stages of a movement away from "macro-centric" network upgrades to coverage and capacity augmentation strategies that leverage small cells.

Still, the survey showed evidence that some carriers--about 61 percent--rate interference potential as the biggest technical challenge to overcome when deploying small cells. About 50 percent called it a "strong barrier" to deployment.

There is no arguing that 2011 was a big year for small cells, but at the same time, alternatives to small cells also are making progress, as carriers are looking more into Wi-Fi off-load strategies to relieve network congestion.

It's a good bet that, in the short term, operators will exploit a mix of strategies to improve congestion and coverage; and if Wi-Fi off-load, active antenna usage or other alternatives to small cells prove effective and less expensive, reliance on small cells could slip.

For more:
- here's the Infonetics press release

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