LTE-based femtocell market catching fire, Infonetics says

The market for femtocells and enterprise small cells is picking up, driven in part by LTE deployments, and looks like it will remain strong through 2018, according to Infonetics Research. The report appears more bullish than forecasts recently released by Mobile Experts.

Infonetics estimated worldwide femtocell and enterprise small cell equipment revenue reached $144 million during 2014's first quarter, up 6 percent from the fourth quarter of 2013. LTE femtocells, the highest ARPU products in the market, are helping boost revenue growth, though WCDMA femtocells still dominate unit shipments, the firm said.

Both femtocell and enterprise small cells should "sustain continuous year-over-year unit and revenue growth through 2018," observed Richard Webb, Infonetics' directing analyst for mobile backhaul and small cells. "4G macro network deployments are underway in many places, and operators are starting to launch 4G-based femtocells to augment mobile broadband services," he added.

"Boosted by enterprise small cell adoption kicking in to help mobile operators support enterprise-specific voice and data offerings, we believe 4G femtocell and enterprise small-cell revenue will climb to $2.3 billion in 2018, a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 77 percent from 2013 to 2018," Webb said.

Mobile Experts, which is tracking the market on behalf of the Small Cell Forum, appears to have a more conservative outlook. Joe Madden, principal analyst with Mobile Experts, wrote in a recent column for FierceWirelessTech that small-cell shipments during the first five months of 2014 "are not rolling out the door as expected." 

The firm previously predicted that during 2014 five indoor small cells would ship for every outdoor unit. But rather than a 5-to-1 ratio of indoor to outdoor units, Madden said the current ratio looks more like 20 to 1.

Despite that relative strength of indoor small-cell shipments, Madden said Mobile Experts now believes "the ramp-up of indoor small cells is moving out from 2015 to 2016." He added the firm also expects the residential femto forecast will be fairly flat through 2018.

According to Infonetics, femtocell and enterprise small-cell equipment revenue market share leaders for 2014's first quarter were, in alphabetical order, Airvana, Alcatel-Lucent Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU), Cisco, and ip.access.

For more:
- see this Infonetics release

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