SoCs for metrocells vs. femtocells on diverging paths

The small cell market is bifurcating between public access and metrocell equipment vs. consumer-grade femtocells, resulting in two distinct roadmaps for sales of baseband processors for small cells, according to ABI Research.

Baseband system-on-a-chip (SOC) platforms for public access or metrocell equipment, which is targeted at higher price and feature points, will sell in smaller volumes than less costly baseband SoCs for femtocells installed in homes and businesses, said ABI.

"The difference in price points is explained by the fact that enterprise and consumer femtocells are, as the name implies, consumer grade, and with performance levels much less than their metrocell cousins, less costly components can be used. Conversely, public access metrocells are ruggedized, often for outdoor use, and come with advanced features which allow them to handle many simultaneous subscribers often in simultaneous multimode 3G/LTE, and increasingly Wi-Fi, at much higher RF power levels than a femtocell," said ABI.

The firm ranks Mindspeed as the leader in small cell baseband market share, followed by Texas Instruments and Broadcom. Mindspeed dominates 3G small cells closely followed by Broadcom. However, Freescale has more than 50 percent market share in LTE small cells, followed by Texas Instruments in second place.

Examing public access metrocells as a standalone category, ABI found that vendor proprietary ASIC solutions attracted the top market share, followed by Freescale and Texas Instruments. "This is because vendors such as Huawei, Ericsson (NASDAQ:ERIC) and Samsung and to some extent, Nokia Siemens Networks, all are using ASICs in their designs, particularly in their picocell and microcell products," said Nick Marshall, ABI principal analyst.

For more:
- see this ABI release

Related articles:
Madden: Small cells will carry more capacity than macros
Small cell market ramping up, will reach $2.7B by 2017
Infonetics: Femtocell sales set to blast off in 2013
Macrocells struggle to deliver indoor coverage
Report: Public access small cells will drive $16.2B in revenue by 2016

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