Study: Small cells will outnumber macrocells by year-end

BARCELONA, Spain---Small cell deployments are growing at a stunning rate as operators turn their focus toward increasing network capacity and coverage.  According to research commissioned by the Small Cell Forum (formerly the Femto Forum) and produced by Informa, small cells will outnumber macrocells by year-end, growing from 3.2 million deployed in 2012 to 59 million deployed by 2016.

The forum noted that there are 53 operators committed to deploying small cells in the first quarter of this year. In addition, 60 percent of operators have said that they believe small cells will be more important than macrocells in their LTE networks.

The forum also announced plans to target the developer community by offering a suite of developer resources including APIs, application specifications and tutorials so that developers can make mass market applications for the devices. Small Cell Forum Chairman Simon Saunders said during a media event that forum research found that 60 percent of consumers are interested in femtocells and of those, 72 percent are very interested in at least one advanced femtocell service.

With all the buzz about small cells, it's no surprise that there has been some consolidation in the small cell market, with larger OEMs such as Ericsson acquiring Wi-Fi vendor BelAir Networks to enhance its small cell portfolio and semiconductor company Mindspeed acquiring femtocell chip maker Picochip. 

Indeed, small cell products have dominated discussions on the show floor at Mobile World Congress with infrastructure vendors such as Alcatel Lucent (NYSE:ALU), Ericsson (NASDAQ:ERIC) and Nokia Siemens Networks talking about their small cell products.  

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