Nine out of ten wireless carriers in a fresh IHS Markit survey have deployed small cells, the market research firm said, primarily outdoors in urban areas and in homes as residential femtocells. And the remaining 10 percent plan to deploy small cells by the end of next year.
Security has become a key selling point for the smaller transmitters, IHS said, with roughly 90 percent of respondents citing it as a key feature.
“When it comes to small cell product features, security has consistently risen from the bottom of respondents’ lists five years ago to the top-rated feature this year after placing second last year,” IHS wrote. “This is attributable to the increasing frequency and severity of security breaches and network hacking. Generally speaking, a small cell is easier to hack than a macro site that is typically not easily accessible to the public—and this will continue despite their camouflage. However, innovation in small cell installation in public spaces has led to small cells being embedded into furniture in public places such as bus stops in Amsterdam and London.”
Nokia has emerged as the top small cell manufacturer among those surveyed, according to IHS, followed by Ericsson, Huawei and SpiderCloud. Nokia has the largest installed base, although the firm noted “a flurry of homegrown players” in China.
Carriers are increasingly viewing small cells as a cost-effective way to lower subscriber churn and increase revenue, IHS said. Operators are mostly connecting them to the nearest base stations, but the use of gateways is on the rise. And most small cells are being deployed in spectrum from 1.5 GHz to 2.2 GHz, “where 3G and Long Term Evolution reside.”
The small cell market has failed to live up to a tremendous amount of hype in recent years, but growth has slogged along due to factors including permitting problems and a lack of an established model for deployments. But analysts generally agree that the market will gain increased momentum over the next few years as those wrinkles get ironed out.
- see this IHS Markit report