Report: Small cell shipments to hit 5M annually by 2017

Rising data traffic and the need for carriers to deploy heterogeneous network architecture to handle all of that traffic will lead to 5 million annual shipments of small cells by 2017, according to a new report from research firm ARCchart.

The report, which looks at the wider mobile data traffic market, also forecasts that in 2017 there will be 1.4 million macrocell shipments. Vendors and chipset makers from Ericsson (NASDAQ:ERIC),  Alcatel-Lucent (NASDAQ: ALU) and Nokia Siemens Networks to Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM) have been harping on HetNets (heterogeneous networks) to help carriers expand the capacity in their mobile networks without relying on traditional base station deployments.

Small cells are a key part of that equation, and ARCchart's forecast for 5 million annual small cell shipments by 2017 is remarkable considering that the firm forecasts just 261,000 annual small shipments for 2012. Additionally, another research firm, Informa Telecoms & Media, reported in late October that the total number of small cells in existence today is now at 6 million. Informa noted that small cell deployments now outnumber microcells for the first time. ARCchart noted that carriers will continue to deploy their small cells as a dense network capable of adding capacity to high-traffic areas.

In other small cell news, Alcatel-Lucent said it will license product software to Askey Computer, a Taiwanese manufacturer of broadband and wireless products. Askey will integrate Alcatel-Lucent's software for residential small cells into a range of new broadband and wireless products that will be made available to consumers through carriers.

For more:
- see this ARCchart release
- see this ALU release

Related Articles:
Alcatel-Lucent revamps backhaul portfolio for small cells
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Infonetics sees over-crowded small cell vendor community
Nokia Siemens rolls out HetNet services
Sprint, Ericsson hashing out small cell contract details
Qualcomm snaps up small cell firm DesignArt Networks

Article updated Dec. 3 with more information from ARCchart on 2012 small cell deployment figures.