To meet this demand, cellular network architectures have to fundamentally change to provide the required infrastructure needed for adequate coverage, cell density, and local community resistance to traditional macro cell base station deployments.
Increasingly, small cell deployments are being used to enhance mobile wireless network coverage. Femtocells will be used in residences and enterprises alike. Picocells will be used to provide coverage indoors and outdoors, with microcells employed to cover areas where macrocells would be overkill.
The latest NPD In-Stat global market assessment predicts the retail value of small cell shipments will reach $14 billion in 2015.
"The potential that true mobile broadband offers in personal communications, commerce, and social networking becomes a curse for mobile operators," says Chris Kissel, Senior Analyst at NPD In-Stat.
Use case determines the form factor. Studies indicate that 75 percent of mobile broadband connections are made indoors. This means that mobile operators have to ensure QoS for subscribers in their homes, at their jobs, and at their leisure.
Radio Access Network (RAN) devices have to show versatility. If thought of as small cells, RAN devices can provide access to as few as four users or as many as a thousand.
The NPD In-Stat market study found the following:
- In 2015, the retail value of femtocells in Eastern Europe is estimated to reach $265 million.
- Roughly 30.7 million WCDMA/HSPA residential femtocells will be shipped in 2015.
- Worldwide outdoor metropolitan picocell unit shipments will have a CAGR of 248 percent over the five-year forecast period.
- In 2011, the value of voice and data services hosted by small cell devices is $3.2 billion globally.