Outdoor small cell deployments were off to a slow start, but are now showing signs that they will grow significantly over the next several years, according to the latest worldwide market study by IHS Technology.
Infrastructure investment is driven mostly by the mobile network operator common need to enhance saturated macro-cellular networks, and improve the mobile broadband experience by adding capacity through dense low power node deployments.
Mobile Internet Market Development
IHS has forecast that the global outdoor small cell backhaul market will reach $2.2 billion in 2020, with a five-year (2016–2020) compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 80 percent.
Mobile network operators are currently testing and field trialing many outdoor small cell and backhaul options in dense urban areas to choose technologies, products and vendors, as well as to develop operational procedures.
The issues of urban deployment are gradually being resolved, and more mobile network operators are now starting to make their initial deployments.
And although most deployments to date have been in urban and metro areas, there are also applications in rural areas: Vodafone and other operators are using small cells for outdoor coverage in remote areas, where the backhaul is not difficult and usually via the wireline network.
The major growth in outdoor small cell deployments is predicted to begin in 2017, with steady expansion through 2020 as deployments proliferate. Consequently, a cumulative $6.4 billion will be invested worldwide on outdoor small cell backhaul equipment between 2016 and 2020.
Other highlights from small cell backhaul study:
- For the full-year 2015, the global outdoor small cell backhaul equipment market totaled $117 million.
- Wireless (microwave) solutions account for the bulk of small cell backhaul revenue.
- Of the individual technologies, point-to-point (P2P) microwave and Ethernet fiber were the small cell backhaul revenue leaders in 2015.
- 42,600 outdoor small cell backhaul connections were deployed in 2015, rising to 878,000 in 2020.