Nov. 19 2018 — Global mobile operators are expected to rely heavily on small cells to dramatically improve network coverage in indoor locations, select metro areas, suburbs and rural and remote locations over the next five years. According to new research from Kagan, global small cell revenues are expected to grow to $2.4 billion in 2020, as mobile operators and enterprises look to improve the coverage of both 4G LTE and 5G networks in both indoor and outdoor environments.
Total combined indoor and outdoor small cell revenue is expected to reach a peak in 2022, before declining in 2023 and 2024. Our expectation is that the bulk of initial small cell rollouts for 4G LTE and 5G densification will be complete by 2022, particularly those deployments throughout EMEA designed to enhance coverage and capacity for 4G LTE networks. We do expect a slight decline in revenue in 2019 as pricing on indoor small cell units decreases due to volume shipments. In 2023 and 2024, more emerging markets in CALA and Africa will begin to see volume small cell deployments. However, those deployments will be on a smaller scale when compared with larger markets, including the U.S., China, India and those of Western Europe.
Small cells are low-power radio access points designed to complement and enhance existing macrocell locations. They can operate in both licensed and unlicensed spectrum bands and be deployed both indoors and outdoors and with multiple form factors. The largest of these devices are typically used in urban and rural outdoor locations and the smallest are reserved for indoor residential applications.
There are three primary types of small cells:
- Femtocells: small footprint, low-power devices designed to improve coverage in homes and small businesses. Femtocells can improve coverage gaps indoors, especially when signals originating from outdoor macrocells are unable to penetrate walls. Current femtocells support anywhere from four to eight mobile devices and have a range of 50 feet or less.
- Picocells: base stations designed to cover a small area of around 700 feet or less. Picocells can be deployed both indoors and outdoors, with most being deployed indoors in shopping malls office complexes and train stations to add network capacity. Outdoor locations include stadiums and urban areas to improve network capacity and coverage.
- Microcells: typically have a range of around three miles, compared with macrocells, which have an average range of 22 miles. Microcells are used to add network capacity and coverage in outdoor locations, including dense urban areas, as well as rural and remote areas.
This summary is from Kagan’s first article providing in-depth global coverage of mobile infrastructure technologies. It includes worldwide small cell locations by region, revenue and units forecast through 2024. Following this will be an article covering global distributed antenna systems, or DAS, also with forecasts through 2024.