The small cell market saw significant growth in 2013 as the total number of small cell units shipped hit 642,000, a 143% spike from 2012, according to a new report from Infonetics Research. Over half of these units are of the 3G variety, and Infonetics predicts that 4G metrocells will close the gap with 3G this year, becoming the main growth engine.
“As we anticipated, the great small cell ramp did not happen in 2013 as many in the industry had hoped. Testing activity remained solid, but actual deployments were modest. Small cell revenue was just $771 million last year, a sharp contrast to the $24 billion 2G/3G RAN market,” reports Stéphane Téral, principal analyst for mobile infrastructure and carrier economics at Infonetics Research.
Some additional highlights:
- As mobile operators have to approach a “critical mass” of data traffic before small cells even become a consideration, it is the developed countries (Japan, South Korea, the UK and US) that are driving early adoption
- Backhaul is no longer a major inhibitor to small cell deployment, but it will remain an issue for some mobile operators due to the locations in which they operate
- 5G is coming, fully loaded with small cells: NTT DOCOMO in Japan plans to have 5G commercially available in 2020, in time for the Tokyo Olympics.