Outdoor Small Cells Come in from the Cold

    Just about everything about wireless and cellular networks is changing. There are more users, the sessions conducted by these folks are longer, and the nature of the content is more complex and time-sensitive. For those reasons, the protocols being used are changing, too.

    That’s not the only change. The macro cell towers that have sufficed to this point can no longer cut it. Now, coverage areas are being subdivided into smaller sectors and efforts are made to optimize the way in which interior spaces are served.

    Small outdoor cells are a big part of this. Three reports, two recent and one nearing release, show how the sector is evolving.

    It’s an active field. RCR Wireless reports that IHS market found that the outdoor small cell market grew 200 percent this year compared to 2015. The firm expects that $5 billion will be spent between 2016 and 2020 on the backhaul connections weaving outdoor small cells into the network. The firm predicts that by the end of the decade, 48 percent of revenues from outdoor small cells will come from Asia-Pacific, 27 percent from the Middle East and Africa, 14 percent from both the Caribbean/Latin America region and North America.

    A second firm sees outdoor small cells growing precipitously. Last month, ABI Research said that the outdoor small cell category will enjoy a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 38 percent through 2021.

    The press release provides some context: Last year, structural challenges (backhaul, power, permitting) that had been impediments were overcome by the advent of Small-Cells-as-a-Service (SCaaP) approaches. Companies that undertook this strategy included American Tower, Crown Castle, Ericsson and Nokia – all of which now are enjoying strong quarterly growth. This year, the release says, LTE small cells are the faster growing small cell category.

    The third report, from Persistence Market Research, which is slated for release in February of 2017, discusses the evolution of point-to-multipoint microwave backhaul systems. The bottom line is that these mesh networks have several drivers and are expected to thrive:

    The growth of point-to-multipoint microwave backhaul solutions is driven by the increased need for higher capacity and efficient technology among mobile operators in order to be able to satisfy the growing consumer demand for high data rate and efficient services. Further, the growing number of small cell networks and LTE, the increased pressure on networks due to high data traffic, and contrasting small cell deployment scenarios is forcing the operators to review their approach toward backhaul.

    Wireless networks are changing radically. It’s important to note that they are occurring even before 5G becomes a major factor. These three consultancies quite accurately suggest that outdoor small cells are a key player in enabling wireless networks to expand smoothly. This will set up the network nicely for the commercialization of 5G.

    Carl Weinschenk covers telecom for IT Business Edge. He writes about wireless technology, disaster recovery/business continuity, cellular services, the Internet of Things, machine-to-machine communications and other emerging technologies and platforms. He also covers net neutrality and related regulatory issues. Weinschenk has written about the phone companies, cable operators and related companies for decades and is senior editor of Broadband Technology Report. He can be reached at [email protected] and via twitter at @DailyMusicBrk.


    Carl Weinschenk
    Carl Weinschenk
    Carl Weinschenk Carl Weinschenk Carl Weinschenk is a long-time IT and telecom journalist. His coverage areas include the IoT, artificial intelligence, artificial intelligence, drones, 3D printing LTE and 5G, SDN, NFV, net neutrality, municipal broadband, unified communications and business continuity/disaster recovery. Weinschenk has written about wireless and phone companies, cable operators and their vendor ecosystems. He also has written about alternative energy and runs a website, The Daily Music Break, as a hobby.

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