“Outdoor small cell unit growth dropped slightly as 2012 actual shipments reached 278,000 - down from our previously forecast number and we expect meaningful growth to resume in the 2013/4 timeframe as the first street level small cells get deployed,” says Nick Marshall, principal analyst at ABI Research.
“We forecast that the 1 W and below small cell class, ideal for street level deployment, will exhibit the highest growth, represent almost two-thirds of unit shipments in 2013, and continue to grow to overtake the higher power 5 to 10 W microcell shipments during 2014,” continues Marshall.
Outdoor small cell units will grow at 52.7% CAGR to reach over 3.5 million units by 2018. The fastest growing outdoor class of small cells are 4G LTE small cells which will grow to reach almost 1 million unit shipments in 2018 as operators begin to differentiate their LTE services by adding capacity in key strategic locations.
Aditya Kaul, practice director, mobile networks comments, “The challenges of small cell backhaul, site acquisition, network management, interference mitigation remain, but there is a whole new ecosystem of small cell network design, small cell as a service, installation and commissioning vendors that have emerged in the last 12 months, who are working closely with the local councils, equipment vendors and operators.” Kaul adds, “The level of discussions and debates around the deployment of outdoor small cells suggests that there is a lot of collective brainpower working hard at getting these deployed cost effectively and swiftly, which gives us confidence that the market is moving in the right direction.”