Wednesday 16 January 2013

Small Cells deployment report

Today, I went through the Informa's report on small cells. Some interesting points from the report as follows:

Microcells and picocells are already widely deployed in market but on a lower scale compared with femtocells. Metrocells are expected to enter the market during 2012 through operator trials or pilots and expand significantly during 2014 and 2015 primarily for 3G networks in developed markets and LTE in the US market.


Although volumes are driven by consumer femtocells, vendor revenues are expected to be bigger with operator-deployed and managed small cells; profit margins are expected to increase in proportion to cell size. Metrocells and microcells are expected to be the most profitable small-cell market segment, although contracts may vary.



Picocells are small cells that are already established in the market and widely deployed. Picocells usually refer to cells that are deployed in indoor public areas for coverage improvement, including shopping malls, train stations and airports, as well as also enterprise locations. Picocells are widely deployed, although not on the scale of consumer femtocells, due to their larger coverage area and smaller target market. Picocells typically transmit less than 4W, may cater for more than 32 users and are also single-sector. 

Picocells have also traditionally been a less-intelligent version of femtocells and have acted as typical base stations, although vendors are now including femtocell-developed technologies in these larger units in order to adopt several benefits, including auto-configuration, radio environment awareness and remote support.


Microcells can be regarded as small macrocells and are usually deployed in urban areas that are capacity-constrained. There are also many cases where microcells are deployed in rural areas, where the coverage area of a macrocell may not make sense due to concentrated population in a limited area. 

Microcells are also widely deployed and have been in the market for several years. Typical transmit power can be as high as 40W – but not more – and these units are typically three-sector, unless deployed in light poles or building walls when they are typically single-sector. 

Microcells are typically used when an operator is forced into cell splitting – splitting a large macrocell into many smaller microcells in order to increase the overall system capacity. In other words, microcells are typically the only cell present in an urban location and this is an important distinction between microcells and metrocells. 


Informa Telecoms & Media considers metrocells as a special type of a single-sector microcell which is deployed primarily in capacity-constrained areas. Metrocells are also deployed as an overlay rather than acting as the primary cellular network, meaning that advanced features are necessary, including self-optimizing (SON) features and auto-configuration.


* Microcells will continue to be deployed throughout the forecast period, growing from 602,000 units deployed at end-2011 to 2.8 million at end-2016. This growth is primarily driven by additional 3G cells in urban locations and rural coverage expansion in developing areas. 

* Metrocells are expected to enter the market during 2012 with 31,240 cells deployed by the end of the year, increasing to 681,000 by end-2016. 

* Finally, Informa estimates that 194,000 picocells were deployed in the market by end-2011, a number which will increase to 1.1 million by end-2016.

A discussion on this topic with regards to the numbers is available on 3G4G blog here.

The complete paper is embedded as follows:

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