Monday 4 March 2013

Is 2013 the year of Metrocells?

A recent market market report by Informa for the Small Cell Forum has highlighted the following:

  • December last year marked the first launch of a dual mode 3G/LTE femtocell by NTT DoCoMo which allows CS fallback and will be used to promote the migration from 3G to LTE. Orange France has also launched consumer femtocells, diversifying its small cell offerings.
  • The small-cell market is growing at a rapid pace: The largest deployments have already reached 1 million active cells. Initial metrocell deployments are taking place while all the operators in several markets now offer femtocells.
  • Both SKT and KT have launched LTE small cells for public access in South Korea.
  • According to Informa Telecoms & Media’s estimates, the small cell market will generate US$22 billion during 2016, 73% of which will be driven by public area small cells.
  • The number of small cells deployed overtook the total number of macrocells between October and November 2012 and consumer femtocells overtook macrocells during February 2013.
  • The femtocell market now includes several deployments that reach well into hundreds of thousand units, including Vodafone, Softbank and SFR. Sprint’s deployment reached 1 million units as of October 2012 and analysts estimate that AT&T’s deployment has reached similar numbers.
  • As of February 2013, there are 46 commercial services and a total of 60 deployment commitments.
According to this reportThe Small Cell Forum released these numbers here at the Mobile World Congress. Gordon Mansfield, chairman of the Small Cell Forum, said 2013 is the "year of public access" small cells, noting that by 2016 public access small cells will drive $16.2 billion in revenue despite the fact that they only make up 4 percent of small cells today.  Mansfield also said 98 percent of mobile operators believe small cells are essential; however, of the 46 operators that have deployed small cells, the majority are larger operators.

The Informa report does provide a definition of the type of Small Cells but clearly mentions that these are for guidance only. I have posted my views earlier about what Metrocells are here and here. I much prefer to use the term 'Indoor Metrocells' rather than Picocells as Picocells are associated with legacy networks without an intelligence (SON, etc.) of its own. The same is true in outdoor case as I prefer 'Outdoor Metrocells' rather than Microcells. Having said that Microcells are still available from vendors and are comparatively more expensive but provide capability to cover larger areas and more simultaneous number of users.

The Small Cell Forum has also embarked on a Release plan to help speed up operator deployments. 'Release One' was released in the Mobile World Congress 2013 with focus on Home, the future releases with focus on Enterprise and Metrocells. An Infographic on releases is available here.

Below are some of the announcements regarding Metrocells from the last couple of weeks:

  • Russia Is Bringing High-Speed Fiber to All Its Towns and will also provide cellular coverage in those towns using Metrocells. See here and here.
  • ALU and China Mobile unveil TD-LTE lightRadio. The TDD lightRadio Metro Radio houses two of ALU's now-famous 'cubes' (highly compact radios which can be installed on lamp posts) integrated with a directional antenna. This enables a level of coverage which would normally require a far larger remote radio unit linked to an external antenna via cable. Details here.
  • Node-H supports Broadcom’s Dual-Mode Small Cell SoC Family. Details here.
  • Giza Systems and Bluwan Partner to Accelerate Middle East Heterogeneous Network Rollouts. Details here.
  • CEVA and Mindspeed Extend Relationship to Address LTE-Advanced Small Cells. Details here.
  • Aricent and Mindspeed Raise the Bar — Announce Launch of a High-Performing 20MHz Small Cell Reference Solution. Details here.
  • Jin-Magic and Ubiquisys Join Forces to Improve Small Cell Performance. Details here.

David Chambers from ThinkSmallCell has written an excellent report rounding up Small Cells from the MWC which is available here.

Finally, there is one last chance to come to out Metrocell Masterclass in Cambridge on the 21st of March. Details here.

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