Sunday 10 June 2018

Small Cells growing fast, just not in Europe

Small Cell Forum held a workshop in Beijing, China last month to gain an understanding of China’s perspective on densification on the path to 5G. Complete report is available here. From the report:

APAC leads the world in network densification, as is clear from recent market data and forecasts out to 2025. New deployments in South East Asia alone are set to be greater than the sum total of those in the rest of the world until 2025. APAC can be characterized as experiencing two phases of growth, with a small plateau from 2019-2021 as 5GNR small cells are being commercialized. Our survey of MNOs reveals that densification in APAC is primarily capacity driven, to ensure data services maintain their quality of experience as mobile traffic volumes continue to grow. CMRI (China Mobile Research Institute) predicted its data traffic would grow 8x from 2016-2020 and 119x from 2016-2030. Ericsson predicted 8x global growth from 2016-2022, and others cited Cisco VNI’s 7x global growth 2016-2021, dominated by APAC.

A summary presentation from the event is embedded at the end.

As per Mobile World Live's report from Small Cells World Summit last month in London:

Kicking off the event, David Orloff, chair of the Small Cell Forum said: “Small cells are integral for 5G, and the reality is that there are capacity needs, there are latency needs, and both of these aspects can be driven through integration with small cells.”

He observed: “Europe is lagging. We need a new mindset, we need to look at different ways on this – in the 5G era we do have densification needs in the entire global industry, and we need to work [out] solutions to ensure the framework is there and the foundations are there. We need to think differently.”

Speaking about the global rollout of small cell technology, he continued: “We see global synergies and global barriers, but we also see regional barriers that are delaying densification. A good example in the US is cell siting; in India there is a cost target that has to be met; in China there’s mindsets around operations; and in Europe there is a question around the business case and whether it is profitable to do densification.”

“Asia is cranking, North America is doing well, really preparing that framework and foundation and starting to deploy cells that are NR capable, so that we have a structure in place so that we can turn on 5G, working on mmWave. Europe is pretty far down.”

Notwithstanding this lag, Small Cell Forum forecasts an increase in the number of non-resident small cells deployed in Europe from 52,000 in 2017 to 310,000 in 2022. But mobile operator deployments are not the only game in town: enterprises are an important driving force due to quality of service and IoT requirements, and technologies including MulteFire and CBRS are easing the way for new players.

According to Crown Castle, in a report in Fierce Wireless:

The small cell market continues to expand, and Crown Castle’s Mike Kavanagh pointed to two big factors as evidence: Small cell buildouts are starting to happen in smaller, tier 2 markets, and some small cell locations are now serving more than one carrier.

Small cells are “a big part of every big carrier’s build,” he said. “It’s a good time to be in the space.”

In the early days of small cells half a dozen years ago, Kavanagh said that a major installation would cover 50 nodes in a city. Today that number is reaching 2,000—and in some dense markets it can grow to 7,000. “You’re utilizing small cells as a much bigger element of the network build,” he said. “You’ve got to have that tower layer. And you’ve got to have small cells.”

He said in some deployments Crown Castle is seeing 2 to 4 small cells per mile, and in some dense, urban areas that number grows to 7 to 12 per mile. Kavanagh, the company’s SVP of sales and its chief commercial officer, said that Verizon kicked off the push toward small cells, but today all of the nation’s largest wireless operators are embarking on major small cell deployments.

And a big driver of revenues for Crown Castle is the growing trend toward multitenant small cells, which Crown Castle calls “leasing up.” Essentially, Crown Castle typically builds a small cell for one carrier’s equipment, but increasingly the company is adding equipment for a second carrier to that location, thus deriving more revenues per small cell site. Such site sharing is typical in the macro tower business.

Finally, here is summary of presentation from SCF looking at APAC in detail with regards to drivers and barriers for densification.

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