Five Small Cell Key Market Drivers

With mobile operators increasingly deploying small cells, the market will be guided by a handful of key influencing factors in 2015 and beyond, which Current Analysis has identified in a recent report.

LTE networks try to stay ahead of coverage
In 2015, mobile operator deployments of small cell base stations should ramp up as those with LTE networks, in particular, try to stay ahead of coverage and capacity needs and feel enough comfort with the concept of small cells from having seen early adopters roll them out. These deployments will, in turn, add to the industry’s knowledge about the operational processes of these rollouts – best practices, lessons learned, etc. – knowledge that may help make future deployments more efficient and less costly.

Outsiders use small cells to penetrate new accounts
As supplier contracts are meted out, competing vendors will learn how much outsiders are able to use this opportunity to penetrate new accounts and how much incumbent suppliers of Radio Access Network infrastructure are able to use their existing relationships to expand into small cells. Ed Gubbins, senior analyst with Current Analysis says: “One influential factor in this regard will be the degree to which multi-vendor networks can be optimised in ways that are satisfying to operators amid widespread vendor promises of RAN optimisation capabilities.”

Deeper understanding of hub-and-spoke indoor enterprise solutions
With continuing trials and deployments, vendors should gain a deeper understanding of the business model dynamics surrounding hub-and-spoke indoor enterprise solutions. Gubbins comments: “They should find answers to questions like how amenable enterprises are to these solutions, how these solutions compete with traditional Distributed Antenna Systems, how important multi-operator and integrated WiFi functionalities are and whether solutions with an attached service element or virtualisation capabilities have a competitive edge.”

Specific use cases will grow in number
As operators deploy small cells, operators and vendors will gain more insight into the possibilities for attaching services to them, whether location-based services, such as the ones ip.access and Cisco have proposed, or services attached to edge-based servers, such as Nokia and Huawei have proposed with Liquid Applications and Service Anchor, respectively. The possibilities here will be defined by specific use cases, which have been very limited thus far but should grow in number.

Partnerships among vendors are key
Partnerships among vendors in the space will play a major role in determining market dynamics in the near term, says Gubbins. “Vendors have already demonstrated the importance of using partners to accelerate small-cell deployment, both in outdoor applications – with backhaul vendors and outdoor advertising firms like JC Decaux, for example – and indoors – with in-building network design specialists, consultancies and integrators. We’ve even seen some M&A in this area, with Nokia’s acquisition of SAC Wireless and other assets, and we could see more as small-cell networks roll out in greater volume.”

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