Outdoor small cells will be ‘integral’ for operator networks – especially with transition to 5G

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The outdoor smart cell market will become an integral part of mobile networks, according to new analysis from iGR.

The report argues that the main barriers to growing the outdoor small cell market have little to do with the technology itself and more to do with actual installation issues – power, backhaul, regulations, timelines, and overall cost.

Small cells will be playing an important role in the coming days as the demand for high-quality data services on LTE networks is continuously growing, with the increasing number of mobile subscribers and their rising consumption of data on their smartphones and tablets, especially to watch mobile video.

The vast majority of the cost of an outdoor small cell is related to providing everything except the actual small cell. Accessible sites – actual, physical locations – are the scarcest resource with respect to small cell installation. There are only so many accessible poles, building sides and roofs in a given area, and there is only so much useable space on them, and using that space comes at a premium.

According to iGR, the outdoor small cells – which the market research consultancy defines as either a metrocell, RRH deployed as a small cell or an outdoor DAS (oDAS) – will be an integral part of mobile operator networks, especially as they transition to 5G.

IHS Markit, another market research firm, says that the global small cell rollouts delivered strong double digit year-over-year growth to the market in 2016, with 1.7 million units shipped and $1.5 billion in revenue.

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