July 26, 2016 — Small cells are starting to show promise as the three main impediments to small cell deployments are being wrangled in. Traditionally, the three biggest challenges for small cell deployment revolve around site acquisition, the availability of power, and backhaul. Of late, these challenges have seen some easing.
Objections to zoning and site acquisitions are easing. With some history under the small cell belt, municipalities are seeing the benefit of having small cells on rights of way and utility poles. Building owners are also realizing that the benefits of a nearby small cell.
Aesthetics have improved significantly. Small cells are becoming much more unobtrusive and can blend into the landscape much better. Small cells are getting smaller and have more form factor choices. These include radomes that can be painted with custom colors, street lights that have slightly thicker poles for concealing a small cell and integration with bus shelters and other street furniture.
Time to market is improving as well. Tools for site planning, hardware configuration, testing and resource planning are all improving time to market, as well as systems-in-a-box for near plug-and-play installations.
Finally, and perhaps the most driving factor is the potential for monetization. Now that mobile edge computing is established and showing promise, small cells are an optimal solution. Venues like stadiums, malls, campuses of various types, city centers and enterprises are showing potential as revenue drivers with high-speed interconnect provided by small cells.
And latency with edge networks becomes moot, so features such as streaming multimedia, real-time event coverage and customer-specific data is available for advertising and other push options.
Are we there yet? No, but the pace is increasing. The challenges are being conquered and the momentum is building. Look to 2017 for some exciting developments.