A common misconception is that the spigot is going to turn off for the tower market and then turn on for the small cell market, according to Joe Madden, whose firm, Mobile Experts, makes high-level market forecasts for base stations, repeaters, small cells, Wi-Fi and femtocells.
“There is so much demand for data that operators are looking for multiple ways [including towers and small cells] to serve that data need and will choose for the cheapest way to take care of a wireless consumer,” Madden told AGL Bulletin.
Madden developed economic models to understand the decision making of the operators and how they plan to invest their money to get the data bits from point A to point B.
The economic models have been shown to mobile operators for their input, and carrier equipment plans have been compared with the plans of 50 different equipment suppliers to create a combined forecast.
“We are starting to look at carrier investments into Wi-Fi and the integration of mobile systems with Wi-Fi systems of different types. But it has limited function compared with a mobile network,” Madden said. “The choice between tower/base stations and small cells depends on which one most effectively carries the traffic and is the most economical, which depends on geographical and terrain factors.”
In the inner city, if the towers are maxed, the coverage answer might be a small cell. In suburban and rural areas, towers are still the most economical alternative.
“The conclusions I come up with is there is growth in multiple pieces of the wireless hardware market,” Madden. “There is growth in radio transceivers, active antenna systems, carrier grade small cells. However, there is limited growth in femtocells for residential and enterprise use.”
The report, Small Cells: Femtocell, Picocell (and Repeaters, DAS and WiFi), is available at mobile-experts.net