Over the past few years, the outdoor small cell market in the U.S. has grown substantially. The main barriers facing this market continue to have little to do with the technology itself and more to do with actual installation issues – power, backhaul, regulations, timelines and overall cost.
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. Using that space comes at a premium.
In general, these various issues, among others, have conspired to slow down the deployment of small cells by U.S. operators. However, iGR, a market research consultancy focused on the wireless and mobile industry, believes that outdoor small cells,which iGR 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.
iGR has recently published a new market study thatpresents a total addressable market forecast and an “actual” forecast for U.S. outdoor small cells, which include metrocells, remote radio heads as small cells and outdoor DAS. The study also includes a forecast for capital expenditures (capex or network spending) and operational spending (OpEx) on actual small cell deployments.
“iGR believes that small cells – and many of them – are inevitable, particularly as carriers march quickly down the road to 5G,” said Iain Gillott, president and founder of iGR. “In short, the industry cannot meet the demand for mobile data without small cells.”
iGR’s new market study, U.S. Outdoor Small Cells Forecast, 2017 – 2022: 5G Begins, provides a five-year total addressable market forecast, an “actual” forecast for U.S. outdoor small cells, and a CapEx and OpEx forecast. The study also discusses different small cell technologies and the issues surrounding their deployment.
iGR’s market study, “U.S. Fixed Wireless Deployment Cost Estimate: Finding the Niches,” provides a cost model that builds on several assumptions regarding feasibility and costs to estimate how much it might cost to deploy mid-band-based and mmWave-based services, using a Massive MIMO antenna system. The market study also provides a detailed discussion on fixed wireless, the mid-band and mmWave spectrum being used in the U.S., FWA deployment options, MIMO, as well as the significance of 3GPP-compliant versus non-3GPP-compliant FWA systems.
“Both mid-band spectrum and mmWave spectrum will likely be used for the first 5G fixed wireless broadband implementations,” said Iain Gillott, president and founder of iGR. “Therefore, our cost model estimates how much it might cost to deploy FWA services to U.S. households and businesses in both of these spectrums. Our model also looks at the deployment cost for different population densities and distances from downtown.”
Fixed wireless is one of several options for providing broadband internet access to the home and small business. The fixed wireless access market has heated up over the last 18 months. According to iGR, there are two reasons for this:
According to the market study, two broad spectrum categories will likely see the first “5G” fixed wireless broadband implementations:
February 2, 2017 — The amount of data flowing over the world’s mobile network is increasing exponentially. iGR estimates that in 2016, approximately eight million terabytes (TB) of mobile data traffic flowed over the world’s mobile data networks per month. And by 2021, the expected first year of commercial 5G network deployments, iGR forecasts mobile data traffic will increase to 76 million TB per month.
Many factors will contribute to the growing amount of mobile data worldwide, including reasonably priced data-centric smartphones and the trend toward consuming content stored in the cloud, especially video. Continued network rollouts, such as 3G expansion in developing markets and upgrades to LTE, LTE-Advanced and eventually 5G in developed markets, will also contribute to the total amount of data traffic.
iGR believes that the consumption of mobile data will grow aggressively over the forecast period in both developing markets and more mature markets. Commercial 5G networks based on the IMT-2020 standard are expected to be deployed in 2021 in several developed regions of the world, and this next step in the evolution of mobile networks will only increase the amount of data consumers use.
iGR’s new market study, Global Mobile Data Forecast, 2016 – 2021: Still Growing and No Signs of Slowing, forecasts the mobile data traffic from 2016 to 2021 at the global level, as well as for the following regions: North America, Latin America, Europe, Middle East and Africa, Asia-Pacific, and Japan. For each region, iGR forecasts the number of connections, the amount of data usage per type of connection per month, and the total amount of mobile data traffic per month.
The following key questions are addressed in the new research study:
What are the drivers of mobile data traffic?
What are some of the limiting factors on the amount of mobile data traffic?
What is mobile data usage today in all regions of the world and at what rate is mobile data usage expected to grow over the forecast period?
For each region, how much mobile data traffic is used by an average mobile connection?
For each region, how much mobile data traffic is used by each quartile?
What levels of mobile data usage of some of the major mobile operators in each region experiencing and what initiatives are they using to meet the demand?
The information in this market study will be valuable for:
Mobile infrastructure and equipment OEMs
Content providers and distributors
Financial analysts and investors
The new market study can be purchased and downloaded directly from iGR’s website. Alternatively, contact Iain Gillott at (512) 263-5682 or email for additional details on this study.
January 24, 2017
On a regular basis, it seems that someone in the industry suggests that the mobile operators should share infrastructure to speed deployment, lower costs and/or provide better service. After all, this has been tried in other countries, some more successfully than others. The suggestion for RAN sharing usually seems to come when we are looking at a technology, spectrum auction, major network deployment or other shift in the industry. Most recently, RAN sharing has come up as part of the 5G and mmWave network discussion.
Before going further, we should define what we actually mean by ‘RAN sharing’. RAN sharing simply means that two or more mobile operators’ networks would share the same baseband, radio and antenna – same physical infrastructure but using each operator’s spectrum. The equipment could be owned by one of the operators (with access provided to the others) or by a third party. Obviously some planning is required to make this concept work. The radios and antennas would have to be flexible enough to support each of the participating operators’ spectrum needs, and this applies to current spectrum and future plans. This coordination makes RAN sharing complex and far more difficult than initially expected.
Note that RAN sharing is not colocation; colocation already occurs today and is simply when multiple mobile operators share the physical infrastructure (towers, roof tops, etc.) to mount their RAN infrastructure. As an example, colocation is when two mobile operators mount their antennas and radios on the same tower infrastructure; the tower is shared, but not the RAN equipment. Colocation is very common with macrocells and is much discussed for small cells. Allowing and encouraging mobile operators to colocate small cells on the same pole or roof top would significantly speed small cell deployment.
In the macro network, we believe RAN sharing will be difficult to achieve. But indoors will be a different case; after all, mobile operators have been sharing neutral host DAS networks in large stadiums and buildings for years. While neutral host is not as widespread as many people believe, the reality is that systems are shared indoors.
Why is the RAN more likely to be shared indoors? Simply because the building owner or manager is likely to want multiple operators offering service in the building and is unwilling or unable to fund multiple networks. Neutral host DAS can support multiple mobile operators on the same antenna array and hence provide access to multiple operator networks to those in the building.
Going forward, we expect to see an increase in indoor RAN sharing for two main reasons:
1. As more people are using their smartphones and tablets at their desks and wanting better access to LTE, property managers/owners are increasingly looking at LTE networks inside the building. Several third parties have started addressing this market and deployments are already underway. For the property manager, this means they can provide access to multiple mobile operators without having to commit to a single carrier. The third party coordinates between the operators and the property manager; essentially the third party is building the neutral host network and leasing access back to the mobile operators. This reduces the capital outlay required by the operator and gives the property manager/owner access to the networks they need. Win-win.
2. 3.5 GHz Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) band discussions. This band is being discussed for use indoors and will be a shared resource. Rather than have strict spectrum licensing and allocations as we do today, CBRS will essentially support shared access to multiple entities, some of which will share infrastructure. Note that this is just being proposed for indoor use.
RAN sharing may eventually extend to some small cell deployments, but this will likely take some time. First, the industry needs small cell colocation and then small cell infrastructure that can support multiple spectrum bands. Only then will we be able to move to small cell RAN sharing, and this will be some years off.
Until then, RAN sharing is alive and well in the U.S. with more to come; just don’t look for it on the macro tower. Look at the local mall or football stadium instead.
Iain Gillott, the founder and president of iGR, is an acknowledged wireless and mobile industry authority and an accomplished presenter. Mr. Gillott has been involved in the wireless industry, as both a vendor and analyst, for over 20 years. iGR was founded in 2000 as iGillottResearch, Inc. in order to provide in-depth market analysis and data focused exclusively on the wireless and mobile industry.
By Ernest Worthman —
iGR Research has just released a study about wired backhaul for North American LTE metrocell small cell deployments. The consensus from the survey is that “Wired backhaul deployments will vary significantly due to the diversity of small cell locations.” The report comes to this conclusion, and rightfully so, that, because the locations of small cell deployments vary so greatly, there is no single solution to how they will be backhauled.
That shouldn’t be news to anyone who has their ear to the small cell rail. What I do find interesting in these reports is that they explain a lot about the processes that lead to the finale. For example, the reports states that “When operators choose backhaul methods for small cells, they go through a decision chain that balances current need (coverage versus capacity and the bandwidth requirements) against cost (and total cost of ownership), payback period and future scalability.” It seems that the operators who responded also said that fiber is the first choice for small cell backhaul.
The report goes on to list a number of result metrics such as why fiber is the platform of choice (throughput, low latency, better scaling, etc.), the installation pros and cons of fiber versus other platforms (wireless, HFC, VDSL2, etc.), initial cost and ROI. The report also contains iGR’s North American forecast for wired backhaul to support LTE small cell deployments over the next five years.
The following key questions are addressed in study:
What is the anticipated growth of wired backhaul in North America through 2018?
How do the major mobile operators view wired backhaul?
What are the major concerns of the mobile operators, with regard to wired backhaul?
How can these concerns be addressed?
What is the role for wired backhaul in small cell architectures?
How is wired backhaul deployed?
What are the attractions and drawbacks of wired backhaul for the mobile operators?
The market study, “Wired Backhaul Opportunities and Issues for Small Cell Architectures,” can be purchased and downloaded directly from iGR’s website
(www.igr-inc.com) providing immediate access to a digital copy of the research.
Ernest Worthman is editor of AGL Small Cell magazine