Small cell deployment to rapidly grow, says report

A majority of businesses will be using the cellular-boosting devices by the end of next year, a study believes.

20160127 verizon sf small cell
Credit: Stephen Lawson

Small cells, the low-powered radio access nodes, are being deployed at ever increasing rates, says a study. Sixty-percent of enterprises will have deployed the signal-enhancing devices by the end of 2017, the Small Cell Forum says.

It commissioned the study from Nemertes Research.

The study, published in February, discovered that 14% of businesses have already introduced the technology.

The reason for the growth is to fulfill a need for better mobile coverage in hard to reach spots not covered by regular mobile service.

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It’s for “improved coverage, capacity and service innovation” as more enterprises become “dependent on high quality mobile connections,” Small Cell Forum says on its website.

Small cells are “operator-controlled, low-powered radio access nodes, including those that operate in licensed spectrum and unlicensed carrier-grade Wi-Fi. Small cells typically have a range from 10 meters to several hundred meters,” the forum explains on its website.

The genre of mobile network connections encompasses femtocells, to picocells and microcells, the forum explains.

Femtocells are generally deployed by the enterprise, and managed by the Mobile Network Operator (MNO) remotely. They provide indoor mobile network signals in hard to reach places by diverting the mobile signals down the enterprise’s ISP pipes.

Picocells and microcells are mobile network base stations deployed by the MNO as opposed to the enterprise. They differ from femtocells in that they’re open to all; can be deployed outdoors in the case of microcells; and have more power than femtocells. They have less range than a traditional mobile network tower.

Essentially all three types of small cells are used to fill network coverage gaps.

The move to small cells is because of growing mobile dependency, the study says. The research implies a dissatisfaction with existing in-building “cellular coverage.”

“Poor quality voice connection was seen as the biggest challenge facing many businesses, cited by some 45% of the respondents compared to the 36% who listed slow data or email as the prime concern,” it says.

Enterprise is increasingly using mobile networks within the business.

“The companies surveyed said the number one reason for deploying small cells is to support a mobile-first workplace where employees often use their own devices,” says the RCR Wireless News website who has written about the report.

And businesses are becoming “increasingly dependent on high quality mobile connections,” the Small Cell Forum website says. Presumably that means they are becoming less dependent on hard-wired setups. Nemertes surveyed over 500 business and IT executives.

Almost all respondents (90%) said in-building mobile coverage was important to their business. “Some 48% said they were interested in small cells as they would provide better connectivity for app-based services,” the study found.

“This research shows clearly that small cells have a role to play in business performance, innovation, and success,” says Small Cell Forum Chairman Alan Law on the website.

Demand also comes from “building owners who cannot lease their properties without a good indoor signal,” and logistics and retail, RCR Wireless News emphasizes in its story.

“Businesses are moving to a mobile-first environment, and need the coverage, capacity and security that only a carrier-grade small cell deployment can provide,” Law believes.

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