A new report produced by Informa Telecoms & Media and published by the Small Cell Forum shows that the number of ‘small cell’ devices worldwide now exceeds the total number of traditional mobile base stations.
Small cells - femtocells, picocells, metrocells and microcells - are low-power wireless access points that are managed by mobile operators. They can offer mobile coverage in situations where conventional base stations aren’t practical.
The report says there are now 6,069,224 small cells worldwide, compared with 5,925,974 standard ‘macrocell’ base stations. Over 80% of small cells are currently residential femtocells, with nine of the world’s top 10 operators now deploying this technology. The UK and France are particularly notable because all major mobile operators have deployed femtocells.
Dimitris Mavrakis, principal analyst at Informa Telecoms & Media, said “The industry has passed a very important milestone and in the process changed the future direction of mobile networks. The days of small numbers of expensive cell towers have given way to the era of high numbers of low cost mini access points. Without this change, the mobile network simply could not sustain the continued growth in data usage. Such a dramatic network transformation opens up interesting new models and over the past quarter the Small Cell as a Service idea has been gaining traction. It allows third parties to build networks that several mobile operators can use, thereby reducing costs and time to market. At the moment, this is being targeted at major operators that are looking for a simple route to establishing a small-cell network as well as smaller players that have found the barriers to entry too high to date.”