Report: telecom operators to increase small cell deployment in 2012

Infonetics recently released results on its report on small cell deployments, which found that telecom operators expect to double the percentage of base transceiver station units that are small cells from 6% this year to 12% in 2012.

Infonetics recently released results on its report on small cell deployments, which found that telecom operators expect to double the percentage of base transceiver station units that are small cells from 6% this year to 12% in 2012.

According to the report, 72% of telecom operators participating have already deployed small cells. Of those deploying small cells, microcells are deployed by the most so far but picocells will take the lead next year

Infonetics (Campbell, Calif., U.S.A.) found that small cells are mainly used in metro areas and large enterprises now, but reflecting the fact that service providers are facing increased pressure to keep users happy, next year respondent operators plan to deploy significantly more small cells in many more locations, including public venues, airports and stations, retail malls, hotels, highways, rural areas, says Infonetics

Infonetics also found that while widespread, the small cell installed base is tiny compared to that of macrocells, and although it is growing at a fast pace, it will take some time to reach meaningful penetration.

Informa Telecoms & Media (London) also issued a report on the femtocell market status which highlights that operators’ 3G small cell deployments are achieving volume and extending into new markets beyond the home.

According to Informa, there are currently 37 commercial deployments of femtocells. Telecom Italia (Milan, Italy) announced its plans to launch before the end of the year and SK Telecom (Seoul, South Korea) revealed it is set to launch the world’s first LTE femtocell service.

Furthermore, Telefonica O2 (Slough, England) has disclosed pre-launch details of its ‘Boostbox’ femtocell service in the UK for both consumers and enterprises. Separately, a number of deployed operators have passed 100,000 units, demonstrating the scalability and mass-market appeal of the technology, says Informa.

Over the past quarter, Sprint (Overland Park, Kan., U.S.A.), the first operator to deploy femtocells, announced it has rolled out 500,000 units and expects to exceed 1 million by 2013. With AT&T (Dallas, Texas, U.S.A.) constituting the world’s largest femtocell deployment, it is the U.S. continues to be the most mature small cell market, says Informa.

However, several European and Asian operators including Vodafone UK (London), Japan’s Softbank (Tokyo) and France’s SFR (Paris) announced they reached scale by surpassing 100,000 deployed units. Vodafone, which recently launched a marketing campaign around its UK femtocell offering, now offers femtocells in 12 countries and plans to deploy across the whole group, according to the report.

In a move beyond the enterprise and residential markets, Vodafone UK recently announced it is to offer public access rural femtocells that will be placed on BT telephone poles in order to bring coverage to “not spots” and areas where traditional base stations have not been economical. The report also highlights growing operator commitment to LTE femtocells with Verizon (New York) and Sprint announcing support in the past quarter and SK Telecom promising a commercial deployment before the end of the year. A previous survey conducted by Informa Telecoms & Media showed that 60% of operators believe small cells will be more important than macrocells in LTE networks.