Small cellular base stations — or small cells — are a swiftly developing technology for the wireless world that promises to extend the range of coverage for cellular networks. Even in the countries with the most advanced wireless systems, many areas remain uncovered — particularly rural areas. But small cells are becoming more widely installed, and could have significant impacts on the extension of wireless on a global scale.
VISUAL CONTEXT: SMALL CELL GROWTH
As external base stations, small cells essentially broaden a network’s coverage by proxy. Major telecom groups all over the world are embracing the use of small cells as the race to cover the globe with wireless continues. ABI Research projects that the 2014 growth in equipment revenue at a year-on-year rate of 33% will reach $1.8 billion, and that LTE small cells will be a $10 billion market by 2019. Nick Marshall, principal analyst at ABI Research, commented on the projection:
As mobile network operators implement small cell outdoor networks, several success factors emerge as critical for a successful deployment. We see multiple solutions for backhaul, power, permitting, and siting employed by the operator community throughout the rest of 2014 and which will increase small cell momentum in 2015.
But small cells are useful in urban areas as well. They can be implemented and connected to telcos’ networks to relieve areas of high traffic and congestion that lead to bottlenecking. They can extend wireless connectivity underground; indeed, the New York City subway system actively employs small cells in its WiFi infrastructure. And in the Asia-Pacific region, ABI projects that — with the uptick in small cell deployment in South Korea, Japan, China, and India over the next five years — that region will make up 50% of the world’s small cell usage.
Perhaps the rising number of small cells will be used to handle the explosive numbers of internet-connected devices forecasted to ship as part of the internet of things.