Analyst targets $5B U.S. small cell site services market

ABI Research notes that the unique deployment challenges facing small cells in the enterprise and public markets force multi-operator agreements, reduced equipment size, collocated cells, and minimal aesthetic impact.

Smart city IoT pioneers seen leveraging standards, open source, and AI elements
Smart city IoT pioneers seen leveraging standards, open source, and AI elements

​ABI Research notes that network capacity and coverage problems demand small cells as a solution, pushing operators to scramble for suitable small cell sites. "It gets worse as this growing demand for sites aggravates backhaul and power challenges; however, capable small cells vendors are up to the challenge with small cell site services, managing site capex that will reach over US$5 billion by 2019," reports the analyst.

Leading edge operators do not want this headache, notes ABI, and will outsource small cell operations and establish RAN sharing agreements. Operators’ focus on competitive advantages of their core services opens the door for outsourced solutions and beneficial arrangements with the site owners.

The unique deployment challenges facing small cells in the enterprise and public markets force multi-operator agreements, reduced equipment size, collocated cells, and minimal aesthetic impact, contends the analyst's latest research. Increasing demand and overcrowded sites become a problem. Six small cells on a street corner or light post will often not suffice, points out ABI.

“Operators see small cells networks as a competitive advantage, but mass market and hotspot rollout versus limited site selection changes the equation into site sharing services,” comments Ahmed Ali, research analyst at ABI Research. “We will see the small cell needle move as these arrangements take hold.”

The exact makeup of the small cell site services business model depends on the solution provider goals and the market. Leading players include equipment vendors Ericsson, Alcatel-Lucent, Huawei, and Nokia, as well as site and fiber owners like Virgin Media, Zayo, and CloudBerry. “Winning in the small cell market requires host-neutral solutions, stakeholder cooperation, and cell site services,” adds ABI's Ali.

These findings are part of ABI Research’s Small Cells Market Research, which includes research reports, market data, insights and competitive assessments covering regional shipments and deployments, in addition to standardization process, major vendor solutions and recent trends.

Learn more about the research.

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