Analyst: Small-cell market bouncing back after two rough years

ABI Research says both indoor and outdoor small cells will have a good 2013 and great 2014.

In its latest research into and analysis of small cell markets, ABI Research has determined that 2013 is a bounceback year after sluggish 2011 and 2012, and 2014 is shaping up as a banner year for these wireless technologies.

For indoor small cells, ABI predicts “a return to growth after lackluster 2011 and 2012, with an increase in unit volumes in 2013 and 2014 and year-on-year growth outpacing our last forecasts,” the firm says. “This growth will come thanks to operators like AT&T, Vodafone, Telefonica, Softbank, and spring all being at the forefront of driving shipments in both enterprise and residential settings.” ABI’s latest forecast pegs overall enterprise and consumer femtocell shipments at 5.7 million units in 2014, compared to the 3.8 million the market is on track to ship this year. “While 3G indoor small cells will continue to represent the vast majority of shipments, it is LTE indoor small cells which are expected to ramp up significantly starting in 2013,” the firm says.

The outdoor small-cell market will take shape similarly; ABI foresees year-on-year unit growth of 125 percent for 2014, reaching a total value close to $3.6 billion. The firm predicts strong growth for LTE outdoor small cells “as demonstrated by the recent announcements from AT&T, Sprint, Verizon and China Mobile, which are all among the mobile networks operators [MNOs] driving this market.”

ABI also points out WiFi’s emergence as an effective carrier-grade small-cell solution “for decongestion of mobile networks,” as the firm describes it, “and we expect the initiatives from the WiFi Alliance, Wireless Broadband Alliance, Small Cell Forum, GSMA and 3GPP to continue to ease the deployment of carrier WiFi for MNOs and MSOs [multiple service operators] alike.” According to ABI’s prediction, the number of carrier WiFi access points shipped in 2014 will be three times the number that shipped in 2012.

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