I’ve written about femtocells here in the past - basically micro-cell antennas that users attach to their broadband network. They are used to fill in areas where coverage is weak or does not exist. It looks like this idea is catching on. With increasing traffic demands along with OPEX and CAPEX savings in mind we’re starting to see a shift in the deployment of small range cell base stations (what some are calling simply “small cell”).
Looking at a recent ABI Research report that examines the ecosystem and outlook for LTE base stations titled “The LTE Base Station Market,” we see the uptake of small cells and remote radio heads (RRHs) as elements of the distributed base station.
Here’s some detail from the report:
- Operators will initially deploy small cell equipment as in fills on the pico and microcell layers, but will quickly transition to deploying them as a fundamental part of a network rollout.
- The number of LTE small cells sold (127,000) will surpass the number of LTE macrocells, forecast at 113,000, as early as 2014.
- Semiconductor suppliers are positioning themselves to participate in this market with TI, Freescale, Cavium, Mindspeed, and DesignArt among the manufacturers offering new “base station-on-a-chip” SoCs.
- However, LTE base station revenues will continue to be dominated by macro base station revenue with small cell revenue of $1.09 billion representing only 5.2% of the total revenue of $20.86 billion in 2014 and growing to $4.44 billion or 23.9% of the total $18.60 billion LTE base station market by 2016.
- Equipment manufacturers have been quick to respond to this shift in RAN (Radio Access Network) architecture. Ericsson acquired BelAir networks as part of its “HetNet” initiative, Nokia Siemens Networks announced Flexi Zone, Alcatel-Lucent continues to expand its lightRadio™ portfolio and Huawei has announced its AtomCell products.
Nick Marshall, principal ABI Networks Analyst, comments regarding the report, “This mobile broadband-driven data storm is stretching traditional macrocell network capacity to the limit and driving the move to heterogeneous networks.” Nick continues, saying, “These base station baseband SoCs (System on a Chip) are among the most complex ICs on the market today and raise the bar in terms of complexity.”