Global small cell deployments will move beyond the 70 million mark by 2025, with 5G tipped to play a “major role” in the technology’s growth, the Small Cell Forum (SCF) stated in a new report.
The study, based on an analysis of 105 operators’ deployment plans and forecasts taken between November 2017 and February 2018, found the installed base of small cells will grow at a CAGR of 14 per cent between 2015 and 2025, to hit 70.2 million by the end of the period.
On a non-residential basis, the market will grow at CAGR of 36 per cent over the period. Some 55 per cent of the 70.2 million total will be non-residential, with growth in this segment driven by the enterprise sector, which will acccount for 74 per cent of the non-residential deployments.
The study also found annual deployments will reach 11.4 million in 2025 in total.
5G to rule by 2024
For the first time, SCF included forecasts for the initial phase of 5G small cell deployments. It predicted 5G cells (or combined 4G/5G models) will overtake 4G from 2024, as part of operators’ plans to continue to densify 4G in parallel with 5G rollout.
Until then, SCF added the deployment of LTE small cells will peak in 2020, while warning of a slowdown at the turn of the decade as some operators and enterprises wait for 5G upgrades
Deployment of 5G or multimode small cells will then cross the 1 million mark in 2020, and rise steeply to hit 5.2 million in 2025. Overall, SCF added the total installed base of 5G or multimode cells in 2025 will reach 13.1 million.
In terms of regions, SCF’s study found the vast majority of cells will be deployed before 2020 in APAC or North America, as Europe “works to address commercial, technical and regulatory barriers”.
But it added: “Provided the EU is successful in pushing through regulatory changes regarding sites and equipment approval, this should result in a leap in dense deployments for 2021.”
SCF also said there should be deployments in Africa from 2023, driven by major urban and industrial projects.
David Orloff, chairman of SCF, said the report was a timely reminder of “how networks must – and will – change and evolve in a very short time as 5G approaches. It also highlights the pivotal role of small cells in both the emerging 5G ecosystem and continuing LTE rollout”, he added.