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Did you get a Small Cell or a Smartphone for Christmas?

Christmas PresentThe holiday season has seen the usual flood of presents and gifts between family and friends. Billions of dollars has been spent on smartphones and tablets. This popular category of gift is suitable for all ages, whether the latest upgrade for a seasoned user, a major transition from a voice & text 2G cellphone or a sideways move from an App oriented Wi-Fi only iPod.

Observing the reactions from both ends of the spectrum – from real geeks to cautious newcomers - has been quite enlightening over the last couple of weeks. Coverage and usage costs typically aren't well understood and I suspect very few (if any) Small Cells will have been given as presents. Here, we offer some observations of our own which may not be statistically significant, and may not be entirely relevant to your own country/operator, but highlight some of today's ongoing industry challenges.

2013 Small Cell End of Year Report Card

reportcardIt's that time of year again, when we (and many other analysts) reflect back at the year gone by and look ahead at what developments await us next year.

First, let's put ourselves in the spotlight and revisit our predictions from December 2012, see if we got them right, and look at how the Small Cell industry might evolve next year.

Cisco's Big Thinkers ponder the implications of Small Cells

Cisco LogoCisco released a series of video recordings earlier this year, featuring a number of selected thought leaders from both within and outside the company. To save you time, we've reviewed and condensed the content into a shorter digestible article. Some of their comments aren't unique (so it's nice to hear they are aligned with others in the industry), while other viewpoints highlight a different perspective seen from other more traditional vendors.

How Cisco plan to establish themselves as a major RAN and Small Cell supplier

Cisco Logo...which includes pre-wiring buildings to be 3G capable using Small Cells.

Cisco has recently spent over $2 billion on acquisitions in the mobile network equipment market. They say they don't plan to become a macrocell vendor but do have a strategy to take a large chunk of the $50 billion annual CAPEX spend of today's dominant RAN vendors (Ericsson and Huawei).

We look at how they might do this and how the market dynamics might change.

Small Cells Global Congress Report

InformaThis week's Small Cell Global Congress in Berlin attracted some 150 delegates, and is a smaller event than the similarly titled Small Cell World Summit in London. The major focus was on metrocells, but there were contrasting views on the urgency of the need for adoption. We also heard case studies about residential femtocells, 2G off-grid rural small cells in Indonesia and new commercial models for wholesale metrocell hosting. Backhaul for the last mile (or few hundred metres) to connect public access metrocells was also a hot topic for debate. There were lots of questions asked, many viewpoints presented, and several areas where there wasn't a clear consensus answer.

HetNet Europe Conference Report - A mix of large and small cells

HetNet Europe LogoAvren's HetNet Europe conference, formerly known as the Bath Basestation Conference, attracts a fairly technical crowd who are dealing at the sharp end with the issues of mobile radio networks. A tremendous range of information is covered, both during the presentations and the offline networking, of which I've covered only a sample below. While few would dispute the growing trend of mobile data traffic (although some  do and did), I sensed that most European operators seem set to deploy a combination of UMTS900, Wi-Fi offload and 3G small cells before embarking on heavy investment in LTE. From a technical viewpoint, today's biggest challenge appears to be figuring out cost-effective backhaul for public access outdoor small cells. Otherwise, we saw new business models and players entering the fray, offering to solve the logistical and practical problems of how to scale up and deploy large numbers of small cells when you don't have the CAPEX budget, staff or systems in place to do so.

Chinese small cell market status August 2012

ChinaChina Mobile now seems to be recognizing that it can't solve its data capacity demand issues through macrocells alone. With a low takeup of their 3G service (less than 10% of subscribers), the strain on their huge GSM network is taking its toll. As with many other network operators elsewhere, their strategic plan involves a combination of 2G, 3G, 4G and Wi-Fi but critically, they recognize that small cells have an essential role to play and have been moving forward with trials and deployments.

Small Cell World Summit Report June 2012

SCWSThe annual jamboree for the small cell industry continues to evolve and grow organically. This year's event didn't just have a new name (no longer Femtocell World Summit), it had quite a different feel about it. There has been a substantial groundswell of opinion change from operators in the last six months. LTE, Wi-Fi, Policy Management alone won't be enough to meet their own data traffic forecasts, and everyone is now very serious about deploying substantial numbers of small cells.

As before, Avren have their own style of running the event which attracts all the key players, enables extensive networking and delivers truly great content. It's also quite enjoyable too.

Apologies for the somewhat lengthy report here (which still didn't do justice to the range and depth of information discussed). Apologies to all those I've been unable to mention below. I'll follow up on many aspects included and excluded in the weeks ahead.

Wi-Fi has limits that small cells can capitalize on

Wi-Fi and small cellsEd Candy, Group CTO of Hutchison 3, said at last month's LTE World Summit that he thought Wi-Fi would "Asymptote to failure", a view he has held for several years. With Wi-Fi performance in some places becoming unworkable, is he right? I believe Wi-Fi does have a place in the overall solution, but can't solve capacity problems in cases of high traffic congestion and contention.

LTE Operator Mindshare on Small Cells

LTEI participated in the LTE World Summit Operator Mindshare event, prior to the main event itself. This consisted of several concurrent round table discussions led by operators, and examined many of the issues around LTE deployment. This included several surprising revelations about how small cells play their part, and some strong disagreements.

Small Cells in Latin America

LATAM mapI had the good fortune to attend the LTE LATAM (Latin America) conference last week in Brazil. LTE is still at an early stage in the region, and there are some spectrum and other issues which may hold back takeup. But with strong demand for mobile data, LTE is seen as an essential part of the solution. Several vendors and operators now openly recognize that small cells have a strong part to play.

Verizon Wireless to deploy small cells, already short of LTE spectrum

logo_vzwVerizon Wireless, the large US cellular network with over 100 million subscribers, filed a request for additional spectrum from the FCC. The 299 page submission explains how they are already planning for small cells, but argues for additional spectrum to meet demand and suggests that small cells can't alone provide the capacity required. Is this true?

Small Cell roundup from Mobile World Congress 2012

mwc_logo_11Mobile World Congress held in Barcelona each year provides the major event for the industry to get together and network with others. A comparatively small conference, a huge exhibition and even larger set of meeting rooms allows over 60,000 industry participants to promote, share and discuss. With more focus this year on Small Cells, it was a pleasant surprise to see this term accepted as a mainstream part of the future industry direction - many more vendors are happy to use this term than (residential) femtocells. Here's my snapshot of the show from a small cell perspective.

Large growth in femtocell shipment numbers is not materialising

Slow GrowthABI Research, one of the leading analyst proponents of femtocells, issued a somewhat despondent end of year summary for 2011, noting that the growing number of live commercial femtocell operators wasn't translating into the large number of shipments they had forecast a year or more ago. Their latest market size estimates provide some insight into the size and shape of the femtocell industry today.

 

2011 Femtocell End of Year Report Card

reportcardWith the passing of another year, it’s time to reflect back on the achievements of the last 12 months and consider what awaits us next year. As usual, we compare progress with our predictions from this time last year and make some bold assertions of what’s to come.

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    Residential

    Residential

    A significant number of users continue to report poor mobile coverage in their homes. There will always be areas which are uneconomic for mobile operator to reach. They range from rural areas

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    Enterprise

    Enterprise

    The term Enterprise addresses any non-residential in-building including hotels, convention centres, transport hubs, offices, hospitals and retail outlets. It's not just intended for businesses to

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    Urban

    Urban

    Urban small cells (sometimes also named metrocells) are compact and discrete mobile phone basestations, unobstrusively located in urban areas. They can be mounted on lampposts, positioned on the

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    Rural

    Rural

    A rural small cell is a low power mobile phone base station designed to bring mobile phone service to small pockets of population in remote rural areas. These could be hamlets, small villages or

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