Global mobile operators will be using small cells to expand the indoor coverage and improve network capacity, improving the quality of telecommunication. Small cells can divert 80 percent of data traffic in crowded areas. Increase in hotspot capacity will make up for areas not covered by macro cells (both indoor and outdoor) to improve network performance and service quality.
Kelly Hsieh, research director of TrendForce, said small cells will achieve higher level of integration, allowing for multi-mode, multi-band deployment, and integrate unlicensed spectrum.
The deployments of small cells – fuelled by 5G — will reach 2.838 million units in 2018 and 4.329 million units in 2019, an annual growth of 52.5 percent. Hsieh said that demand for 5G applications will gradually emerge as consensus on 5G standards and 5G application scenarios are being formed. Particularly, small cells are key to 5G as they can support increasing demand of data performance. It is estimated that the global deployments and installed base of small cells will reach 2.838 million units in 2018 and 4.329 million units in 2019, an annual growth of 52.5%.
The TrendForce report predicts that small cells will upgrade network performance and improve efficiency through indoor digital deployments. Small cells can carry large sum of data transmission brought by Internet of Things (IoT) and integrated wireless backhaul, reducing investment costs significantly.
China Mobile, Verizon, AT&T and SK Telecom are currently making investment for deploying small cell technology to boost customer experience. Therefore, with the development of 5G technology, small cells will become key equipment adopted by global mobile operators. Currently, mobile operators in China, the United States and South Korea are the most active, including China Mobile, Verizon, AT&T, and SK Telecom.
Backgrounder on Small Cells (see IEEE reference below):
Small cells are portable miniature base stations that require minimal power to operate and can be placed every 250 meters or so throughout cities. To prevent signals from being dropped, carriers could blanket a city with thousands of these stations. Together, they would form a dense network that acts like a relay team, handing off signals like a baton and routing data to users at any location.
While traditional cell networks have also come to rely on an increasing number of base stations, achieving 5G performance will require an even greater infrastructure. Luckily, antennas on small cells can be much smaller than traditional antennas if they are transmitting tiny millimeter waves. This size difference makes it even easier to stick cells unobtrusively on light poles and atop buildings.
What’s more, this radically different network structure should provide more targeted and efficient use of spectrum. Having more stations means the frequencies that one station uses to connect with devices in its small broadcast area can be reused by another station in a different area to serve another customer. There is a problem, though: The sheer number of small cells required to build a 5G network may make it impractical to set up in rural areas.