Major operators scale up small cell deployments and set sights on rural, enterprise and LTE


14th November 2011

Numerous operators announce deployments of hundreds of thousands of 3G small cells

London, UK – Informa Telecoms & Media today issued its latest femtocell market status report which highlights that operators’ 3G small cell deployments are achieving volume and extending into new markets beyond the home. It also registers the growing number of operators committing to LTE small cell deployments which are expected to form a key market trend in 2012. 

There are currently 37 commercial deployments with regional US operator, Mosaic Telecom, being the latest to deploy femtocells. Telecom Italia announced its plans to launch before the end of the year and SK Telecom revealed it is set to launch the world’s first LTE femtocell service. Furthermore, Telefonica O2 has disclosed pre-launch details of its ‘Boostbox’ femtocell service in the UK for both consumers and enterprises. Separately, a number of deployed operators have passed 100,000 units, demonstrating the scalability and mass-market appeal of the technology.

Over the past quarter, Sprint, the first operator to deploy femtocells, announced it has rolled out 500,000 units and expects to exceed 1 million by 2013. With AT&T constituting the world’s largest femtocell deployment, it is clear that the US continues to be the most mature small cell market. However, several European and Asian operators including Vodafone UK, Japan’s Softbank and France’s SFR, announced they reached scale by surpassing 100,000 deployed units. Vodafone, which recently launched a marketing campaign around its UK femtocell offering, now offers femtocells in 12 countries and plans to deploy across the whole group. 

In a move beyond the enterprise and residential markets, Vodafone UK recently announced it is to offer public access rural femtocells that will be placed on BT telephone poles in order to bring coverage to “not spots” and areas where traditional base stations have not been economical. The report also highlights growing operator commitment to LTE femtocells with Verizon and Sprint announcing support in the past quarter and SK Telecom promising a commercial deployment before the end of the year. A previous survey conducted by Informa Telecoms & Media showed that 60% of operators believe small cells will be more important than macrocells in LTE networks.

CDMA operators continue to aggressively deploy femtocells with both Sprint and Verizon launching enterprise services which allow several femtocells to be linked together to cover large buildings. To assist CDMA operators, the Femto Forum and 3GPP2 recently published an operator guide detailing best practice for deployments. 

“In the past some people feared that provisioning or cell planning would limit the scale of femtocell deployments. It is now clear that deployments are routinely reaching volume with multiple operators surpassing 100,000 deployed units, and moving towards the millions. In fact, the total number of Sprint femtocells is close to double the total number of conventional US cell towers. These deployments also continue to extend beyond the home with two CDMA operators – Verizon and Sprint – both launching enterprise offerings, while Vodafone has started to look at rural femtocells in public spaces. With the 3G small cell market growing strongly, operators are now commiting in ever greater numbers to LTE small cells which will be deployed increasingly in 2012,” said Dimitris Mavrakis, Principal Analyst at Informa Telecoms & Media.

There are now 37 femtocell deployments spanning 23 countries and 15 further operator commitments. In June 2011, Informa Telecoms Media estimated that there were in excess of 2.3 million femtocells active both privately in homes and offices, as well as publically in metropolitan and rural environments. As such, there are more 3G femtocells than conventional 3G base stations globally and Informa forecasts growth to continue with 48 million access points in use globally by 2014. Eight of the top 10 mobile operator groups (by revenue) offer femtocell services – this includes AT&T Group, France Telecom Group, NTT DOCOMO Group, Sprint, Telefonica Group, Deutsche Telecom Group, Verizon Wireless and Vodafone Group. 

Informa Telecoms & Media independently researched and produced this report for the Femto Forum (femtoforum.org). The report is updated on a quarterly basis and is published free of charge on the Femto Forum’s website here - http://bit.ly/femto_update.

For more information, please contact:
Denise Duffy
PR Manager, Informa Telecoms & Media
Mob  +44 (0) 7500 330826  
Email: denise.duffy@informa.com
Twitter: @informatm_pr

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Informa Telecoms & Media (www.informatm.com) is the leading provider of business intelligence and strategic services to the global telecoms and media markets. 

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