Back from Cannes, SCF Chair David Orloff reflects on a busy plenary.
Small Cell Forum members gathered in large numbers in the sunshine of the French Riviera last week, for the latest plenary meeting in Cannes. The agenda was a crowded one, reflecting the large numbers of scenarios in which small cells are now being deployed, and some important decisions were made to help keep up the momentum which is gathering behind enterprise and urban deployments.
This momentum was highlighted in a report which was published by IHS Research, with fortunate timing, during the plenary week. This said shipments of small cells had grown by 43% last year, compared to 2015, while revenue had risen by 26% to $1.5 billion. The researchers identified high levels of activity in the indoor enterprise and venue segments, and strong growth in rural. The company is now forecasting that revenues will be up by about 50% by 2021, when they will hit $2.2 billion.
Such calculations reinforce some of the clear conclusions which were drawn from the lively and often intense discussions in Cannes. As members shared experiences and debated next steps, it was plain that the enterprise market is achieving significant scale and that the Forum’s Enterprise Taskforce is much-needed. The plenary was kicked off with an Enterprise Workshop which was packed out, reflecting the excitement around this space, as well as the urgency of addressing its challenges.
The evolution of the enterprise program remained a key theme throughout the event, as the Forum extends its activity to a second vertical – healthcare, which will be targeted with highly relevant and practical information and guidelines, just as hospitality has been in the first phase of the initiative.
The other key work stream in 2017 is Hyperdense Networks, and there were plenty of sessions to address key issues in this area too, especially as more and more operators are announcing large-scale densification projects for 4G, and even starting to plan for hyperdense 5G. Regulatory, operational and interoperability issues for densification were high on the agenda and members came away with a laundry list of actions to facilitate large-scale roll-outs in the year ahead. In parallel, the Forum discussed how current small cell developments will also feed into 5G strategies, harnessing technologies like virtualization and xHaul.
We came away from Cannes with a strong sense of how central small cells now are to operator and enterprise plans, and how the Forum’s work is more essential and relevant than ever. Significant progress was made, but there will be no time to rest on our laurels. We are determined that this, the Forum’s tenth anniversary year, will also be the year of undeniable breakthrough for small cells in every area of the industry, including urban and rural, enterprise and hyperdense. We will share the next progress update at the SCWS conference in London in May, and look forward to the busiest and most successful year ever to celebrate our tenth birthday.