Diversification of deployment will be a significant theme for the 2020
Each year, Small Cell Forum publishes a Market Status report, built around a detailed forecast of adoption in different scenarios, plus in-depth analysis of the trends driving that adoption. This year’s report will be launched, and its key findings discussed, at SCF’s upcoming virtual plenary meeting, and we believe it will provide attendees with detailed and valuable analysis of how the market will develop and grow in the coming six years, including an assessment of the impact of the pandemic crisis on deployment.
The core data source has always been a survey of about 100 operators about their five-year plans, with the questions adjusted each time, based on input from Forum members, to reflect the interests of the market. But with each report, the range of vendors, operators and other stakeholders which contribute their inputs to our model becomes wider and richer.
This reflects the growing maturity of the sector, the broadening of the use cases that small cells need to support, and the rising variety of form factors and spectrum bands that are required.
Among the most important themes of this year’s Market Status report will be forecasts of:
- deployments by spectrum band, including shared spectrum
- best/worst case scenarios based on lowering of key barriers including site access
- impact of automation and cloud architectures on deployment patterns
- scale and pace of adoption of 5G and of different virtualized architectures
The survey respondents and overall analysis also reflect an increasing diversity in the organizations which will deploy, manage and monetize small cell networks. The core research base MNOs is supplemented by a rising number of non-traditional deployers of mobile infrastructure.
This will be a key theme both of the report, and SCF’s next plenary. Even before the results are fully validated and analyzed, it is clear that, in the period from 2020 to 2026, there will be a steady rise in the number of small cells that are deployed and run by companies that were not rolling out cellular networks before 2018.
By 2026, as many as 22% of outdoor small cell networks, and 63% of indoor enterprise systems, are likely to be operated by new entrants to the cellular segment. Not all will be new companies – there will be incomers from the cloud, WiFi, tower and enterprise/private network spaces, among others. But there will also be an increasingly rich soil for innovative new players, whether these are neutral hosts, private network operators, city or enterprise specialists.
Some may be new owners of mobile spectrum; a larger number will be harnessing new sources of shared or lightly licensed spectrum. Some will deploy 5G from scratch, especially towards the end of the forecast period; larger numbers will start with 4G densification.
In general, these deployments will be incremental, not substitutions for roll-outs that would otherwise have been made by established MNOs. Our estimate is that over three-quarters of the small cells that will be deployed by non-traditional operators between 2020 and 2026 would not have been implemented at all had MNOs been the only organizations able to build small cell networks. And increasingly, those MNOs will leave behind former concerns about sharing active infrastructure, and will see these new small cell networks as an opportunity to extend their own reach and services cost-effectively.
This is just one of the topics which will be highlighted in the report and in discussions at the plenary. All address trends which will have a profound impact on the growth in our market and the opportunities for vendors and operators in the coming years, whether these are urgent concerns like COVID-19, or ongoing challenges such as regulatory reform for city networks.
Do make sure you attend the plenary (details are available on the member site, don’t forget to login first) to get early access to the results and report, and the chance to discuss how the findings affect your business in the months and years ahead.