Sue Monahan, CEO, Small Cell Forum takes a look at what is to come for the small cells industry in 2015
2014 was an extremely busy year for the Small Cell Forum. We made further inroads with creating a set of documentation to accelerate the adoption of small cells throughout the mobile world. This included the first phase of our Urban release to coincide with Mobile World Congress in February closely followed by the completion of our Urban outputs at Small Cell World Summit in June. Fruitful plenaries in Singapore, Milan and Dallas allowed Forum members to draw together and dramatically progress the work on overcoming barriers to deployment of small cells in all environments.
As we put the finishing touches to Release Five: Rural & Remote for launch at Mobile World Congress this March, we’re seeing a real increase in small cell activity, more often than not driven by our very own member companies.
Consumers are king
Consumers are now having an active effect on businesses, with a recent survey from SpiderCloud Wireless revealing that 74% would consider a new workplace if they didn’t have strong cellular coverage.
Our Enterprise Release really comes into play here, with consumers sending a strong message to mobile operators that cellular coverage is as important at work as it is at home. Tellingly, it seems that the business case here is that it is crucial for employees to be connected – not just for productivity and the growth of the business – but for the simple fact of employee retention. This should make the industry really sit up and listen.
This growing demand for connectivity highlights the compelling business opportunity for mobile operators, and the chance for them to deploy small cells in a very lucrative market.
C-RAN in the spotlight
Although C-RAN has been a popular topic for several years, in 2015 the technology has been predicted to become the default architecture for enterprise and public venue small cells.
Enterprises are currently looking to deliver reliable indoor wireless coverage to the user. At MENA, we saw many operators stepping up the deployment of small cells, and most are deploying using C-RAN. Not surprisingly, they’ve been following our ongoing work on Virtualization.
Thanks to the continuing growth of mobile data, C-RAN small cells will emerge as an important tool to help operators respond to this insatiable demand.
Tackling rural ‘not spots’
2015 has witnessed an increased interest for rural communities joining Vodafone’s Open Sure Signal program. This program brings 3G voice and data services to parts of the UK that currently suffer from unreliable mobile coverage. Up to 100 areas currently shortlisted for the implementation across the UK, including Cumbria, Fife, Hampshire and Yorkshire.
Initial reports from areas already connected due to this program have already demonstrated increased productivity for local businesses. This reflects how small cells are making a real difference for people and their daily lives.
2015 and beyond
Figures released by Fierce Wireless predict that Sprint will spend $280 million on the deployment of small cells in 2015 alone – with the cells themselves becoming an integral part of its network infrastructure.
Interestingly, analysts are already looking out across the next decade or so, and are predicting that small cells will be a significant revenue growth driver for the U.S. cellular industry for the next decade or so – with the leasing revenue set to grow to $1.84bn in 2020 vs $580m in 2015.
All this news is great and shows how small cells are going to be an integral part of operator strategies in 2015.
With MWC on the horizon, expect lots more big news from the small cell industry and the Small Cell Forum – watch this space!