Sue Monahan, CEO, Small Cell Forum
At the end of October our Chair Alan Law (our COO Richard Kennedy) and myself attended the Wi-Fi and Small Cells MENA event held in Dubai. The conference brought together the key players in the small cell market to discuss developments and future plans in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) regions.
Small cells are a really hot topic in the MENA region, and the show saw compelling presentations from a good mix of industry players. Forum members Huawei and SpiderCloud also held workshops during the event, which both proved very popular.
We had very productive meetings with key MENA operators and as a result are now looking to create a MENA Operator group and identify a regional chair to represent the Small Cell Forum in the region.
In Africa we see 3G for urban and business centers driving initial growth, with rollouts ramping up towards 2019. This growth will be driven by LTE small cells – with some operators moving from 2G to 4G directly for wide-area data.
Middle Eastern deployment looks to ramp up towards 2018, with the spike being driven by LTE expansion and urban capacity. We saw MENA operators already deploying small cells and some are deploying using C-RAN – so not surprisingly they’ve been following our ongoing virtualization work.
Barriers to deployment
In a recent poll conducted by Maravedis Rethink, MENA operators were asked to name the top challenges to deploying small cells and they said: Backhaul and site issues dominate in Africa, while Middle East operators were more concerned about monetization issues than any other region.
In the same poll, MENA operators were asked to name the top drivers. The Middle East is focused on capacity for premium services and cities with operators above the global curve for interest around small cell driven services, such as personalization. Coverage was named as the premier driver in Africa, especially where there is little 3G coverage. Finally, capacity, total TCO and Wi-Fi were also flagged as important in this region to cost-efficiently deliver mobile broadband.
Overall the MENA show was an excellent event made successful by the dedication and hard work of Small Cell Forum members alongside the team at Avren Events. There was a lot of interest in the work we’re doing, particularly around virtualization, and we’re really eager to engage more closely with the operators in the region and to see how the small cells market develops.