Mobile World Congress 2016:
Small cells at the heart of the action
The news highlights at this year's Mobile World Congress were heavily focused on new network architectures – multi-layer HetNets, virtualization, Mobile Edge Computing, the Internet of Things, and of course the road to 5G.
In all of these trends, small cells play a key enabling role, which explained the huge number of announcements in Barcelona with this technology at their heart. Trials of LTE in the unlicensed 5GHz band, and '5G' in millimeter wave spectrum; the growth of connected cars; the commercialization of ETSI's NFV and MEC platforms. All of these were important developments made possible by small cells.
Small cells are driving the emerging architectures, but also having a major impact on deployments right now. Small Cell Forum's latest research indicates that enterprises will be the key growth driver over the next few years – propelling the market to a value of $6.7 billion by 2020. By the end of next year, 60% of enterprises will have begun deployment.
These enterprises still see some challenges in large-scale rollout, hence the importance of the Forum’s latest release – Release 6, which details best practice and deployment blueprints for the Smart Enterprise. Among the important issues which are being addressed are multi-operator support, unlicensed spectrum, voice technologies and deployment processes, as reflected in the Release, and also in many of the announcements at the show.
New offerings from companies like ip.access, SpiderCloud Wireless, Quortus and CommScope showed how technologies such as virtualization and unlicensed spectrum are being harnessed to enable small cells to meet every enterprise requirement, and so drive the technology across the chasm into mass deployment.