SCF publishes latest Market Forecast Report including an early assessment of the impact of 6G

SCF, the industry association driving small cell technology and deployment, has released its Market Forecast Report 2023 shedding light on the current state of mobile infrastructure deployment and the challenges faced by and opportunities open to the telecoms ecosystem.

The report provides valuable insights into the industry’s outlook based on surveys and forecasts conducted with 113 organizations worldwide, including tier 1 and 2 mobile operators, neutral hosts and other major service providers.

Key findings include:
  • The installed base of small cells grew by 15% between 2021 and the end of 2022 and is predicted to grow by a similar amount in 2022-2023.
  • By 2031, the start of a new generation of user experiences, plus the steady scaling-up of 5G and the start of 6G, will see small cell cumulative deployments crossing the 10-million mark.
  • Over the next three years, the main sector drivers for network densification will be utilities and energy, followed by manufacturing, with local government in third place.
  • Massive Indian deployments will result in CAGR of 24% in enterprise markets and 26% in public (urban and rural).
  • South Asia will account for 22% of the total installed base of small cells by 2028, the largest single regional total, overtaking China’s base by the end of 2025.
  • There will be strong momentum in emerging regions, especially Africa and Latin America, from 2025, while growth in North America will be the slowest by region (4.2% in enterprise and 5.6% in urban) because, like China, it deployed at scale from 2020 or earlier, and will see expansion proceeding at a reduced rate from 2025.

However, while the potential for growth remains strong, the report emphasizes the need for a multi-dimensional approach and cooperation among stakeholders to maximize the opportunities inherent in small cell deployment.

Sue Monahan, CEO of Small Cell Forum, commented on the findings, saying, “Our latest report makes it clear that small cells will continue to play a pivotal role in addressing the significant challenges of mobile connectivity – revolutionizing the user experience for consumers and enterprises, ensuring sustainable networks, opening up the ecosystem and network architecture, and driving towards fully cloud-native platforms. Additionally, small cells will enable agile spectrum utilization to achieve these objectives.

“However, attracting investment for future deployments and a realistic 6G roadmap, it is crucial to prioritize sustainability and monetization alongside traditional factors like speed, coverage, and capacity. By focusing on these key elements in the planning of 2030’s networks, we can ensure a robust and thriving mobile ecosystem.”

The SCF Market Forecast Report highlights the impact of recent events, including Covid-19, inflation, war, and US-China trade tensions on network deployers and funders, leading to slower deployment and densification than previously forecasted. However, the report projects a narrowing gap between previous and current expectations as 5G expansion and enterprise demand continue to drive small cell deployment.

Simon Fletcher, Chief Strategy Officer for SCF, said: “Overcoming barriers specific to the cellular small cell market, such as fragmentation, uncertainty over architecture choices, and future-proofing investments, is critical to realizing the full potential of small cell technologies. These are all critical areas of focus for SCF, and areas our members will be focusing on in the months ahead.

“The SCF Market forecast report calls for an open and collaborative approach to address the challenges and accelerate small cell deployment. By embracing practical and flexible solutions, the industry can attract the levels of investment required to meet the growing demand for dense, high-quality connectivity globally.”

For more information, access the SCF Market Forecast Report at