Small cell is the buzz but DAS is the biz
Published on: 8th Nov 2012
Note -- this news article is more than a year old.
Just under three quarters of mobile networks have already deployed small cells, mainly in homes and enterprises, indicating solid experience with femtocells, according to a survey by Infonetics Research.
Of those that have deployed small cells, 3/4 have done so using the 1.5GHz-2.2GHz spectrum, the most common band across all geographic regions. Al;so, 80% of respondent operators currently use DAS in their cellular networks for coverage optimization.
"To the small cell vendors of the world, we know what you want to hear, but what you need to hear is that the small cell market simply isn't going to explode as many are predicting," cautions Stéphane Téral, principal analyst for mobile infrastructure and carrier economics at Infonetics Research.
"The reality is," Téral continues, "a majority of operators are still using distributed antennas (DAS) in their mobile networks for coverage, and despite all the talk about using small cells to boost capacity in large venues, operators we interviewed believe DAS will remain a fundamental tool for malls, airports, stadiums and the like. Yes, small cells are poised to play a major role in 3G and 4G network expansion, but operators are going to pick the right tool for their needs, be it coverage, capacity or both; indoor, outdoor or both; and small cells aren't always the right solution. The bottom line is, small cells -- I'm not talking about residential femtocells here -- remain a tiny market compared to macrocells, and will take time to reach meaningful penetration."
Like last year, the top drivers for deploying small cells are optimizing in-building coverage and high data usage areas, and non-expandability of the macro network.
Survey respondents rate interference with the macro network as the main barrier to deploying small cells, although falling 14 percentage points from last year's survey. The highest-rated feature for public access small cells among operators interviewed is self-organizing network (SON) capabilities