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Small Cell Technology – Where Are We in 2017?

In the past few years, small cell technology has expanded the capacity of mobile networks, and it’s not hard to see why. Small cell technology, for those who may be wondering, is a small, short-range mobile base station that adds to cellular service from macro-cell towers. Small cell technology boasts high reliability, low-latency connectivity, and a high level of security as additional features.  As 2017 adds to the Internet of Things (IoT) mobile data services are also on the rise, giving way for small cell technology to act as the superhero for mobile speed and quality, for both voice and data. These elements fuel the demand both residentially and in enterprise. In fact, with the ever-increasing number of everyday IoT devices, “talking” to each other wirelessly, it’s predicted by Gartner Research that 1,000 times more bandwidth will be required in the next 10 years alone.[i]

With the ability to offload some of the burden on macro sites, small cells have made a positive impact both in the home with residential users, as well as with enterprise users seeing the largest growth with enterprise users.  According to Small Cell Forum, there was 78% growth in non-residential shipments from Q1 in 2015 and Q1 in 2016[ii]. That is expected to rise in 2017, as industry is seeing the benefit of adoption. Fast service is so important nowadays – for residents and businesses alike. There isn’t a business sector in which small cells don’t provide benefit to both users and the bottom line.

As wireless providers use a combination of macro sites and small cells, it will allow businesses and consumers to continue to access and use their data service at an optimal level and at the highest speeds.

Across the nation, the U.S. has led the way in small cell integration and usage, but other countries are quickly catching up. Small Cell Forum highlights that China bought over 1M small cell units at the end of 2016. Europe and South America are also following suit, as the dependence on mobile connectivity continues to grow in these areas, as well.

There is varied research when it comes to small cell market growth in dollars, anywhere between $3.92 – $6B USD spent annually on shipments by 2020. Without a crystal ball, there’s no way growth in 2020 can be seen today, however, given the trends growth is not just inevitable, but certain.

A factor that is critical in aiding the small cell rollout is access to fiber-based broadband connectivity. Without it, wireless carriers would not be able to keep up with the increasing demand for bandwidth from their subscribers.  While fiber may be readily available in the big cities, finding fiber in more rural areas has been a challenge for some carriers and is an area where companies like FirstLight can lend an assist.  In fact, FirstLight has been providing fiber-based, broadband connectivity to the major wireless providers for decades.  If you are looking for reliable, scalable connectivity, look no further.  FirstLight has the capabilities you need for your small cell deployment.

[i] https://www.cuddyfeder.com/demystifying-the-small-cell-regulatory-environment/

[ii] http://www.smallcellforum.org/site/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/Small-Cells-Forum-Market-Status-Report-April-2016.pdf

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