The biggest challenge for mobile operators in this decade is to narrow the
gulf that has opened up between data demand and available wireless capacity.
‘Capacity crunch', ‘data deluge', ‘spectrum famine' - all
these phrases refer to a mounting crisis, with mobile traffic set to rise by
30 times by 2016, while cellular data revenues could stagnate.
This makes it vital for mobile operators to slash the costs of delivering data
while charging more for their services, by adding value or devising new
applications. Both those critical challenges will require a complete rethink
of current approaches to the access network. That rethink contains many
elements, but the dominant one in carrier plans is the use of public access
This report, based on in-depth interviews with 65 operators plus broader
carrier data, provides unique analysis and forecasts regarding real world
plans to deploy small cells between now and 2016. Interviews were conducted
over six months with cellcos worldwide which are planning or evaluating public
small cell deployments. It also draws on data from Maravedis-Rethink's
flagship research services, 4G Counts and ClearSpectrum, which track mobile
broadband deployments by the top 100 LTE operators, and 4G spectrum
availability round the world.
The result is a detailed examination of the benefits carriers are targeting
from small cells and the heterogeneous network (HetNet), and whether they are
achievable given the technology and spectrum roadmaps of the next five years.
It provides analysis of a critical issue, how far small cells will harness
underused spectrum bands to help address the ‘frequency famine'. It also
dissects the obstacles to meeting the business targets for the new networks,
including issues of cell sites, backhaul, network planning/management and
As well as going to the heart of carrier plans, the report also uses the
resulting knowledge of operators' spending and deployment plans to provide
forecasts for small cell volumes and capex spending to 2016, as well as
details on regional patterns and the spectrum bands chosen.