Asia-Pacific Small Cell Tower Market is expected to register a CAGR of 25% over the forecast period 2021 to 2026. Small cell towers deliver a cost-effective solution for filling coverage gaps, growing bandwidth, and getting the networks ready for 5G without the need to build more expensive macro sites.
- With the increase in the number of mobile data traffic in the region, the demand for advanced telecommunication networks is growing. Emerging network developments needs is expected to boost the market for small cell tower over the forecast period. For instance, in the Asia Pacific, IP traffic reached 16 Gigabytes per capita in 2020, up from 6 Gigabytes per capita in 2015, according to Cisco Visual Networking Index (VNI) report.
- In the current environment, small cells are required for the applications in need of increased bandwidth as well as the increasing number of connected devices and IoT applications. Also, 5G telecom operators are focused on deploying small cell towers under a low-frequency band for offering enhanced bandwidth services to the customer.
- Government regulations for the adoption of 5G networks in the region are expected to drive the small cell towers market during the forecast period. For instance, the Indian Telecom Department is planning to make available the harmonized and contiguous spectrum required for the deployment of 5G technology.
- Moreover, the Open RAN alliance is driving the market in the region as the alliance has laid a protocol to split 7.2 (between the upper and lower PHY), which provides a low cost for RU. But at the same time, RU needs lower latency and higher bandwidth for the connection, and therefore, the alliance is becoming popular for deployments in the region as the buildings have more fiber to exploit for fronthaul between the RU and DU.
- A various partnership between vendors in the area of 5G is also augmenting the need for small cell towers. For instance, In February 2021, Bharti Airtel and Qualcomm Technologies collaborated to foster the O-RAN %G network in India.
- Also, China has the highest number of telecom towers in the world, owned by the state-run China Tower Corporation. It has around 1,968,000 towers, and it was estimated that it is leasing over 550,000 towers. Transforming all towers to enable 5G capability is expected to boost the demand for small cell towers for outdoor applications in the country.
- However, the impact of the Covid-19 outbreak on the small cell tower market is expected to be significant. In the short term, 5G rollout in several markets will be delayed further, and its services will be the hardest hit. Consumers may not in a position to spend on 5G devices as it is still considered a niche. According to GSMA Intelligence's consumer survey, currently, the majority of the respondents in most markets had limited interest in upgrading to 5G services.
Key Market Trends
Indoor Application to Have Significant Share
- Spectrum convergence in small cell towers deployment requires network planning to maximize spectrum utilization. There is an increasing deployment of small cell towers for indoor applications. For instance, Ericsson's collaborated with China Unicom for the largest deployment of the Radio Dot System in Beijing city (at over 500 commercial and residential buildings) to meet the advanced indoor mobile broadband performance requirements demanded by 5G.
- Moreover, small cell towers for indoor applications are expected to grow significantly over the forecast period, as people spend most of their time indoor due to the coronavirus pandemic. For instance, according to the Ericsson ConsumerLab, people spend 90% of their time indoors, and 60% of the users are unsatisfied with their indoor cellular connectivity.
- The deployment of indoor small cell towers is more due to their major deployment in public places, such as stadiums, shopping malls, college campuses, and residential buildings. For instance, Samsung Networks is deploying small cells in large volumes for indoor coverage for Reliance Jio, which is expected to have over 99% population coverage in India.
- With 2020 being marked as a transition year for small cells as the sector adapts to macro trends such as virtualization, Open RAN, and 5G, one trend that looks ripe for industry expansion is the indoor space. Thus, small cells would continue to play a pivotal role in 5G capacity enhancement with indoor coverage. Hence, players in the market are significantly investing in product innovation.
- For instance, in December 2020, STL, an integrator of digital networks, unveiled Garuda, a smart 5G Indoor small cell. With Garuda, STL continues to play an instrumental role in building an indigenous 5G ecosystem and enabling its customers to provide enhanced 5G experiences in the future. STL Garuda complements the network capacity, density, and coverage of macro networks and can serve as a single board optical-to-radio interface solution for 5G low-power picocell applications.
5G Adoption to Drive the Market Demand
- Asia Pacific region is the fastest when it comes to 5G adoption, with China being the leader. According to Xinhua, Beijing municipal government had previously predicted that the number of 5G base stations in the city would exceed 30,000 by the end of 2020, and the 5G indoor coverage equipment would be installed in 5,000 buildings in the city. Meanwhile, Shanghai previously stated its commitment to investing CNY 10 billion for 4G network construction in 2020, with the city adopting 50,000 indoor small stations built by the end of 2020. Such developments in the indoor coverage equipment and indoor small stations encourage the growth of the market.
- Mergers, acquisitions, and strategic partnerships are driving the adoption of 5G services. For instance, in October 2020, Finnish telecoms gear maker Nokia bagged a 5G small cell deal from China's Chunghwa telecom (CHT) to enable the operator to deliver a comprehensive 5G coverage. Under the deal, Nokia will supply CHT with its AirScale Indoor radio (ASiR) solution for improved indoor coverage and capacity, as well as its AirScale micro RRH for outdoor and urban hot spots. The new deployments will complement the already existing base of more than 2,500 4G small cells.
- On the other hand, Japan is also growing in terms of 5G deployment. The growth in the 5G private networks is accelerating the demand for small cells in the country. As of October 2020, Fujitsu announced plans to launch services that realize private wireless systems, such as private 5G and private LTE in Japan, to accelerate digital transformation for customers. In addition, some of the major internet service providers in the country are forming strategic partnerships to leverage small cells for 5G.
- South Korea commercialized 5G technology faster than any other country globally, and ever since, there has been strong growth in the number of subscribers. According to the Ministry of Science and ICT of South Korea, the country ended January 2021 with 12.87 million subscribers in the 5G segment after a net addition of almost 1 million subscribers in the first month of the year 2021.
- Furthermore, telecom companies are aiming for mass migration in 2021. for instance, in January 2021, SK Telecom, a prominent telecom provider that offers 5G small cells, announced that it targets 9 million 5G users in 2021. Such goals for the year are encouraging the growth of the market of small cells in the country.
Asia-Pacific Small Cell Tower Market is moderately competitive in nature. The companies operating in the market are executing mergers and acquisitions, strategic partnerships, and product development to introduce new products. Major players include Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd., Parallel Wireless Inc., Airspan Networks Inc., among others.
- May 2020 - Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd. collaborated with IBM, the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA), and M1 Limited (M1) for Singapore's first 5G Industry 4.0 trial, to demonstrate the transformative impact of 5G for enterprises and drive the next bound of Singapore's digital economy.
- February 2020 - Parallel Wireless, Inc. partnered with Etisalat Group to trial Parallel Wireless 2G, 3G, 4G & 5G OpenRAN across its markets in Asia with the objective of achieving digital transformation with the deployment of best-in-class technologies to support 2G, 3G, 4G, and 5G connectivity. OpenRAN controller is the industry only software platform that virtualizes ALL G RAN and core functions (i.e., vBSC for 2G, vRNC for 3G, small cell and core gateways for 4G) to lower the cost of RAN through simplification, automation, and full virtualization of networks.
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