Africa Small Cell Market is expected to register a CAGR of 17% 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, which is expected to boost the market for small cell over the forecast period. According to World Bank Group, across Africa, where less than a third of the population has access to broadband connectivity, achieving universal, affordable, and good quality internet access by 2030 will require an investment of USD 100 billion.
- 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, telecom operators are focused on deploying small cell towers under low-frequency band for offering enhanced bandwidth services to the customer.
- For instance, Intelsat S.A. and Africa Mobile Networks (AMN) partnered to accelerate the deployment of mobile connectivity to unserved communities across multiple countries in sub-Saharan Africa. At the core of AMN's solution is a low-cost, small cell solution that is powered by a solar-based system that can be rapidly deployed and installed in less than 6 hours. The project has given 1.7 million people living in remote areas in Africa access to mobile coverage for the first time.
- Government regulations to promote the internet economy in the region are expected to drive the small cell market during the forecast period as the internet is a critical enabler of economic growth and opportunity. For instance, M-Pesa mobile money service, which was launched in Kenya, is now active in eight African countries. M-Pesa helps other companies develop new online services by providing a convenient means to make and receive payments.
- However, the impact of the Covid-19 outbreak on the small cell market in Africa is expected to be significant. In the short term, network 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 4G devices as it is still considered a niche. The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa is requesting all network service providers to enable the country to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, by facilitating easy and affordable access to data, which may boost the demand.
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, MTN Group Limited, a leading telecommunications company with presence in over 20 countries, was the first to trial the Ericsson Radio Dot System in public venues and enterprise buildings across South Africa, and later across MTN operations.
- With growing urbanization in the countries in the region, in-depth coverage in urban areas is increasingly complex, and network deployment to meet Mobile Broadband (MBB) data capacity growth is increasingly difficult.
- For instance, according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) is often regarded as the world's fastest urbanizing region. Urban areas in 2018 contained 472 million people and will double over the next 25 years. The global share of African urban residents is projected to grow from 11.3 percent in 2010 to 20.2 percent by 2050.
Promoting Internet Economy by Increasing Mobile Network Coverage to Drive the Market Growth
- Vendors in Africa are working to increase mobile network coverage, which will drive the demand for small cells market in the region. Vodafone is actively trialing open RAN technology in Mozambique and the Democratic Republic of Congo to broaden its potential base of suppliers and extend rural Internet access.
- In November 2019, leading small cell specialist ip.access Ltd. and Africa Mobile Networks (AMN), partnered to provide 4G/LTE small cell service in Zambia and few other countries, namely Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, and Nigeria, thus extending rural cellular coverage across underserved regions.
- In May 2019, Vanu, Inc., a provider of equipment, tools, and services that allow mobile network operators to serve off-grid communities, entered into an agreement with Africa Mobile Networks (AMN) to supply over 3,000 Vanu systems which are small-cell network architectures powered by solar energy, to connect off-grid villages in Africa.
- All these initiatives for mobile network penetration are expected to boost the demand for the small cell market in the African continent.
Africa Small Cell 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.
- February 2020 - Parallel Wireless, Inc. partnered with Etisalat Group to trial Parallel Wireless 2G, 3G, 4G & 5G OpenRAN across its markets in Africa 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 (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.
- January 2020 - ZTE Corporation, one of the prominent telecommunication service providers, announced its alliance with MTN Uganda to launch the first 5G SA network in East Africa. ZTE also presented its end-to-end commercialized 5G solutions, including Beyond 100G Transmission, the 5G Common Core, 5G New Radio, 5G Flexhaul, and Big Video, as well as its 5G indoor and outdoor routers and 5G terminal devices.
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