Small CellA cumulative $5 billion will be spent worldwide on outdoor small cell backhaul equipment between 2012 and 2016, with growth really picking up come 2014, according to a new report from Infonetics Research. Their analysis organizes the outdoor small cell backhaul market in 8 categories: three forms of wireline (copper, fiber, DSL); five forms of wireless — licensed and unlicensed millimeter wave and point-to-point, point-to-multipoint, and non-line of sight (NLOS) microwave.

Infonetics focuses on true small cells and does not include femtocells or traditional Wi-Fi hotspots in this research.

“After fielding several small cell operator surveys and working directly with chipset manufacturers, mobile operators, small cell vendors, and backhaul equipment vendors for more than 2 years,” Howard continues, “we are now able to reliably calculate the size of the market and build realistic forecasts. We expect a cumulative $5 billion to be spent worldwide on outdoor small cell backhaul equipment between 2012 and 2016, with the market kicking into high gear in 2014. This is in addition to the nearly $44 billion being spent on macrocell backhaul equipment during the same 5-year period.”

Report highlights include:

  • There is no silver bullet backhaul solution for all small cell deployment scenarios, as each depends on multiple variables, including location, form factor limitations, local regulations, available power and network, and cost
  • As a result, mobile operators and backhaul transport providers need a diverse tool kit of solutions for small cell backhaul; Infonetics expects all the outdoor small cell backhaul technologies it tracks to grow at high double- to triple-digit percentage CAGRs through at least 2016
  • The number of outdoor small cell backhaul connections is forecast by Infonetics to grow more than 100-fold from 2012 to 2016
  • Wireless microwave equipment, including various types of microwave and millimeter wave, accounts for 89% of all outdoor small cell backhaul equipment revenue in 2012, while copper, fiber, and DSL wireline products account for 11%
  • Infonetics reported in its related Macrocell Mobile Backhaul Equipment and Services report that macrocell mobile backhaul spending will grow to $9.7 billion in 2016 ( report excerpts)

“We expect to see significant shifts in the type of equipment vendors use to backhaul outdoor small cells, with millimeter wave and non-line-of-sight, or NLOS, equipment becoming the top segments of the market by 2016,” commented Richard Webb, report co-author and Infonetics directing analyst for microwave, mobile offload and mobile broadband devices. “Millimeter wave equipment has a high capacity (1 Gbps in a single channel) and very low latency, and nearly all of the operators we’ve interviewed are evaluating millimeter wave for small cell backhaul.”