Small CellMore than half (52%) of public access small cells will be equipped with localized processing and intelligence come 2018, according to the latest quarterly MOSA (Mobile Operator Strategy Analysis) report from Maravedis-Rethink.

Mobile service operators are searching for ways “to harness small cells to deliver quality of experience and increased ARPU (average revenue per unit), not just capacity and storage,” according to a Maravedis-Rethink press release.

Two “important shifts” are highlighted in the report:

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  • Adding intelligence and processing power to small cells will enable carriers to provide personalized services close to the user, and relieve backhaul and core network strain by moving some activities like caching to the edge
  • Short term metrocell roll-out will be more heavily concentrated on indoor locations like sports venues which have fewer backhaul, power and site acquisition challenges than outdoors.

“Video optimization and personalized services are two key elements of the 4G business model, which are more powerfully implemented at the network edge, close to the user, and can boost the return on investment in small cells,” commented Maravedis-Rethink Research Director Caroline Gabriel.

The worldwide LTE subscriber base will reach 1.4 billion by 2018, when 3.5m small cell sites will be deployed according to Maravedis-Rethink.

The research firm cited AT&T  as a leader in the area of small cells, noting that the company has an extensive femtocell roll out under way, with a goal of deploying 40,000 metrocells in 2013-14. “By setting a public and ambitious target and working with standard architectures, AT&T is establishing the rules for mass roll-outs,” Maravedis-Rethink asserts in its report.

There were 16 commercial TD-LTE networks in place and 54 trials under way as of May, according to Maravedis-Rethink. The firm’s analysts forecast public access metrocells will increase from 125,000 in 2013 to 3.37 million in 2018, with 40% equipped with integrated carrier-class Wi-Fi. Twelve operators will deploy multiband LTE/carrier aggregation for 150 Mbps speeds this year.

Other highlights of the report include:

  • The macrocell is being radically redesigned, and within two years, two-thirds of shipments will be of distributed RAN equipment such as remote radio/antenna and Cloud-RAN units
  • Fiber is critical for small cell backhaul but wireless will find a significant role and account for one-third of metrocell connections by 2018
  • LTE-Advanced upgrades will be driven by small cells and spectral efficiency, placing a spotlight on carrier aggregation and small cells
  • Orange emerges as the leader in the move to software defined networking, and SK Telecom in LTE-Advanced implementation
  • When it comes to advanced LTE voice services, 2014 will be the “breakthrough year,” the market research provider says, as China Mobile launches its TD VoLTE service.

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