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Verizon and AT&T deploy 100,000 new small cells but challenges remain. December 10, 2015

Posted by TelUS Consulting Services in Wireless catagory.

All four nationwide carriers are set to invest in small cells and distributed antenna systems next year, with the two largest carriers leading the way. The total market is estimated to increase 5x by 2020.

Analyis’ expect to see Verizon Wireless deploy roughly 60,000 new nodes in the months ahead, and AT&T Mobility may add up to 40,000. Sprint is seen as the wild card however analysis’ believes Sprint will eventually come forward with a significant small cell investment. Once the other carriers show their hands, expect to see T-Mobile US to also make a move in small cells.

So far, small cells have been a tough nut for carriers to crack. Finding available real estate just where a cell is needed can be hard, and even if the right real estate is available, power and backhaul may not be. But carriers need to densify their networks to guarantee consistent user experiences. If one carrier leads the way, the others are likely to follow suit in an effort to keep customers from switching.

Verizon is the thought leader in small cells,analusus’ noting that the carrier is in the process of deploying 4,000 small cells already. Some of these small cells are very similar to outdoor DAS nodes as they are connected by fiber to a centralized baseband unit. Verizon Wireless and Crown Castle, two of the most active deployers to date, often refer to outdoor DAS nodes as small cells.

Carriers need partners like Crown Castle and Vertical Bridge to help finance small cells and DAS. Wi-Fi is the big unknown that gives some investors pause. For some odd reason everyone thinks Wi-Fi is the great disruptor.

The odd reason could be voice over Wi-Fi, which makes Wi-Fi a strong competitor to cellular in-building as long as it is reliable and easy to find. All four of the nationwide carriers either offer or plan to offer voice over Wi-Fi in the near future. While DAS providers work hard to bring all four nationwide carriers onto their systems, Wi-Fi inherently supports the devices of all the carriers.

Distributed network services

Analysis’ predict indoor DNS will grow to 12,000 locations and 133,000 nodes by 2020. Indoor will continue to outpace outdoor through 2017.

Estimates are that 270,000 total nodes are needed indoors and outdoors to support the demand for U.S. mobile data growth. That’s a much faster growth trajectory than when the tower industry was in its heyday.

Tower companies are well positioned to help the carriers build out these networks, in part because of their experience with site acquisition. A lot of real estate needs to be acquired, right of way needs to be secured, and a lot of property owners are going to have their doors knocked on.



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