Lower regulatory barriers key to small cell densification in 5G

December 04, 2018 // By Jean-Pierre Joosting
The Small Cell Forum (SCF) has announced the results of its latest in-depth survey of more than 60 mobile operators from around the world, which shows that small cells are currently proliferating in regions where work has been undertaken to lower regulatory barriers relating to cost, sites approvals and deployment processes in the urban environment.

This has led to a surge in deployments, and this latest research shows deployment rates in North America projected to rise by 92% annually between 2017 and 2019, and 74% in South East Asia – well above the global average of 68%.

The research also provided both best- and worst-case scenarios for non-residential small cell deployments and identified key factors that will influence these outcomes such as ease of deployment and management in the enterprise, and cost, sites, approvals and deployment processes in the urban environment. It predicts that in the best-case deployments could reach as high as 11.4m units in 2025 versus 7.1m in the worst case. The result being that the Forum, and its partner’s programmes to address these factors, have the potential to make a difference of over 4m cells by 2025.

Considerable efforts made by the Forum and its partner bodies in recent years to bring about more favourable regulatory processes for the rolling out of small cells in North America and Asia, have paid dividends with regulators encouraging faster and cheaper small cell deployments. However, with 5G at the heart of the critical need for densification, growth remains regionally varied – with Europe lagging behind North America and Asia.

Meanwhile, in the enterprise market, the research shows that the top factors which will accelerate deployment are lower operating costs, a clear framework for how cost and risk are shared between operator and enterprise, and a clearer ROI case. Cost is paramount and many of the other important enablers are geared to lower TCO (Total Cost of Operation) and the effort required by the enterprise IT department or the operator – e.g. automation, plug-and-play. Neutral host will also be an important enabler of densification, in particular for industrial and enterprise use cases and the Internet of Things. In addition, the convergence of small cells with edge compute nodes, especially for low latency IoT use cases, is set to be a driver in deployments.


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