Market Insight

REPORT HIGHLIGHTS - Small Cell Use in Macrocellular Networks on the Rise, Illustrates IHS Study

September 18, 2015

Stéphane Téral Stéphane Téral Executive Director – Research and Analysis, Mobile Infrastructure & Carrier Economics

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IHS (NYSE: IHS) conducted in-depth interviews with service providers worldwide that operate mobile networks and found that 86 percent of respondents have already deployed small cells in their mobile networks, and an additional 9 percent plan to do so by year's end.

IHS’ survey sample includes some of the largest service providers in the world, representing 48 percent of global service provider capex and 45 percent of revenue.

“The findings of our small cell study clearly show the rising importance of adding small cells into existing macrocellular networks to plug coverage holes and add capacity,” said Stéphane Téral, research director for mobile infrastructure and small cells at IHS.  

“Around a third of small cells are being deployed in outdoor metro environments, but many categories—public venues, airports, hotels and rural areas—all grow from 2015 to 2017,” Teral said. “This is another indication of the acceptance of small cells as a key component of the coverage and capacity quiver, along with remote radio heads, distributed antenna systems and carrier WiFi.”


  • Non-expandability of macro networks, in-building coverage and lower customer churn are respondents’ chief small cell deployment drivers
  • Site negotiation remains the #1 challenge for outdoor small cell deployments
  • The bulk of respondent small cell deployments occur in the 1.5GHz–2.2GHz spectrum, but lower and higher spectrum bands are gaining momentum
  • In-building small cell unit rollouts will grow 4x by 2019 or later, and outdoor small cell unit deployments will increase 6x by 2019
  • Ericsson is the most familiar small cell manufacturer among respondents, followed by Alcatel-Lucent, which has the largest small cell installed base of all vendors


For its 32-page 2015 IHS Infonetics Small Cell Strategies and Vendor Leadership: Global Service Provider Survey, IHS interviewed 21 mobile, incumbent, competitive and cable operators from North America, EMEA, Asia Pacific, and CALA about their small cell buildout plans. The study helps manufacturers and operators better understand the use cases for small cells, the number and types of small cells needed, frequency bands required, and best-suited architectures.


Alcatel-Lucent Ericsson
Research by Market
Mobile & Telecom
Mobile Networks
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