Market Insight

RESEARCH NOTE - Small Cell Activity Ramped up in 2015, but Shipments Remain Small

March 30, 2016

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By Stéphane Téral, senior research director, mobile infrastructure and carrier economics, IHS Technology, and Richard Webb, research director, mobile backhaul and small cells, IHS Technology

IHS Technology analysis and commentary on the first half (H1) 2016 Small Cell Equipment Market Tracker, which includes data for the half-year ended December 2015, follows. 


2015 was marked by increasing small cell rollouts all over the world, which in turn resulted in strong double-digit year-over-year growth, but the small cell equipment market remains tiny compared to the global 2G/3G radio access network (RAN) market, which totaled $22 billion last year.

Worldwide, 1.4 million small cell units shipped in 2015, yielding revenue of $1.2 billion, an increase of 44 percent year-over-year. Growth was mainly driven by deployments in rural and remote areas and an uptick in enterprise small cell activity.

At the current pace of deployment, indoor small cell shipments are projected to surpass those of outdoor units by 2016. And outside of China, they already do. However, despite much lower shipment volumes, outdoor small cell revenue will continue to be higher because outdoor small cells are significantly more expensive than indoor small cells.

Provided that service provider announcements and plans continue to materialize, the global small cell market is expected to surpass $2 billion by 2019.

More Small Cell Market Highlights

  • The indoor small cell market, which comprises the indoor urban and enterprise sub segments, is anticipated to move rapidly toward commoditization as volumes rise and service providers seek out plug-and-play form factors
  • Outdoor small cells are more akin to the “base station” form factor, while indoor units are transitioning to a form factor that is similar to a wireless local area network (LAN) access point in terms of size and power requirements
  • Driven by activity in China, Asia Pacific leads all geographic regions in service provider small cell shipments, with 68 percent share in 2015
  • Topping the enterprise small cell market share leaderboard in 2015 were, in alphabetical order, Airvana, Alcatel-Lucent, Cisco, ip.access and SpiderCloud


Small Cell Report Synopsis

The biannual IHS small cell equipment report provides worldwide and regional market size, forecasts through 2020, analysis and trends for enterprise small cell and service provider small cell (urban, rural and remote) equipment, and small cells by application (indoor and outdoor). The report also includes a small cell activity tracker. Vendors tracked include Airspan, Airvana, Alcatel-Lucent, Argela, Cisco, Contela, Ericsson, Fujitsu, Huawei, ip.access, Juni, NEC, Nokia Networks, QuCell, Samsung, SK Telesys, SpiderCloud, Ubee Interactive, Ubiquisys, ZTE, others.

For more information about the report, contact the sales department at IHS in the Americas at +1 844 301 7334 or; in Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) at +44 1344 328 300 or; or Asia Pacific (APAC) at +604 291 3600 or

Research by Market
Mobile & Telecom
Mobile Networks
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