ABI Research said that the deployment of outdoor 5G small cells is forecast to reach 13 million by 2027
A total of 13 million outdoor 5G small cells will be deployed at a global level by 2027, according to a recent report by technology intelligence firm ABI Research.
The study also anticipates that 5G small cell deployments will overtake 4G six years from now, in 2028.
ABI Research noted that mobile network operators promise their subscribers that 5G technology will provide higher capacity, faster speed, higher energy efficiency, lower RAN latency and that they will support create massive connectivity. However, these characteristics mean skyrocketing mobile data traffic demands. According to ABI Research, worldwide 5G mobile data traffic will reach 1676 exabytes in 2026, a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 63%.
ABI Research also highlighted that the growing data traffic forces mobile carriers to upgrade their network capacity, adding that the most practical approach is the dense deployment of 5G small cells. Currently, massive MIMO (mMIMO) macro cells have fulfilled most 5G capacity demands on a global basis, but these may not likely be adequate, making small cells more critical, according to the research firm.
“5G small cells complement macro cells, boosting network capacity and extending coverage in dense areas where signals are weak or unavailable. They also allow network operators to derive more value from their existing spectrums by exploiting them more efficiently,” said Fei Liu, 5G and mobile network infrastructure industry analyst at ABI Research. “Compared to the previous generation small cells, 5G small cells face more challenges in design and performance. 5G small cells need to be smaller and lighter while supporting larger bandwidths such as 100MHz and 200MHz. With 5G, there is a wider range of deployment scenarios, forcing vendors to provide comprehensive solutions to support every need.”
In the consumer market, mobile network operators in most countries are currently focusing on macro cell deployment for 5G. According to ABI Research, massive 5G small cell deployments will occur around 2025 when network capacity on the C-band should run out without additional spectrum or small cell densification. Enterprises and industry verticals are already deploying 5G small cells for their private networks.
“5G small cells make use of the backhaul established for macro cells, so mobile network operators should start deploying 5G small cells at locations with backhaul already established,” Liu said. “5G small cells can co-exist with macro cells, and self-organizing networks help minimize risks from interferences between cells. Alternatively, mobile network operators should deploy different frequency bands on small and macro cells.”