Small cells poised to make big splash in next few years



LightCounting shares research notes from CTIA Super Mobility 2015


The CTIA Super Mobility 2015 conference was held in Las Vegas on September 8-10, 2015. LightCounting Principal Analyst John Lively spoke with many of the leading mobile equipment suppliers and users present about current trends in mobile fronthaul and backhaul, and summarized what he learned in a six-page Research Note titled “Optical fronthaul and backhaul - Report from CTIA Super Mobility 2015“. One of the more interesting developments is the advent of ‘small cell’ Radio Access Network (RAN) equipment.

‘Small cell’ is a rather generic term used to describe any sort of RAN node other than a macrocell, including femto cells (typically for home use), pico cells (indoor business use), and metro cells (outdoor coverage areas). The so-called metro cell is a ‘mini-macrocell’ which is a lower power and lower cost version of a macrocell, with the cutoff points being an installed cost below $10,000 and power below 10 watts, according to one panelist at CTIA2015. These small cells are not a replacement for macrocell equipment, but are used to add capacity and/or improve coverage in problem areas within an existing macrocell. Extensive use of small cells is a key element of Sprint’s plan to win the title of ‘best performing network’ in the U.S. in the next 24 months.

Small cells for LTE are already being deployed in parts of Europe and Asia-Pacific today, and it was reported at the conference that there are ‘lots’ of RFQs for small cell equipment in the US now. According to at least one reputable source at the conference; the cost, size, and performance of small cell equipment is getting to the point where it will be widely adopted, starting this year and ramping into next year, with large-scale deployment in 2017. Widespread deployment of outdoor small cells may boost demand for optical backhaul transceivers more than fronthaul, since the all-in-one small cells typically have GbE fiber backhaul interfaces.

Increasing use of indoor small cells may not have a dramatic impact on optics demand of either type, though, as the equipment is typically designed to connect via existing CAT5 to CAT7 cabling.

LightCounting will publish an updated “Mobile Fronthaul Optics” report in November 2015. The report will provide the latest news and additional detail on fronthaul, backhaul, and other applications for optics in mobile networks, and will include an updated forecast of optical transceiver usage in mobile network applications. For additional information see .

To purchase the report or subscribe to our services, please contact George Stojsavljevic at



LightCounting is a leading optical communications market research company, offering semiannual market updates, forecasts, and state-of-the-industry reports based on its analysis of primary research with dozens of leading module, component, and system vendors as well as service providers and other users. LightCounting is the optical communications market’s first choice source for the accurate, detailed, and relevant information necessary for doing business in today’s highly competitive environment. For more information, visit: or follow us on Twitter at @LightCounting.