A study by EJL Wireless Research estimated small cell shipments expanded by 84% in 2017

U.S. outdoor small cell antenna shipments are forecasted to increase by 75% in 2018 compared to the previous year, due to increasing demand from all four U.S. national mobile operators as well as neutral host operators, according to the latest report from EJL Wireless Research.

The report stated that the U.S. outdoor small cell antenna shipments increased by 84% in 2017, compared to 2016. EJL Wireless Research estimates Alpha Wireless was the top U.S. outdoor small cell antenna vendor for shipments volumes in 2017, followed by Ericsson and Galtronics.

As U.S. mobile carriers continue to move forward on their respective outdoor small cell strategies, advances in higher port-count antennas are following the path already taken by macrocell BTS antennas, the report said.

The need to support multiple frequency bands including traditional cellular (700/800 MHz), PCS (1900 MHz), and AWS/WCS (2100/2300 MHz) spectrum as well new frequency bands such as 3.5 GHz for CBRS and 5.8 GHz for licensed assisted access is driving up antenna port counts. Additionally, the need to support 2×2 or 4×4 multiple-input multiple-output is also driving antenna port counts. These factors are pushing the outdoor small cell antenna market towards higher levels of integration while maintaining a minimal footprint design, the research firm said.

“Within the outdoor small cell antenna market, the shape and size of the antenna with regards to visual impact on the site is sometimes more critical than the RF performance of the antenna,” said Earl Lum, EJL Wireless Research’s president.

“While the U.S. mobile operators have restricted new entrants for their macrocell BTS antennas approved vendor lists, they are allowing new vendors for outdoor small cells antennas. It remains possible for new antenna vendors to supply the U.S. mobile operators and neutral host operators if they can offer a unique product or service capability compared with existing vendors,” he added.

North American enterprise are forecast to deploy a total of 400,000 small cells during 2018, up compared to 292,000 the previous year, according to a previous study by the Small Cell Forum. Non-residential small cell deployments in North America will account for nearly 14.3% of global small cell deployments this year, down from 19.2% in 2017, according to the study.

By 2020, enterprises in North America are expected to deploy a total of 552,000 small cells, which would represent 12.7% of global non-residential small cell deployments.

Also, the Small Cell Forum forecast total deployments of small cells in North America to reach 849,000 by 2025, or 10% of global deployments.

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