& cplSiteName &

Ericsson's Small-Cell Crystal Ball

Michelle Donegan
LR Mobile News Analysis
Michelle Donegan

As Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC) unveiled its expectations for global mobile traffic growth on Wednesday, the Swedish vendor also outlined the small-cell base station deployment strategies it expects to see as carriers figure out how to deal with the forthcoming data deluge.

In its latest Mobility Report, the vendor notes that mobile data traffic volumes have doubled during the past year (comparing the third quarter of 2012 with a year earlier) and were up 16 percent compared to the second quarter of 2012, driven by the rapid uptake of smartphones and LTE subscriptions.

It also expects data traffic volumes to grow at an average annual rate of 50 percent between 2012 and 2018, with video streams driving that growth.

(The traffic statistics, collected from about 100 networks that use Ericsson equipment and extrapolated to generate the global statistics, do not include Wi-Fi, mobile WiMax or DVB-H traffic, it should be noted.)

In order to keep up with that data traffic growth, Ericsson believes operators will need to deploy small cells to supplement the capacity and coverage of their macro base station networks in some places. That's in keeping with the vendor's Heterogeneous Network (HetNet) vision and in line with the expectations of other major vendors. (See Ericsson Preps New Small Cells , Vodafone CTO Opens Up on Small Cells, 4G World 2012: Cisco Talks 'Multi-Mode' on Small Cells and AT&T: How Small Cells Fit the Big Picture.)

What's new, though, is Ericsson's view on the number of small cells that may, on average, be required.

By 2017, Ericsson expects each macro base station in urban areas will be supplemented by about three small cells. Today, there are about 5 million macro base stations deployed worldwide and those in metro areas account for about 15 percent of the total -- so, about 750,000.

Therefore (and this is just to satisfy our own statistical curiosity), if Ericsson's prediction was accurate and each of those had three supplementary small cells, that would amount to 2.25 million tiny base stations by 2017 (if the number of macro base stations remained constant, of course...).

Heavy Reading has forecast that there will be 500,000 public access small cells in live service worldwide by 2015. (See Small Cell Backhaul: What, Why and How - by Heavy Reading.)

"You have to start with improving the macro network -- that's your best return on investment," says Heavy Reading Senior Analyst Gabriel Brown. "You'll need small cells for capacity in urban areas, particularly for cell edge performance."

Brown explains that cell edge performance is important because operators are starting to differentiate on coverage again. But it's different now from how operators built their networks for good voice coverage. Rather, operators are looking to ensure decent data coverage so that users' applications will work well.

People are starting to talk about 'app coverage' or 'app-centric coverage'," says Brown. "Small cells help with the cell edge performance as well as capacity."

Ericsson agrees that small cells aren't the only answer to the challenge of improving mobile network performance and that the macro cells are still vital. The vendor's senior vice president for networks, Johan Wibergh, believes operators should have a three-stage approach to dealing with mobile data capacity issues: Improve existing macro base station networks by adding capacity or 'carriers', or by upgrading the technology; then, add more macro base stations -- that is, "densify" the network; and, finally, complement certain macro base stations with small cells.

Whether operators could afford such a capex-intensive strategy is another matter.

For more

— Michelle Donegan, European Editor, Light Reading Mobile

(1)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View        ADD A COMMENT
Michelle Donegan
Michelle Donegan,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 5:17:15 PM
re: Ericsson's Small-Cell Crystal Ball

So that's Ericsson's view on small cell volumes. I'd be interested to know what others think -- does their projection sound low? Or about right?

Light Reading’s Upskill U is a FREE, interactive, online educational resource that delivers must-have education on themes that relate to the overall business transformation taking place in the communications industry.
Wednesday, October 26, 1:00PM EDT
Security: Tackling DDoS
Gary Sockrider, Principal Security Technologist, Arbor Networks
Friday, October 28, 1:00PM EDT
Security: The Plusses and Minuses of Open Source Software
Nick Feamster, Acting Director, Center for Information Technology Policy, Princeton University
Wednesday, November 16, 1:00PM EST
SDN 101
John Isch, Practice Director, Network & Voice, Orange Business Services
Friday, November 18, 1:00PM EST
SDN & Open Source
Christopher W. Rice, Senior Vice President of AT&T Labs, Domain 2.0 Architecture and Design
in association with:
From The Founder
Light Reading today starts a new voyage as part of a larger Enterprise.
Flash Poll
Live Streaming Video
Charting the CSP's Future
Six different communications service providers join to debate their visions of the future CSP, following a landmark presentation from AT&T on its massive virtualization efforts and a look back on where the telecom industry has been and where it's going from two industry veterans.
LRTV Custom TV
Next-Generation Technology Beyond DOCSIS 3.1

10|20|16   |     |   (0) comments

At SCTE 2016, Huawei's Liu Jianhua speaks with Alan Breznick for an exclusive interview.
LRTV Custom TV
Hybrid Video Solutions to Change TV, Change Future

10|20|16   |     |   (0) comments

At SCTE 2016, Huawei's Ian Locke speaks with Alan Breznick for an exclusive interview.
LRTV Custom TV
Huawei Future-Oriented Giga Coax Network

10|20|16   |     |   (0) comments

At SCTE 2016, Huawei's Allen Wang speaks with Alan Breznick for an exclusive interview.
LRTV Custom TV
Huawei at SCTE 2016

10|20|16   |     |   (0) comments

Join Alan Breznick of Light Reading and take a sneak peek at the Huawei booth at SCTE 2016.
LRTV Custom TV
Assuring Network Quality in a Rapidly Changing Environment

10|20|16   |     |   (0) comments

As the rate of change and complexity increases in agile networks, the importance of introducing DevOps methodologies for integrating active test and assurance solutions throughout the full service lifecycle becomes critical to ensure that customers are experiencing the service quality they demand. The industry landscape is changing, and software-based test and ...
Telecom Innovators Video Showcase
A10 Networks on Service Providers' Industry Needs

10|20|16   |     |   (0) comments

Light Reading's Steve Saunders hears how A10 enables service providers to accelerate, secure and optimize their application delivery to drive down costs, enhance service availability, and better respond to customer requirements, so they can improve customer satisfaction, monetize their network, and grow revenues.
LRTV Custom TV
New NFV Use Cases for Cable TV

10|19|16   |     |   (0) comments

A large number of NFV use cases are focused on the enterprise domain, looking at virtualization of customer-premises equipment (CPE). To date, there has been little focus on the use cases and business case for virtualization of the video content delivery networks required to deliver unicast and streaming video to consumers. Amdocs commissioned Analysys Mason to ...
Women in Comms Introduction Videos
Meet the Future Workforce: New Faces, Expectations & Motivations

10|19|16   |   5:33   |   (1) comment

Millennials and their younger peers, Gen Z, expect more out of their network and more out of their work. Intel's Lynn Comp shares how the industry can prepare for this new generation of workers.
LRTV Custom TV
ZTE Global Services User Congress 2016 Highlights

10|19|16   |     |   (0) comments

ZTE held its 2nd Global Service User Conference in Dusseldorf on October 13-14. Representatives from network operators, leading industry analysts and ZTE senior expertsattended the event, exploring the best practice in managed services and the vision to transform network operations into the operations center of the future (OpCF) in the software-defined networking ...
LRTV Custom TV
Cliff Grossner on Cloud & Network Synergy From Carrier Service

10|18|16   |     |   (0) comments

Local carriers offer the collaborated cloud and network service that benefits from their understanding of the regulations operating in different vertical markets.
In this interview, Cliff Grossner from IHS Technology talks about how this advanced service can support business agility and flexibility.
LRTV Custom TV
VeEX: Live from SCTE Cable-Tec Expo 2016

10|17|16   |     |   (0) comments

Cyrille Morelle, VeEX's President and CEO, talks with Light Reading's Alan Breznick live from the SCTE Cable-Tec Expo 2016. They discuss DOCSIS 3.1 technology, deployments and early lessons learned. New products on display include the CX350s-D3.1, CX380s-D3.1, CX310, AT2500-3G, FX150 OTDR and MTT WiFI Air Expert.
LRTV Custom TV
Smith Micro's Carrier-Grade WiFi Component

10|17|16   |     |   (0) comments

Join Carol Wilson of Light Reading as she interviews the CTO of Smith Micro, Dave Sperling.
Upcoming Live Events
November 3, 2016, The Montcalm Marble Arch, London
November 30, 2016, The Westin Times Square, New York City
December 1, 2016, The Westin Times Square, New York, NY
December 6-8, 2016, The Westin Excelsior, Rome
May 16-17, 2017, Austin Convention Center, Austin, TX
All Upcoming Live Events
Hot Topics
Attacks Have Major Internet Sites on the Ropes
Brian Santo, Senior editor, Test & Measurement / Components, Light Reading, 10/21/2016
Verizon Wants More Data on Yahoo Breach
Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading, 10/20/2016
Layer3 TV Comes to Town, Hints at Future
Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, 10/21/2016
Trump: Dump AT&T/TW & Comcast/NBC
Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading, 10/24/2016
Oh Snap! Qualcomm Unveils X50, Its First 5G Modem
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 10/17/2016
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed
BETWEEN THE CEOs - Executive Interviews
Join us for an in-depth interview between Steve Saunders of Light Reading and Alexis Black Bjorlin of Intel as they discuss the release of the company's Silicon Photonics platform, its performance, long-term prospects, customer expectations and much more.
There's no question that, come 2020, 5G technology will turn the world's conception of what mobile networking is on its head. Within the world of 5G development, Dr. ...
Animals with Phones
Live Digital Audio

A vital part of increasing the number of women in comms is transforming the ways companies can support and empower women. While progressive company policies that support both men and women in achieving work-life balance are a step in the right direction, creating a company culture that supports those policies can at times be more challenging.

During this show, we'll talk to Lynn Comp, Senior Director of Industry and Sales Enabling (ISE) in the Network Platforms Group at Intel, about why those challenges exist and how companies can overcome them. She'll provide insight into how Intel has worked to create a culture that supports work-life balance, and provide steps and guidance for other companies wishing to do the same. We will also leave plenty of time to get your questions answered live on the air.