#1 – Drivers for small cell deployments: improving network coverage indoors, outdoors and across vertical industries; enhancing spectrum efficiency; improving network capacity; meeting aesthetic requirements; lowering energy requirements.
#2 – A broader set of stakeholders and a bigger market: A broader set of deployment scenarios across enterprise, rural and urban scenarios, as well as the growing importance of vertical rollouts, neutral hosts and edge compute nodes will bring in new stakeholders and expand the market. Data from the Small Cells Forum indicates that:
#3 – Barriers and challenges: The broader set of stakeholders brings the need for access to spectrum and other key elements. The Small Cell Forum puts together Work Items aimed at tackling challenges around small cell deployments, including potentially conflicting interests, such as the need for NMOs to meet increasing consumer demand for AR, gaming, videos; dealing with regulatory red tape in city deployments; the use and sharing of street furniture; device security in enterprise usage and public concerns about health and safety. Overcoming poor indoor penetration for voice and data raises questions about costs and complexity.
Open specs and monetisation models will drive the edge and cellular advantage. However, barriers span immature standards, lack of interoperability and uncertainty around new developments. Early movers are important in driving deployment and filling market gaps. Other barriers include uncertain business cases around neutral hosts and enterprise deployments with gaps between end-user needs and operator offers, as well as understanding the best business cases.
#4 Deployment success factors: The Global5G.org white paper explores success factors for small cell deployments, primarily the pilot test case in Amsterdam, a city with a significant architectural heritage calling for very low visual impacts when it comes to small cell deployments. The case in question is part of Vodafone’s deployment of 200 small cells with some out-of-the-box thinking through a new partnership with the JCDecaux outdoor advertising company and its vast assets of street furniture (e.g. lampposts, bus shelters). In addition, long-standing agreements with local authorities helped streamline the bureaucratic process. Installing small cells on a JCDecaux-equipped bus shelter was vastly simplified by ready availability of power sources and future-proofed high-speed backhaul capable of supporting upgrades to 5G. For Vodafone, this means superior deployment capability, and for JCDecaux this means a new customer (small cell provider).
#5 Critical actions for stakeholders: The transition to 5G therefore brings the need for new wireless strategies, new partnerships and a lightweight regulatory regime that lowers barriers to deployments. Chief among the enablers are simple, clear rules for operators and site approvals, where lessons can be learned from Japan.
Communication with municipalities and evidence-based lobbying has now become critical to achieve:
Depending on the success rates for each element, the results could be quite dramatic, especially in Europe where there are more risks but also more upsides.
Panel discussions highlighted the following priorities and opportunities:
Clearly, the dialogue on small cells needs to extend to vertical industries to find practical ways of dealing with the issues, including very sensitive security and privacy issues.