Mobile Devices

45 million 5G small cells forecasted to be installed by 2031

13 July 2021
Potential use cases for 5G small cell deployment. Source: IDTechEx

Small cells are expected to be a catalyst for launching 5G to the next level. These devices allow 5G signals to be expanded beyond base stations, specifically indoors where 5G signals have trouble reaching or traveling between obstacles.

According to new research from IDTechEx, small cells for 5G are forecast to grow substantially over the next decade, growing to 45 million units by 2031.

The growth in these small cells will be due to the adoption rate of sub-6 GHz and millimeter wave (mmWave) globally as well as the growth in internet of things (IoT) for broadband and critical applications, 5G rollout for enterprises, urban and rural and remote purposes, and utilization rate of different types of small cells.

5G technology allows cellular reception to have larger bandwidth, lower latency, better reliability and faster download speeds. The sub-6 GHz frequency band, currently the most popular in the world, allows signals to travel between obstacles but mmWave has trouble penetrating walls, trees and other objects, making the connection spotty.

However, mmWave is expected to be the technology that will allow 5G to reach its full potential. This is due to the signal propagation of 5G being much shorter compared to the previous cellular networks such as 3G or 4G.

Small cells will help to bridge the gap allowing signals to travel indoors and to other areas without interruptions.

Small cells are divided into three types: femtocells, picocells and microcells. Because of their smaller size compared to base stations, they can be installed in areas where a larger station would be inaccessible. IDTechEx said small cells would play a key role in 5G to deploy an ultra-dense network to complement a macro network and boost capacity.

The full research can be found in IDTechEx’s 5G Small Cells 2021-2031: Technologies, Markets, Forecast report.

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