As more consumers transition to 5G smartphones — as well as other 5G-enabled smart devices — demand for high-speed data traffic is expected to grow substantially, causing mobile operators to increase 5G small cell deployments to meet this need, according to new data from ABI Research.
The strain on mobile data traffic will expand rapidly to reach 1676 exabytes by 2026, a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 63%, ABI forecasts. Because of this, mobile network operators will be forced to upgrade network capacity to ensure the promise of 5G, which is higher capacity, faster speed, lower latency and massive connectivity.
To do this, the most practical approach is to expand the deployment of 5G small cells. While this will come at a higher cost, there may be no choice as operators deal with a limited number of new macro cell sites available and a limited number of 5G spectrums, ABI said.
By 2027, 13 million outdoor 5G small cell deployments will be active and will overtake 4G in 2028, ABI forecasts.
“5G small cells complement macro cells, boosting network capacity and extending coverage in dense areas where signals are weak or unavailable,” said Fei Liu, 5G and mobile network infrastructure industry analyst at ABI Research. “They also allow network operators to derive more value from their existing spectrums by exploiting them more efficiently. Compared to the previous generation small cells, 5G small cells face more challenges in design and performance.”
Liu said 5G small cells must be smaller and lighter to support larger bandwidths such as 100 MHz and 200 MHz and because there are numerous deployment scenarios, operators are forced to provide solutions at every level.