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Small cells to be $2B market by 2020

Carrier deployments, like those by Vodafone Netherlands, picking up steam

With carriers betting big on small cell and the Federal Communications Commission examining the potential of LTE-Unlicensed, an industry analyst firm projects that LTE-U small cells will be a $2 billion market by 2020.

MarketResearch.com made that projection in a new industry report. The researchers forecast an 80% compounded annual growth rate between 2016 and the end of the decade.

LTE-U taps into unlicensed spectrum, primarily used for Wi-Fi connectivity, to transmit LTE. Trials of LTE-U have shown significant capacity gains.

In the United States, the FCC recently solicited input from stakeholders on LTE-U and the potential for LTE-U deployments to interfere with Wi-Fi.

The debate falls along unsurprising fault lines: The companies that have worked on the development of LTE-U, particularly those involved in the LTE-U Forum formed by Verizon Communications, Qualcomm, Samsung, Alcatel-Lucent, Ericsson and LG – said that the technology is just fine to be used with Wi-Fi and as good a neighbor to Wi-Fi as Wi-Fi is to itself.

In the carrier space, Vodafone Netherlands, for example, expects to use small cells to densify its network and provide “the best customer experience, particularly in crowded places where the customer wants to have the best possible network experience,” the company’s chief network officer Matthias Sauder told Mobile World Live.

He said Vodafone has “built hundreds of small cells in the Netherlands, and we are still expanding. I think we have one of the largest small cell deployments built in Europe. It’s still the simple things that are the most difficult,” Sauder said. “Getting the right connectivity, getting power 24/7, and developing solutions particularly in the backhaul area together with our vendors to make sure we can connect small cells everywhere.”

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