Private operators, neutral hosts to deploy three quarters of enterprise 5G by 2026
By 2026, over three-quarters of enterprise small cells will be deployed and operated by private network operators or neutral hosts, according to Small Cell Forum (SCF). Deployments in shared spectrum will overtake those in licensed bands in 2025, it reckons.
The latest market report from SCF, covering the 2019-2026 period, says rising 5G adoption, spurred by availability of new shared and ‘vertical’ spectrum, and driven in major part by interest in enterprise and industrial settings, will see compound annual growth (CAGR) in rollout of 5G small cells jump by 77 percent in the period to 2026. It calculates 35.7 million small-cell radio units will be deployed by 2026.
These trends will accelerate, it said, as the Covid-19 pandemic starts to ease. A statement said: “The emergence of simple, scalable, and repeatable deployment processes supports a rapid increase in small cell deployment, especially enterprise small cells, by mobile network operators, new deployers such as private network operators (PNO), neutral hosts and augmented tower companies.”
The research is based on responses from various small cell deployers, including mobile network operators. Two-thirds of ‘deployers’ expect to adopt small cell virtual RAN by 2025, said SCF, driven in major part by open (RAN) small cell architectures. These will account for 77 percent of new deployments in 2026, according to the research.
A statement said: “Access to a wider variety of spectrum, with more flexible licensing, will be the most important enabler of enterprise small cell roll-out in the early 2020s… As small cells need to address increasingly diverse requirements from different industries and use cases, flexible, cloud-based architectures will become essential.”
Prabhakar Chitrapu, chair at SCF, commented: “While the turbulence of the last 18 months has had an effect on deployments, this forecast continues to show not just the crucial role small cells will play in facilitating a 5G future, but also how important new breeds of network deployers will be to delivering it.”
Caroline Gabriel, content director at SCF, said: “Increasing diversity of the services small cell networks will support, the environments they are deployed in, and the organizations that build and manage them, will help to accelerate deployment throughout the 2020s, and especially as we move away from the pandemic. It also has a profound impact on the whole supply chain, as the requirements for design and performance of small cells become diversified to support different cases.”