Data boom brings small cell growth

A new report from Juniper Research has found that while the level of data delivered to mobile devices is expected to continue to expand dramatically over the next five years, service providers will offload nearly 60% of traffic in that period.

According to the report, service providers are increasingly seeking to reduce the strain on their network caused by the proliferation of connected smart devices by deploying their own WiFi hotspot networks and offering small cell solutions to end-users.

The report, Mobile Data Offload & Onload: WiFi & Small Cell Strategies 2012-2016, notes that while small cells were developed primarily to enhance network coverage, service providers are increasingly offering them as an offload solution and integrating them with WiFi technology within a single unit.

Author Nitin Bhas observed that the deployment of integrated cells offers further potential benefits to network operators beyond coverage improvement and congestion relief.

“With WiFi integrated small cells, seamless data services can be extended to non-cellular devices as well, such as cameras and WiFi-only tablets, offering operators the opportunity to develop new revenue streams”, he said.

Additionally, the report observed that major public events would result in significant “spikes” in mobile data usage in those areas, requiring service providers to provide substantial extra capacity on an ad hoc basis. In this regard, Bhas cited the high-density WiFi networks being deployed at sporting venues and tube stations for the London 2012 Olympics as a critical pre-emptive measure to alleviate potential problems.

The report said small cells will account for a steadily increasing proportion of offloaded data over the forecast period, reaching over 12% by 2016.

North America and Western Europe will account for over 75% of global mobile data offloaded throughout the five years.

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