HetNet investments set to grow to $22bn by 2020

According to new research by Radiant Insight, mobile operators are increasing investments in ‘Heterogeneous Network’ or HetNet infrastructure, such as small cells, carrier Wi-Fi and DAS (Distributed Antenna Systems), to cope with growing capacity and coverage requirements.

Driven by in-building wireless coverage requirements and the growing influx of mobile data traffic, a conventional macrocell based cellular network deployment is not deemed to be a sufficient solution to address the coverage and capacity needs of today’s wireless subscribers, says the new report.

A further addition to the heterogeneity, it notes, is a shift towards Centralized RAN (C-RAN) architecture, which centralizes baseband functionality to provide significant performance and economic benefits.

As a result, Radiant Insights forecasts that small cell, carrier Wi-Fi, C-RAN and DAS investments will reach $13bn by the end of 2016, growing at a CAGR of 15 per cent to 2020, when the HetNet market will be worth $22.7bn.

This growth will be driven by mobile operators that remain committed to tackling the continued growth of mobile data traffic and evolving coverage requirements, says Radiant.

The report also notes that small cell and C-RAN solutions are beginning to converge, as small cell OEMs seek to capitalize on the benefits of centralized coordination for in-building and enterprise coverage. Furthermore, despite opposition from the Wi-Fi community, it predicts that unlicensed LTE small cell shipments could potentially reach $220m by the end of 2020.

We are already seeing the vendor ecosystem gradually consolidating with several prominent acquisitions, such as Nokia’s acquisition of French rival Alcatel-Lucent and CommScope’s acquisition of small cell specialist Airvana, the report concludes.

HetNets will certainly play an essential role in helping operators deal with the deluge of data traffic, the growing diversity of traffic types, and insatiable consumer demand for wireless coverage.