SCF market status report July 2020

Each year, SCF publishes a market status report, built around a detailed forecast of deployment of small cell networks in a range of scenarios. The core data source is a survey of about 100 operators & other service providers about their plans for the next six years.

Retail leads

Adoption of dense networks by enterprises will focus mainly on indoor environments, or indoor/outdoor campus scenarios, in which cellular has particular advantages over wireline or Wi-Fi alternatives as staff, visitors or robots move between buildings.

Deployments and upgrades of enterprise and industrial small cells by vertical market

40% demand low opex

Operators say they need to be able to reassure enterprises that the opex will be low and predictable, whether by offering the small cell networks on an as-a-service basis with a fixed fee for all management and analytics; by engaging in cost/risk sharing with the enterprise (a top 10 issue in its own right); or by driving down the overall total cost of ownership for a system that the enterprise buys outright.

Key factors that will accelerate or hold back enterprise small cell deployment before 2023

75% with private EPC

By 2026, 75% of enterprise small cells are expected to be collocated and coworking with either a private core, an edge node, or both, and deployment of all three elements together will rise at a CAGR of 39% in the period (this does not mean the three elements need to be in one physical unit, though there will be a gathering trend to deploy the local, virtualized packet core and RAN baseband on the edge node, using spare processing and storage resources on the same node to support other services for the customer).

Deployments and upgrades of indoor and enterprise small cells when colocated with private EPC and edge compute

Indoor = Option 6

The service providers surveyed indicated that, of the many functional splits on offer, a single split based on Option 6 (as supported by SCF’s specifications) is the most popular choice in indoor enterprise and in private industrial environments, while the emerging two-split options are gaining ground initially in campus and dense urban small cell hotzones.

Percentage of small cell service providers planning to deploy each architecture before 2025, by environment

One of the big themes of this year's report is diversity – especially in the organizations deploying and monetizing small cells, with neutral hosts, private network operators and enterprise integrators joining conventional MNOs. Just as cellular networks need to support a widening variety of connectivity requirements and applications, so the classic MNO model will not enable all those profitably. In some cases, the sharing of infrastructure via neutral host platforms can transform the profit case for a roll-out, as well as supporting many service providers – with future evolution to a more dynamic, on-demand access to connectivity, following the same pattern as the cloud industry.

As ever, the SCF market status report is freely available as download from our release site. The full data from our survey of 100 plus service providers is also available to all SCF member companies in the Resources folder of the member extranet. If you do not have access to the extranet or would like to find out more about joining SCF, please contact member services.