Market Insight

RESEARCH NOTE - Small Cell Market Sees Solid Growth in 2016, Driven by Indoor Shipments

March 27, 2017

Richard Webb Richard Webb Director, Research and Analysis, Service Provider Technology

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Following is information and insight from IHS Markit about our H1 2017 Small Cell Equipment Biannual Market Tracker, which contains data and analysis for the half-year ended December 31, 2016. 


  • The global small cell market, including indoor and outdoor small cells, grew 26 percent year-over-year in 2016, to $1.5 billion
  • Small cell indoor unit shipments outstripped outdoor shipments in 2016, with much operator focus on enterprise and public venue deployments to support consistent indoor voice and data performance
  • Asia Pacific led regional share of small cell unit shipments with 59 percent in 2016

Our Analysis

In 2016, small cell rollouts all over the world delivered strong double-digit year-over-year growth to the small cell market. A total of 1.7 million units shipped last year (+43 percent growth year-over-year), generating revenue of $1.5 billion (+26 percent growth year-over-year).

Much of the growth was driven by an increase in rural and remote deployments—as well as strong indoor small cell activity from the enterprise and urban segments, which are seeing an increase in public venue deployments. For the first time ever, the volume of indoor units surpassed those of outdoor in 2016.

The prior year also saw impact being made by enterprise small cell services offered by mobile network operators (MNOs) to attract the high-value corporate/vertical organization customer segment.

On a geographical basis, Asia Pacific led all regions in service provider small cell units with 59 percent in 2016. North America took the two-spot, followed by Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) and the Caribbean and Latin America (CALA).

In the long term, we forecast the global small cell market to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 8.4 percent from 2016 to 2021, when it will reach $2.2 billion. Outdoor revenue will continue to be higher than that of indoor—despite the much smaller shipment volumes—because outdoor small cells are significantly more expensive on a per-unit basis compared to smaller, and often simpler, indoor small cell units.

Small Cell Report Synopsis

The biannual IHS Markit small cell report provides worldwide and regional market size, forecasts through 2021, analysis and trends for enterprise small cell and service provider small cell (urban, rural and remote) equipment, and small cells by application (indoor and outdoor). The report also includes a small cell activity tracker.

Research by Market
Mobile & Telecom
Mobile Networks
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