Small cell backhaul market to be buoyed by boost in deployments, claims IHS

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Increasing outdoor small cell deployments from next year will lead to the backhaul market for the sector having a compound annual growth rate of 80 percent between now and 2020, new research has claimed.

A report from IHS said operators have put a slow start to deploying outdoor small cells behind them, as they look to support "saturated" macro networks and improve network capacity through dense installation of cells.

This will lead to an estimated $6.4 billion spent collectively on outdoor small cell backhaul equipment between 2016 and 2020.

Last year, the market reached $117 million, with microwave dominating, followed by Ethernet Fibre.

Richard Webb, Research Director, Mobile Backhaul and Small Cells, IHS Technology, said: "Network operators are currently testing and field trialing many outdoor small cell and backhaul options in dense urban areas to choose technologies, products and vendors, as well as to develop operational procedures. The issues of urban deployment are gradually being resolved, and more mobile operators are now starting to make their initial, albeit modest, deployments."

There was also life in rural deployments, Webb added, citing the likes of Vodafone which is using wireline to backhaul small cell networks.

He said 42,600 small cell backhaul connections were made last year. This figure to set to rise to 878,000 by 2020. 

The optimistic prediction have contrasted with some operators, who still identify backhaul as an obstacle to small cell deployments.

In a video interview with Mobile Europe last month, Tele2 Estonia CTIO Ervins Kampans estimated bringing fibre backhaul to remote areas remained the technology's biggest challenge. He said: "It's not easy to dig or install something onto a lamppost."