5G will see an increase in operators' network densification plans, with non-residential deployments of small cells set to increase by over a third between 2015 and 2025.
The Small Cell Forum's latest industry survey, which polled more than 50 operators, found densification was already under way to improve the quality of LTE networks.
Over the 10-year period to 2025, it said deployments would hit almost 8.5 million, 22 times that of 2015 and having a compound annual growth rate of 36 percent.
The report also found 40 percent of operators would deploy between 100 and 350 small cells per square kilometre in areas they have earmarked for densification by 2020.
The deployment of 5G New Radio will also boost deployments of small cells, with 58 percent of respondents saying they would focus on rolling out that technology first.
Enterprise small cells deployments have grown by 98 percent between 2015 and 2017 and the area has been predicted to grow by as much as 1,600 percent from 2015 to 2025.
David Orloff, Chair of Small Cell Forum, said: “The industry is seeing explosive growth in the number of small cell deployments, which provide the densification solution to grow today’s LTE networks, as well as providing a fundamental building block for tomorrow’s 5G deployments.
“This research shows the confidence and emphasis that operators around the world are placing on the technology, and we at the forum are actively collaborating with both them, the vendor community, and other industry associations to avoid fragmentation and accelerate the shift to true next generation networks and the enhanced connectivity they will bring.”
The Forum also published Release 10, its guide to small cells within the 5G era. It said it had put together the report after polling operators' requirements, with a particular focus on India, North America and Latin America.