Based on weak shipment data during 2012, Mobile Experts predicts slow growth for residential femtocells — only 12 percent per year — but faster growth will come from capacity upgrades as mobile operators push harder for high-capacity small cells. Taken together, outdoor metrocells and indoor capacity nodes will overtake residential femtocell shipments in the 2016 time frame, with more than 5 million metrocells shipping in 2017. AsiaPac continues to lead in small-cell deployments, the research group notes, but other global operators will catch up as LTE rollouts increase and capacity tightens up in North America, China, Latin America, Europe and the Middle East. It all adds up to money: Small cells are 65-percent less expensive than macro base stations, adding up to more mobile capacity.

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