Changing wireless network paradigms are driving a shift in the architecture of base stations from traditional macrocells to distributed base stations and toward the growing use of small cell base stations (for more information, click here). The primary drivers for this transition, according to ABI Research, are the increasing data traffic demand and the opex/capex cost savings inherent in small-cell equipment installations.

The group says operators initially will deploy small-cell equipment as fill-ins on the pico- and microcell layers, but they quickly will transition to deploying them as a fundamental part of a network rollout.

“In fact, the number of LTE small cells sold (127,000) will surpass the number of LTE macrocells, forecast at 113,000, as early as 2014,” it notes. “However, LTE base-station revenues will continue to be dominated by macro base-station revenue with small-cell revenue of $1.09 billion, representing only 5.2 percent of the total revenue of $20.86 billion in 2014 and growing to $4.44 billion (23.9 percent) of the total $18.60 billion LTE base station market by 2016.”

Nick Marshall, principal analyst/Networks, comments, “This mobile broadband-driven data storm is stretching traditional macrocell network capacity to the limit and driving the move to heterogeneous networks.”

In addition, semiconductor suppliers are positioning themselves to participate in this market, with TI, Freescale, Cavium, Mindspeed and DesignArt among the manufacturers offering new “base-station-on-a-chip” SoCs.

“These base-station baseband SoCs are among the most complex ICs on the market today, and they raise the bar in terms of complexity,” Marshall adds.

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