Infonetics Research forecasts the fastest-growing segment of the small-cell backhaul market will be the outdoor small cell. “There’s been wild speculation on the small-cell opportunity — some that lump together small cells with residential femtocells, Wi-Fi hotspots, and in-building and outdoor,” says Michael Howard, Infonetics Research’s co-founder and principal analyst/Carrier Networks. “After fielding several small cell operator surveys and working directly with chipset manufacturers, mobile operators, small cell vendors, and backhaul equipment vendors for more than two years, we are now able to reliably calculate the size of the market and build realistic forecasts. We expect a cumulative $5 billion to be spent worldwide on outdoor small-cell backhaul equipment between 2012 and 2016, with the market kicking into high gear in 2014. This is in addition to the nearly $44 billion being spent on macrocell backhaul equipment during the same five-year period.” Adds Richard Webb, directing analyst/Microwave and Mobile Offload, “We expect to see significant shifts in the type of equipment vendors use to backhaul outdoor small cells, with millimeter wave and non-line-of-sight, or NLOS, equipment becoming the top segments of the market by 2016. Millimeter wave equipment has a high capacity (1 Gbps in a single channel) and very low latency, and nearly all of the operators we’ve interviewed are evaluating millimeter wave for small-cell backhaul.” However, the group notes, there is no silver-bullet backhaul solution for all small-cell deployment scenarios because each depends on multiple variables, including location, form factor limitations, local regulations, available power and network, and cost.

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