How small cells help address connectivity gap, usher in smart technology
August 13, 2021
With the Department of Education’s (DepEd) recent announcement of continuing distance learning for the school year 2021-2022 and major cities going back to stricter quarantine restrictions, the issue of reliable and accessible internet has once again become a popular discussion topic. The pandemic has further highlighted the need to provide better connectivity to help minimize disruption in Filipinos’ daily lives.
More internet users would need increased site density for better connectivity. Even before the pandemic, Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) have been hard at work to accelerate their network capacity and coverage expansion plans by leasing common towers, while building out more of their own telecommunications infrastructure. This is in line with the national government’s goal to build 50,000 towers in the next decade, which should help us close the gap to the ideal user per site density.
At the same time, MNOs are looking to further fortify their networks with small cells for 5G upgrades. Small cells are small low-powered, short-ranged antennas that provide coverage and capacity, meant to work in conjunction with macro cell towers. By providing more targeted network capacity, small cells can help MNOs deliver increased data capacity and faster connectivity speed in an area, which will in turn result in better audio and video streaming and overall wireless experience for users.
Growth opportunities in the industry
Leading professional services ﬁrm Deloitte earlier reported that there are approximately 10 million active small cells around the world, revolutionizing the way network design has been viewed — from a “macro tower only” mindset to a “connect everything” mindset.
According to a 2021 Market Study LLC report, the North American small cell industry is set to expand further with a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 23% in terms of revenue through 2028. This is mainly attributed to growing penetration of internet-enabled devices, the rising mobile data traffic, and the accessibility of high-speed internet. In the United States alone, small cell deployments have grown almost 400% in the past 10 years per telecom website, Light Reading Network. Crown Castle, one of the United States’ three large cell tower companies, said it expects to activate around 10,000 new small cells in 2021.
Meanwhile, the same Market Study report noted that the Asia-Pacific small cell industry is likely to experience a 26.3% CAGR through 2028, primarily due to the growing demand for high-speed internet, increasing smartphone penetration, and mounting data traffic. Focus towards improving the aging infrastructure and favorable regulatory outlook are also presenting growth opportunities for the industry.
This gives players in the local small cell industry an opportunity to shine, with Aboitiz InfraCapital at the forefront. Last year, the company debuted its Small Cell Sites Business, heeding the government’s call to fast track the improvement of the Philippine’s Information and Communications Technology (ICT) infrastructure amid COVID-19. Leveraging on existing assets, its small cell network in high-density urban cities such as Subic, Cebu, and Davao was made readily available to MNOs, making it cost-effective and easy to deploy small cell attachments. To date, Aboitiz InfraCapital has rolled out 300 small cells sites in Cebu and Davao with Globe Telecom and DITO Telecommunity.
Innovation and users are the big winners
With less congested networks and an increased data capacity, small cells can help support a host of other innovative services, such as telemedicine, connected cars, smart homes, smart agriculture, and even entire smart cities. These innovative solutions can then help thousands of Filipinos get more opportunities, access to healthcare, and improve food production. And as greater connectivity becomes more available, more and more people will be empowered to use it. Demand will further create itself as they find more ways to use it in their daily lives. Given the huge benefits and convenience small cells offer, it’s no wonder the industry is poised for growth.
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