Market research, financial analysis and consulting on wireless technologies and services
The economics of small cells and Wi-Fi offload
 Report Highlights

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Main findings
  • TCO for small cells and Wi-Fi ranges from 10% to 25% of the TCO for a macro cell, depending on the configuration of the small cell.
  • Because opex plays a much larger role than capex in the small-cell business case, configurations that reduce opex – such as multi-sector and multi-interface small cells – lead to a more robust business case.
  • The low marginal cost makes adding Wi-Fi, 3G or additional sectors to an LTE small cell an attractive proposition that reduces the number of sites a network operator must manage and increases capacity more rapidly.
  • Even at low densities, LTE small cells and Wi-Fi quickly take on a dominant role, relative to macro cells, in transporting mobile traffic.
  • Small cells and Wi-Fi enable operators to slash per-bit TCO by at least half. By combining cellular and Wi-Fi, operators can cut the per-bit TCO to a third of the TCO of macro cells.

List of figures

Figure 1. Capacity density
Figure 2. Combining small cells and Wi-Fi
Figure 3. Mobile IP traffic
Figure 4. Europe data traffic and revenue growth
Figure 5. Fixed, mobile, and Wi-Fi IP traffic
Figure 6. Capacity increase, past and future
Figure 7. Integrating Wi-Fi in the mobile network: looser and tighter coupling
Figure 8. Outdoor and indoor TCO
Figure 9. TCO for outdoor and indoor small cells, as a percentage of macro-cell TCO
Figure 10. Capex and equipment as a percentage of TCO
Figure 11. Backhaul capex and opex as a percentage of TCO for macro cells, indoor and outdoor small cells, and Wi-Fi
Figure 12. Capacity contribution of small cells and Wi-Fi as the density of small cells increases
Figure 13. Per-mbps TCO for LTE and 3G small cells and macro cells, and Wi-Fi
Figure 14. Per-bit TCO for LTE and 3G small cells and Wi-Fi as a percentage of per-bit TCO for macro cells

List of tables

Table 1. Sources of capacity increase in the RAN
Table 2. Comparison of Wi-Fi offload and small cells
Table 3. Small cells and Wi-Fi: Together or separate?
Table 4. What is a small cell?
Table 5. Cost, capacity and backhaul assumptions for outdoor sites
Table 6. Cost, capacity and backhaul assumptions for indoor sites

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