Mobile operators are frequently described to be under pressure to upgrade the capacity of their networks in response to unrelenting demand for mobile data services. Small cells are one such technology deemed indispensible for operators. As a case in point, AT&T announced that it will aggressively push to deploy 40,000 small cells by the end of 2015 under its Project Velocity IP (VIP). In the meantime,Verizon Wireless expressed the desire to deploy small cells but only if they are inexpensive.
What the two leading North American operators are saying is that inexpensive small cells, specifically outdoor carrier deployed compact base stations, makes possible for high-volume deployments. However, small cells remain to date an object of great debate with operators actively engaged in field trials during 2013 while promises of deployments are deferred into the future. This begs the question: how do we map the current state into the deployment cycle of a new technology? What do operators see as the challenges holding up small cell deployments? What are their key requirements for small cell deployments? What type of small cells will be deployed and how do the different backhaul solutions stack up?