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.

Questions addressed in the report

  • Where will the capacity injection in mobile networks come from?
  • How small cells and Wi-Fi complement each other? How does their contribution to wireless capacity differ?
  • What are the benefits and disadvantages of adding Wi-Fi to small cells – or to add small cells to the existing the Wi-Fi footprint?
  • What are the advantages of integrating Wi-Fi in the mobile network?
  • How does the TCO compare for macro cells, small cells and Wi-Fi? How does the TCO change with the addition of more sectors and interfaces (LTE, 3G and Wi-Fi) to small cells?
  • What is the capacity contribution that small cells and Wi Fi bring to the macro layer, as their density increases?
  • How does the per-bit TCO compare for macro cells, small cells and Wi-Fi? And do the per-bit costs vary with different small-cell configurations?


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