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.

Table of contents

  • Introduction: Why small cells and Wi-Fi? Two complementary tools both needed to address traffic growth
  • Capacity and capacity density Where will the growth in capacity come from?
  • Small cells versus Wi-Fi A comparison of two complementary approaches to capacity increase
  • Small cells and Wi-Fi Why it makes sense to deploy them alongside each other
  • Past and future of Wi-Fi Integration into mobile networks is key to maximize Wi-Fi contribution
  • Small cells, Wi-Fi access and Wi-Fi offload Defining terms and scope used in the report
  • Cost assumptions Building the TCO model
  • Comparing the costs for macro cells, small cells and Wi-Fi The base TCO model
  • The capacity contribution of small cells and Wi-Fi Incremental capacity increase with more small cells per macro cell
  • Per-bit TCO Assessing the cost-effectiveness of small cells and Wi-Fi
  • Findings: two (or three) is better than one Synergies among LTE, 3G and Wi-Fi strengthen small-cell business case


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