The survey covers 84 mobile network operators (MNOs) and 33 other service providers such as private network operators (PNOs) and neutral hosts.
Key findings from the 2021 report include:
There is a rising number of industrial applications that require full 5G capabilities such as high availability, and these will accelerate adoption of 5G small cells, with a CAGR of 77% in 2019-2026.
Access to a wider variety of spectrum, with more flexible licensing, will be the most important enabler of enterprise small cell roll-out in the early 2020s. Deployments in shared spectrum will overtake those in licensed bands in 2025.
As small cells need to address increasingly diverse requirements from different industries and use cases, flexible, cloud-based architectures will become essential. Two-thirds of deployers expect to adopt small cell vRAN by 2025.
One driver of vRAN expansion will be open small cell architectures. These will account for 77% of new deployments in 2026. There will be strong support for SCF’s Split 6 in the enterprise and industrial environments, where it will adopted by 58% of deployers by 2024.
The trend for rising diversity of small cell deployers and business models will intensify as enterprise demand grows, and by 2026, over three-quarters of enterprise small cells will be deployed and operated by private network operators or neutral hosts.