Inside telecommunications: 3Q 2012 trends

Technology news and developments

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LTE will account for 37% of global small cell shipments by the end of next year.

Small cell deployments gather steam

Small cells have emerged as an integral part of a new network paradigm for operators, helping to:

  • Add capacity
  • Extend coverage
  • Offload traffic from larger cells

Operator announcements are arriving thick and fast, with femtocells the leading small cell category.

LTE small cell rollouts are also coming to the fore and Infonetics believes LTE will account for 37% of global small cell shipments by the end of next year.1

While early deployments have been largely residential, capacity demands are driving deployments of metrocells and enterprise femtocells. Industry forecasts predict strong take-up from businesses. By 2016, enterprise femtocells are seen accounting for almost half the global market.

Several challenges remain, such as:

  • Lack of planning tools to isolate the areas where data traffic demand is highest
  • Interference mitigation
  • Network management
  • Deciding where to locate small cells in an outdoor environment
  • Obtaining relevant rights to lampposts or other property
  • Ensuring reliable backhaul capacity for large-scale LTE-based deployments

E-reader shipments under strain as tablets ride high

Unit shipments of e-readers are expected to fall year-on-year in 2012 with the rising popularity of tablets. There is greater choice of tablets at lower prices from a larger pool of vendors. IDC predicts a 15% decline in e-reader shipments this year versus 2011.

Worldwide e-reader shipments 2010–16
Unit shipments (m)

Worldwide e-reader shipments 2010–16

Source: IDC, “Worldwide and U.S. eReader 2012–2016 Forecast Update,” October 2012.

New after-dark reading features allow greater scope for differentiation as larger players branch out into tablets themselves. In September, Kobo unveiled a new range of e-book devices, including the Glo, which features a built-in light for reading in the dark.

Vendors are also expanding selectively beyond their home markets. US bookseller Barnes & Noble is bringing its Nook e-readers to the UK, having struck agreements with online and brick-and-mortar retailers. Amazon is launching a Japanese language version of its latest Kindle device in the fourth quarter, following Kobo’s similar move in July.

Regional e-reader makers are also making their presence felt at new price points. German manufacturer txtr is launching a low-cost e-reader for €9.90 — a device without 3G or Wi-Fi connectivity and no rechargeable battery.

Looking ahead, the trade-off between functionality and price has some way to evolve in both the e-reader and tablet markets, while consumers’ appetite for accumulating additional devices remains to be seen. Tablets and e-readers have different strengths, but the boundaries between the two device categories will continue to blur as vendors expand their portfolios.

1 Infonetics, “Femtocell market ignited by tight vendor battles, price erosion, shift to the enterprise,” 3 July 2012.

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