It seems that the majority of cell phone users are smartphone users, and as the shift towards a smartphone society increases, so does data usage on mobile networks. This has mobile operators considering alternatives in deployment models that rely on small cells.

A recent report from 4G Americas details how to successfully integrate and deploy small cells for high performance heterogeneous networks.

"We are at the tip of the iceberg as far as deploying intelligent heterogeneous networks to support the growing mobile broadband demand," stated Chris Pearson (News - Alert), President of 4G Americas in a statement. "Heterogeneous networks offer operators a great opportunity to increase coverage, capacity and performance by deploying small cells closer to the customer."  

With mobile operators straining to maintain the growth in mobile data traffic, many are using Mobile data offloading as a more efficient use of radio spectrum, and small cells are an important element for data offloading.

Another reason for growing interest in public access small cells is predominantly to provide additional capacity in busy metropolitan hotspots.

The small cell market is expected to grow from 3.2 million cells in 2012 to 62.4 million cells in 2016, according to Informa Telecoms & Media (News - Alert), and mobile broadband data consumption is expected to increase 25 fold between 2011 and 2016.

"4G Americas continues to advocate for more spectrum throughout the Americas to address network congestion and allow the industry to grow by serving society, and our member companies continue to invest in innovative new standardized architectures to improve network performance," Pearson said.

Conversely, Sprint (News - Alert) Nextel, but does not view small cells as an instant cure-all for adding capacity, at least according to CTO Stephen Bye.

At the recent GigaOM's Mobilize conference, Bye said that the idea is good in theory, however, physical deployment is the challenge.  

Edited by Stefanie Mosca