There's a lot of promise, but unfortunately, it's just that for now.
Verizon and AT&T are still in trials, and broad deployment isn't expected for another two years. Industry executives are still looking at the economics of small cell, and many aren't sure they'll save money investing in them over a few well-placed macro cells.
And while they are smaller and can be installed a lot easier, there remain challenges in getting permission from city officials and property owners. There's the additional hurdle of figuring out a way to connect them back to the network.
The Small Cell Forum Web site.
(Credit: Screenshot taken by Roger Cheng/CNET)
"The more we go, the more we realize there are challenges," Taleb said. "It's going much slower than we all thought."
Ira Palti, CEO of Ceragon, which builds the connections between the macro cells, small cells, and other network components, said he believes the main deployment may not happen for another three to five years.
He added that small cells are riding a familiar hype curve that accompanies any new promising technology.
"We're at very high hype levels," he said. "The hype peaks and drops, and then the real deployments begin. I don't think we've peaked on small cell hype yet."