The global small cell market will generate annual revenues of US$6.7 billion by 2020, the Small Cell Forum predicted on Tuesday, with shipments reaching 8 million.

That compares to $1 billion of revenue and shipments of approximately 3 million in 2015, the industry group said.

"We are on the hockey stick of growth," said Small Cell Forum chairman Alan Law, during a press conference at Mobile World Congress.

He said that by 2020, small cells will account for 85% of the RAN hardware in a mobile operator's network.

According to the Small Cell Forum, the enterprise small cell sector will come to dominate the overall market, with shipments expected to grow by 270% in 2016. By 2020, enterprise small cells will account for $4 billion of the $6.7 billion of predicted annual revenue.

Indeed, in a survey of 500 enterprises around the world carried out by Nemertes Research on behalf of the Small Cell Forum, 94% of respondents said that in-building mobile coverage issues had an impact on their business.

63% said they would pay for a better quality of service, and 30% said small cells represent the best means of improving indoor mobile coverage.

60% said they plan to deploy small cells by the end of 2017.

Tuesday's announcement coincided with the launch of the Small Cell Forum's Release Six: Smart Enterprise – a set of documents setting out the use cases and best practices for deploying small cells within an enterprise.

"It's a very solid body of work that re-enforces the [small cell] market," Law said.