As our voracious appetite for mobile data services grows, the traditional cell phone infrastructure is reaching its limits, even with the ongoing deployments of faster networks and higher capacities on the backend. Femtocells and other small base stations then, which are basically small cellphone base stations that can be installed in homes and businesses, will continue to grow in importance, as they can offload a lot of the wireless demand onto existing wired connections. Accord to a new study by Informa Telecoms & Media, these small cells will grow from 3.2 million this year to over 62.4 million by 2012.

This staggering growth, says the report, will largely be driven by femtocells, whose installed base is projected to grow from 2.5 million this year to 59 million in 2016. While most consumers – assuming they are aware of this trend – tend to think of femtocells as ways to mediate bad cell phone connections inside a house or business, this report argues that they will likely become an important backbone of how we use wireless networks in the future.

Besides these femtocells, the study also projects that slightly larger base stations for larger businesses and public areas will also continue to got rapidly, though their projected install base (around 500,000 in 2016) is dwarfed by the projected demand for femtocells.

Currently, small cells are being used in 23 countries and there are already more 3G femtocells in use today than there are traditional large base stations.