I've just come back from MWC'12. Like last year Small Cells featured heavily in the convention, and almost every mainstream infrastructure vendor has something which they claim either support or facilitate Small Cell Technology.
The Small Cell paradigm assumes that Small Cells are the solution to the radio network capacity and coverage challenges. There are other benefits that are often talked about, but ultimately the "many folds" of increase in capacity and the "scalable" coverage are the key ones.
The scale of coverage and capacity challenges in a network depends on the provider. I guess there is a lot of room to tackle the challenges incrementaly instead of making a revolutionary leap towards Small Cells, or at least delaying it.
One of the simple yet innovative products I saw in MWC is the efficient antenna designed by the Swedish company CellMax
The idea is very simple: Eliminate or reduce the 20%-60% of heat losses and regain 3dB of gain. This enables CellMax to provide antennas that can achieve 21dBi of gain without loss of beamwidth.
This compares favourably with mainstream antennas, which in order to achieve higher gain have to sacrifice beamwidth.
Data hungry applications require a descent signal to achieve useful data rates, thus simply upgrading the antennas in the network to give you a better footprint with 3dB more power should increase the achievable data throughput. Therefore it's no surprise that CellMax provides antennas for UMTS and LTE but not for less data centric technologies.