Unlicensed LTE & 5G NR RAN infrastructure a $1.3 Billion opportunity, says SNS Telecom & IT
10th December 2020: SNS Telecom & IT‘s latest research report indicates that annual spending on LTE and 5G NR RAN (Radio Access Network) infrastructure operating in unlicensed spectrum will reach $1.3 Billion by 2023, despite competition from non-3GPP wireless technologies and the ongoing economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Over the past decade, the operation of 3GPP-based cellular networks in unlicensed spectrum has gone from being a perennial talking point to what is now a key element of mobile network densification strategies. Mobile operators across the globe are increasingly rolling out LTE RAN infrastructure operating in unlicensed spectrum – primarily the globally harmonized 5 GHz band – to expand network capacity and deliver higher data rates, particularly in dense urban environments. These implementations are largely based on LAA (Licensed Assisted Access) technology which aggregates unlicensed channels with anchors in licensed spectrum to maintain seamless and reliable connectivity.
However, the practical applicability of unlicensed spectrum is not limited to the capacity enhancement of traditional mobile operator networks. Technical and regulatory initiatives such as MulteFire, CBRS (Citizens Broadband Radio Service) and sXGP (Shared Extended Global Platform) make it possible for enterprises, vertical industries, third-party neutral hosts and other new entrants to build and operate their own independent cellular networks solely in unlicensed spectrum without requiring an anchor carrier in licensed spectrum. Furthermore, in conjunction with the availability of new license-exempt frequencies such as the recently opened 6 GHz band from 5925 MHz to 7125 MHz, the introduction of 5G NR-U in 3GPP’s Release 16 specifications paves the way for 5G NR deployments in unlicensed spectrum for both licensed assisted and standalone modes of operation. Given 5G’s inherent support for reliability and time-sensitive networking, NR-U is particularly well suited to meet industrial IoT requirements for the automation and digitization of environments such as factories, warehouses, ports and mining sites.
Despite the economic slowdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, competition from non-3GPP wireless technologies and other challenges, SNS Telecom & IT estimates that global investments in LTE and 5G NR-ready RAN infrastructure operating in unlicensed spectrum will reach nearly $500 Million by the end of 2020. The market is further expected to grow at a CAGR of approximately 40% between 2020 and 2023, eventually accounting for $1.3 Billion by 2023.
The “LTE & 5G NR in Unlicensed Spectrum: 2020 – 2030 – Opportunities, Challenges, Strategies & Forecasts” report presents a detailed assessment of the market for LTE and 5G NR in unlicensed spectrum including the value chain, market drivers, barriers to uptake, enabling technologies, key trends, future roadmap, business models, use cases, application scenarios, standardization, spectrum availability/allocation, regulatory landscape, case studies, ecosystem player profiles and strategies. The report also provides global and regional forecasts for unlicensed LTE and 5G NR RAN infrastructure from 2020 till 2030. The forecasts cover two air interface technologies, two modes of operation, two cell type categories, seven frequency band ranges, seven use cases and five regional markets.
The report comes with an associated Excel datasheet suite covering quantitative data from all numeric forecasts presented in the report.
The key findings of the report include:
- Despite the economic slowdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, competition from non-3GPP wireless technologies and other challenges, SNS Telecom & IT estimates that global investments in LTE and 5G NR-ready RAN infrastructure operating in unlicensed spectrum will reach nearly $500 Million by the end of 2020. The market is further expected to grow at a CAGR of approximately 40% between 2020 and 2023, eventually accounting for $1.3 Billion by 2023.
- As part of their network densification efforts, mobile operators across the globe are increasingly employing the use of LAA technology to aggregate licensed spectrum assets with unlicensed frequencies – primarily the globally harmonized 5 GHz band – in order to deliver higher data rates and alleviate capacity constraints across the most congested parts of their networks.
- With the possibility to leverage the 3.5 GHz CBRS band on a GAA (General Authorized Access) basis in the United States and the availability of Japan’s license-exempt 1.9 GHz sXGP band, independent cellular networks that can operate solely in unlicensed spectrum – without requiring an anchor carrier in licensed spectrum – are beginning to emerge as well. In addition, it is worth noting that a limited number of custom-built, standalone LTE networks operating in the unlicensed 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands are operational in certain national markets, predominantly for industrial IoT applications.
- In the coming years, with the commercial maturity of 5G NR-U technology, we also anticipate to see 5G NR deployments in unlicensed spectrum for both licensed assisted and standalone modes of operation – using the 3.5 GHz CBRS, 5 GHz, 6 GHz and higher frequency bands up to 71 GHz.
The report will be of value to current and future potential investors into the unlicensed spectrum LTE and 5G network market, as well as LTE/5G equipment suppliers, mobile operators, MVNOs, fixed-line service providers, neutral hosts, private network operators, vertical domain specialists and other ecosystem players who wish to broaden their knowledge of the ecosystem.
For further information concerning the SNS Telecom & IT publication “LTE & 5G NR in Unlicensed Spectrum: 2020 – 2030 – Opportunities, Challenges, Strategies & Forecasts” please visit:
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About SNS Telecom & IT
Part of the SNS Worldwide group, SNS Telecom & IT is a global market intelligence and consulting firm with a primary focus on the telecommunications and information technology industries. Developed by in-house subject matter experts, our market intelligence and research reports provide unique insights on both established and emerging technologies. Our areas of coverage include but are not limited to wireless networks, 5G, LTE, SDN (Software Defined Networking), NFV (Network Functions Virtualization), IoT (Internet of Things), critical communications, big data, smart cities, smart homes, consumer electronics, wearable technologies, and vertical applications.