The market for hardware related to unlicensed and shared spectrum technologies like LTE-U, LAA, and CBRS is expected to hit $1.7 billion as deployments ramp up over the next five years, ABI Research indicates.
According to a new forecast from the firm, the new unlicensed technologies bring with them opportunities for more densification, neutral hosts, and launches of enterprise and private networks.
“We stand at the verge of significant disruption with in-building wireless and spectrum management technologies,” Nick Marshall, research director at ABI Research, observed. “It is technologies such as these that will become essential as networks migrate to 5G and its promise of high data throughput, low latency, and massive machine type communications.”
ABI noted restrictions around power and sharing make these unlicensed bands most suitable for indoor small cell and venue deployments. That, combined with a lack of spectrum acquisition costs afforded by the unlicensed bands, is expected to give rise to increased investment in in-building wireless among middle-sized and enterprise verticals. By 2021, these segments will account for more than half of in-building small cell shipments.
SNS Research separately noted that unlicensed and shared spectrum small cells are beginning to gain traction. Shipment revenues in that segment have the potential to reach $240 million by the end of 2020, that firm predicted.
“LTE-U/LAA will appeal to MNOs planning to densify but with insufficient spectrum or CapEx to acquire it,” Marshall added. “Meanwhile, MulteFire and CBRS technologies promise very low network buildout costs with economics that threaten to disrupt the DAS market. The technologies appeal to many Communications Service Providers, or CSPs, especially as CBRS pioneers a significant change in spectrum management for the industry. Also, traditional spectrum refarming cannot match the increasing mobile broadband throughput demands in the migration to 5G.”
Companies working in the unlicensed ecosystem span Spectrum Access System (SAS) providers and Environmental Sensing Capability (ESC) operators for CBRS, including Alphabet, CommScope, Federated Wireless, and small cell and infrastructure vendors like BaiCells, Casa Systems, Ericsson, Huawei, ip.access, Nokia, Ruckus, and SpiderCloud, ABI noted.
While major operators like T-Mobile and AT&T are already on the move with unlicensed technologies like LTE-U and LAA, the CBRS unlicensed band is currently the subject of some debate. Wireless industry association CTIA and T-Mobile itself have asked the FCC to move immediately to change the rules in the CBRS band. Specifically, they want larger license areas with longer terms, and, in T-Mobile’s case, more bandwidth allocated to priority access licenses. More on T-Mobile’s argument here.
Filed Under: Infrastructure