The Shared & Unlicensed Spectrum LTE/5G Network Ecosystem: 2021 – 2030 – Opportunities, Challenges, Strategies & Forecasts

The Shared & Unlicensed Spectrum LTE/5G Network Ecosystem: 2021 – 2030 – Opportunities, Challenges, Strategies & Forecasts

  • January 2021 •
  • 589 pages •
  • Report ID: 6003893 •
  • Format: PDF
As the 5G era advances, the cellular communications industry is undergoing a revolutionary paradigm shift, driven by technological innovations, liberal regulatory policies and disruptive business models.

One important aspect of this radical transformation is the growing adoption of shared and unlicensed spectrum – frequencies that are not exclusively licensed to a single mobile operator.

Telecommunications regulatory authorities across the globe have launched innovative frameworks to facilitate the coordinated sharing of licensed spectrum, most notably the United States’ three-tiered CBRS scheme for dynamic sharing of 3.5 GHz spectrum, Germany’s 3.7-3.8 GHz licenses for private 5G networks, the United Kingdom’s shared and local access licensing model, France’s 2.6 GHz licenses for industrial LTE/5G networks, the Netherlands’ local mid-band spectrum permits, Japan’s local 5G network licenses, Hong Kong’s geographically-shared licenses, and Australia’s 26/28 GHz area-wide apparatus licenses. Collectively, these ground-breaking initiatives are catalyzing the rollout of shared spectrum LTE and 5G NR networks for a diverse array of use cases ranging from private cellular networks for enterprises and vertical industries to mobile network densification, FWA (Fixed Wireless Access) and neutral host infrastructure.

In addition, the 3GPP cellular wireless ecosystem is also accelerating its foray into vast swaths of globally and regionally harmonized unlicensed spectrum bands. Although existing commercial activity is largely centered around LTE-based LAA (Licensed Assisted Access) technology whereby license-exempt frequencies are used in tandem with licensed anchors to expand mobile network capacity and deliver higher data rates, 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.

Even with ongoing challenges such as the COVID-19 pandemic-induced economic slowdown, SNS Telecom & IT estimates that global investments in LTE and 5G NR RAN (Radio Access Network) infrastructure operating in shared and unlicensed spectrum will account for more than $1.3 Billion by the end of 2021. The market is expected to continue its upward trajectory beyond 2021, growing at CAGR of approximately 44% between 2021 and 2024 to reach nearly $4 Billion in annual spending by 2024.

The “Shared & Unlicensed Spectrum LTE/5G Network Ecosystem: 2021 – 2030 – Opportunities, Challenges, Strategies & Forecasts” report presents a detailed assessment of the shared and unlicensed spectrum LTE/5G network ecosystem 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 shared and unlicensed spectrum LTE/5G RAN infrastructure from 2021 till 2030. The forecasts cover two air interface technologies, two cell type categories, two spectrum licensing models, 12 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.

Topics Covered
The report covers the following topics:
- Introduction to shared and unlicensed spectrum LTE/5G networks
- Value chain and ecosystem structure
- Market drivers and challenges
- Enabling technologies and concepts including CBRS, LSA/eLSA, local area licensing, LTE-U, LAA/eLAA/FeLAA, 5G NR-U, MulteFire and sXGP
- Key trends such as private cellular networks, ongoing expansion of 3GPP technologies into industrial IoT settings, neutral host infrastructure, mobile network densification and fixed wireless broadband rollouts
- Future roadmap of shared and unlicensed spectrum LTE/5G networks
- Business models, use cases and application scenarios
- Spectrum availability, allocation and usage across the global, regional and national domains
- Standardization, regulatory and collaborative initiatives
- 40 case studies of LTE and 5G NR deployments in shared and unlicensed spectrum
- Profiles and strategies of more than 280 ecosystem players
- Strategic recommendations for LTE and 5G NR equipment suppliers, system integrators, service providers, enterprises and vertical industries
- Market analysis and forecasts from 2021 till 2030

Forecast Segmentation
Market forecasts for LTE and 5G NR-based RAN equipment operating in shared and unlicensed spectrum are provided for each of the following submarkets and their subcategories:

Air Interface Technologies
- LTE
- 5G NR

Cell Types
- Indoor Small Cells
- Outdoor Small Cells

Spectrum Licensing Models
- Coordinated (Licensed) Shared Spectrum
- Unlicensed Spectrum

Frequency Bands
- Coordinated Shared Spectrum
-1.8 GHz
-2.3-2.6 GHz
-3.3-4.2 GHz C-Band
-3.5 GHz CBRS Band
-26/28 GHz
-Other Frequencies

- Unlicensed Spectrum
-Sub 1-GHz
-1.9 GHz sXGP Band
-2.4 GHz
-5 GHz
-6 GHz
-Higher Frequencies

Use Cases
- Mobile Network Densification
- FWA (Fixed Wireless Access)
- Cable Operators & New Entrants
- Neutral Hosts
- Private Cellular Networks
-Offices, Buildings & Corporate Campuses
-Vertical Industries

Regional Markets
- North America
- Asia Pacific
- Europe
- Middle East & Africa
- Latin & Central America

Key Questions Answered
The report provides answers to the following key questions:
- How big is the opportunity for LTE and 5G NR networks operating in shared and unlicensed spectrum?
- What trends, drivers and challenges are influencing its growth?
- What will the market size be in 2024, and at what rate will it grow?
- Which submarkets and regions will see the highest percentage of growth?
- What are the existing and candidate shared/unlicensed spectrum bands for the operation of LTE and 5G NR, and what is the status of their adoption worldwide?
- What are the business models, use cases and application scenarios for shared and unlicensed spectrum?
- How will CBRS and other coordinated shared spectrum frameworks accelerate the uptake of private cellular networks for enterprises and vertical industries?
- How does the integration of shared and unlicensed spectrum relieve capacity constraints faced by traditional mobile operators?
- What opportunities exist for cable operators, neutral hosts, niche service providers and other new entrants?
- What is the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on shared and unlicensed spectrum LTE/5G network deployments?
- Who are the key ecosystem players, and what are their strategies?
- What strategies should LTE and 5G NR equipment suppliers, system integrators, service providers and other stakeholders adopt to remain competitive?

Key Findings
The report has the following key findings:
- Even with ongoing challenges such as the COVID-19 pandemic-induced economic slowdown, SNS Telecom & IT estimates that global investments in LTE and 5G NR RAN infrastructure operating in shared and unlicensed spectrum will account for more than $1.3 Billion by the end of 2021. The market is expected to continue its upward trajectory beyond 2021, growing at CAGR of approximately 44% between 2021 and 2024 to reach nearly $4 Billion in annual spending by 2024.
- Breaking away from traditional practices of spectrum assignment for mobile services that predominantly focused on exclusive-use national licenses, telecommunications regulatory authorities across the globe have launched innovative frameworks to facilitate the coordinated sharing of licensed spectrum.
- Notable examples include the United States’ three-tiered CBRS scheme for dynamic sharing of 3.5 GHz spectrum, Germany’s 3.7-3.8 GHz licenses for private 5G networks, the United Kingdom’s shared and local access licensing model, France’s 2.6 GHz licenses for industrial LTE/5G networks, the Netherlands’ local mid-band spectrum permits, Japan’s local 5G network licenses, Hong Kong’s geographically-shared licenses, and Australia’s 26/28 GHz area-wide apparatus licenses.
- Collectively, these ground-breaking initiatives are catalyzing the rollout of shared spectrum LTE and 5G NR networks for a diverse array of use cases ranging from private cellular networks for enterprises and vertical industries to mobile network densification, FWA and neutral host infrastructure.
- In particular, private LTE and 5G networks operating in shared spectrum are becoming an increasingly common theme. For example, Germany’s national telecommunications regulator BNetzA (Federal Network Agency) has received more than a hundred applications for private 5G licenses in 2020 alone. Dozens of purpose-built 5G networks are already in operational use by the likes of aircraft maintenance specialist Lufthansa Technik, industrial conglomerate Bosch, automakers and other manufacturing giants.
- Since the commencement of its local 5G spectrum licensing scheme, Japan has been showing a similar appetite for industrial-grade 5G networks, with initial field trials and deployments being spearheaded by many of the country’s largest industrial players including Fujitsu, Mitsubishi Electric, Sumitomo Corporation and Kawasaki Heavy Industries.
- Among other examples, the 3.5 GHz CBRS shared spectrum band is being utilized to set up private LTE networks across the United States for applications as diverse as remote learning and COVID-19 response efforts in healthcare facilities. 5G NR-based CBRS implementations are also expected to emerge between 2021 and 2022 to better support industrial IoT requirements. Multiple companies including agriculture and construction equipment manufacturer John Deere have already made commitments to deploy private 5G networks in CBRS spectrum.
- Mobile operators and other cellular ecosystem stakeholders are also seeking to tap into vast swaths of globally and regionally harmonized unlicensed spectrum bands for the operation of 3GPP technologies. Although existing deployments are largely based on LTE-LAA technology whereby license-exempt frequencies are used in tandem with licensed anchors to expand mobile network capacity and deliver higher data rates, standalone cellular networks that can operate solely in unlicensed spectrum – without requiring an anchor carrier in licensed spectrum – are beginning to emerge as well.
- 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 5 GHz and 6 GHz bands as well as higher frequencies in the millimeter wave range – for example, Australia’s 24.25-25.1 GHz band that is being made available for uncoordinated deployments of private 5G networks servicing locations such as factories, mining sites, hospitals and educational institutions.

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