Investments in shared and unlicensed LTE/5G spectrum to hit $4bn by 2024
Investments in shared and unlicensed LTE and 5G spectrum will reach $4bn by 2024, according to Dubai-based market intelligence outfit SNS Telecom & IT. The forecast comes on the back of broadening spectrum liberalisation in global markets in 2020, led by the CBRS scheme in the 3.5 GHz band in the US, the move to hive off 3.7-3.8 GHz spectrum for industry in Germany, and the new model for shared and local spectrum access in the UK.
SNS Telecom & IT notes, as well, in a new report that further policy-change with 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.
The firm said: “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, fixed-wireless access, and neutral host infrastructure.”
A major feature of the international policy-shift on spectrum has been the rising industrial interest in private LTE and 5G networks, for running edge-based computing and communications in factories, plants, ports, and other tightly-controlled self-contained industrial domains.
German regulator BNetzA received “more than a hundred” applications for private 5G licenses in 2020, said SNS, with “dozens” being formalised for purpose-built industrial 5G networks. It points to private 5G licences in Germany with the likes of Lufthansa Technik and Bosch, all of which have been well-covered in these pages.
Japan is the other market to show a particularly keen interest in industrial 5G, it said, with initial field trials and deployments spearheaded by “the country’s largest industrial players”, including Fujitsu, Mitsubishi Electric, Sumitomo Corporation, and Kawasaki Heavy Industries.
In the US, it noted interest in new CBRS licences for private LTE networks for a diverse range of use cases, notably “remote learning and Covid-19 response efforts in healthcare facilities”; it said industrial 5G will start to be deployed in CBRS spectrum in the US in 2021 and 2022. “Multiple companies including agriculture and construction equipment manufacturer John Deere have already made commitments to deploy private 5G in CBRS,” it said.
Mobile operators are also looking to make use of shared and unlicensed spectrum to bolster their LTE offerings. These efforts mostly use LTE-LAA, where license-exempt frequencies combine with licensed anchors to improve network capacity and data rates. However, standalone LTE and 5G networks in unlicensed spectrum are emerging, with the delayed rollout of MulteFire and the development of 5G NR-U technology.
The firm stated: “We anticipate 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 – such as with Australia’s 24.25-25.1 GHz band, which is available for uncoordinated deployments of private 5G servicing locations such as factories, mining sites, hospitals and educational institutions.”