LTE & 5G NR in Unlicensed Spectrum Market 2020-2030 Global Size, Growth, Share, Key Players, Value Chain and Outlook

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 (Radio Access Network) 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.

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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.

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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.

Topics Covered

The report covers the following topics:

  • Introduction to LTE and 5G NR in unlicensed spectrum
  • Value chain and ecosystem structure
  • Market drivers and challenges
  • Enabling technologies and concepts including LTE-U, LAA/eLAA/FeLAA, 5G NR-U, MulteFire, CBRS and sXGP
  • Key trends such as mobile network densification, neutral host small cells, private cellular networks for enterprises and vertical industries, and the availability of new unlicensed bands
  • Future roadmap of LTE and 5G NR in unlicensed spectrum
  • Business models, use cases and application scenarios
  • Spectrum availability, allocation and usage across the global, regional and national domains
  • Standardization, regulatory and collaborative initiatives
  • Case studies of LTE and 5G NR-ready deployments in 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 2020 till 2030

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Forecast Segmentation

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

Air Interface Technologies

  • Unlicensed LTE
  • 5G NR-U

Modes of Operation

  • Standalone Operation
  • LAA (Licensed Assisted Access)

Cell Types

  • Indoor Small Cells
  • Outdoor Small Cells

Frequency Bands

  • Sub-1 GHz
  • 1.9 GHz sXGP
  • 2.4 GHz
  • 3.5 GHz CBRS GAA
  • 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 in unlicensed spectrum?
  • What trends, drivers and challenges are influencing its growth?
  • What will the market size be in 2023, and at what rate will it grow?
  • Which submarkets and regions will see the highest percentage of growth?
  • What are the existing and candidate unlicensed spectrum bands for the operation of LTE and 5G NR, and what is the status of their adoption worldwide?
  • What is the outlook for the recently opened 6 GHz greenfield spectrum and license-exempt bands in higher frequencies?
  • What are the business models, use cases and application scenarios for LTE and 5G NR networks operating in unlicensed spectrum?
  • How does the integration of 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?
  • How will unlicensed spectrum accelerate the uptake of private cellular networks for enterprises and vertical industries?
  • How does standardization impact the deployment of LTE and 5G NR in unlicensed spectrum?
  • What are the functional capabilities of 5G NR-U based on the 3GPP’s Release 16 specifications, and which NR-U feature enhancements are likely to be supported in Release 17?
  • Do Wi-Fi and other non-3GPP technologies operating in unlicensed spectrum pose a threat to LTE and 5G NR?
  • 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?

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Key Findings

The report has the following key findings:

  • 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.

List of Companies Mentioned:

3GPP (Third Generation Partnership Project), 5G-ACIA (5G Alliance for Connected Industries and Automation), 6Harmonics/6WiLInk, 7Layers, Aaeon Technology, ABiT Corporation, Accelleran, Accuver, ACMA (Australian Communications and Media Authority), ADRF (Advanced RF Technologies), Affirmed Networks, Airgain, Airspan Networks, Airtower Networks, Airwavz Solutions, Akoustis Technologies, Alef Edge, Allen Vanguard Wireless, Alliance of Industrial Internet, Alpha Wireless, Alphabet, Altiostar Networks, Altran, Amazon, Amdocs, American Tower Corporation, Amit Wireless, ANACOM (National Communications Authority, Portugal), Anritsu Corporation, ANS (Advanced Network Services), Antenna Company, Anterix, Apple, ARCEP (Autorité de Régulation des Communications Électroniques), ARIB (Association of Radio Industries and Businesses, Japan), Artemis Networks, Askey Computer Corporation, ASOCS, ASTRI (Hong Kong Applied Science and Technology Research Institute), ASUS (ASUSTeK Computer), AT&T, Athonet, ATIS (Alliance for Telecommunications Industry Solutions), ATN International, AttoCore, Axell Wireless, Azcom Technology, BAI Communications, Baicells Technologies, Ballast Networks, BBB (BB Backbone Corporation), BBK Electronics Corporation, BearCom, BEC Technologies, Benetel, Billion Electric, Black Box Corporation, Blackned, BLiNQ Networks, Blue Arcus Technologies, Blue Danube Systems, BNetzA (Federal Network Agency, Germany), Boingo Wireless, Branch Communications, BTI Wireless, Bureau Veritas, BVSystems (Berkeley Varitronics Systems), BYD, CableFree (Wireless Excellence), CableLabs, Caltta, Cambium Networks, Cambridge Consultants, Carlson Wireless Technologies, Casa Systems, CBRS Alliance, CCI (Communication Components Inc.), CCN (Cirrus Core Networks), CCSA (China Communications Standards Association), CellAntenna Corporation, cellXica, Celona, Centerline Communications, CEPT (European Conference of Postal and Telecommunications Administrations), China Mobile, Chunghwa Telecom, CICT (China Information and Communication Technology Group)/China Xinke Group, Cisco Systems, CITC (Communications and Information Technology Commission, Saudi Arabia), CITRA (Communication and Information Technology Regulatory Authority, Kuwait), ClearSky Technologies, Codium Networks, Comba Telecom, CommAgility, CommScope, Compal, COMSovereign, Connectivity Wireless Solutions, Contela, Contour Networks, Corning, Council Rock, Cradlepoint, Crown Castle International Corporation, CTIA, CTS (Communication Technology Services), CTU (Czech Telecommunication Office), Dali Wireless, Dallas Love Field Airport, Danish Energy Agency, Dejero Labs, DEKRA, Dell Technologies, Digi International, Digicert, Digital Colony, DKK (Denki Kogyo), Druid Software, DSA (Dynamic Spectrum Alliance), Dynabook, EETT (Hellenic Telecommunications and Post Commission), EION Wireless, ENACOM (Ente Nacional de Comunicaciones), Encore Networks, Ericsson, ETRI (Electronics & Telecommunications Research Institute, South Korea), ETSI (European Telecommunications Standards Institute), EXFO, ExteNet Systems, Facebook, Fairspectrum, FCNT (Fujitsu Connected Technologies), Federated Wireless, Fibrolan, FreedomFi, FRTek, Fujitsu, Future Technologies Venture, GCT Semiconductor, GE (General Electric), Gemtek Technology, Geoverse, Getac Technology Corporation, Gogo, Goodman Networks, Google, Granite Telecommunications, Green Packet, HCL Technologies, HFR, Hitachi Kokusai Electric, Hon Hai Precision Industry (Foxconn Technology Group), HP, HPE (Hewlett Packard Enterprise), HTNG (Hospitality Technology Next Generation), Huawei, Huber+Suhner, iBwave Solutions, IETF (Internet Engineering Task Force), IIC (Industrial Internet Consortium), IMDA (Info-communications Media Development Authority of Singapore), Infomark Corporation, Infosys, Infovista, Innonet, InnoWireless, Inseego Corporation, Insta Group, Intel Corporation, Intenna Systems, InterDigital, IoT4Net, ip.access, IPLOOK Networks, iPosi, ISED (Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada), ITU-R (International Telecommunication Union Radiocommunication Sector), Jaton Technology, JCI (Japan Communications Inc.), JEMS (Japan EM Solutions), JIT (JI Technology), JMA Wireless, JRC (Japan Radio Company), Juni Global, Kajeet, Kementerian Kominfo (Ministry of Communication and Information Technology, Indonesia), Key Bridge Wireless, Keysight Technologies, Kisan Telecom, KLA Laboratories, Kleos, KMW, KORE Wireless, Kyocera Corporation, Kyrio, Landmark Dividend, Lekha Wireless Solutions, Lemko Corporation, Lenovo, LG Electronics, Lime Microsystems, Lindsay Broadband, Linx Technologies, LS telcom, LTE-U Forum, M/C Partners, Maven Wireless, Mavenir Systems, MCMC (Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission), McWane, Memorial Health System, Metaswitch Networks, Metro Network Services, MIC (Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, Japan), MiCOM Labs, Microlab, Microsoft Corporation, Midco (Midcontinent Communications), MitraStar Technology, Mobile Mark, Mobilitie, Motorola Mobility, Motorola Solutions, MRT Technology (Suzhou), MSB (M S Benbow & Associates), MSIT (Ministry of Science and ICT, South Korea), MTI (Microelectronics Technology, Inc.), MTI Wireless Edge, MTS (Mobile TeleSystems), MulteFire Alliance, Multi-Tech Systems, Murray City School District, NBTC (National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission, Thailand), NEC Corporation, Nemko, NetCity (GEOS Telecom/GEOS Holding), Netgear, NetNumber, Netvision Telecom, NewEdge Signal Solutions, Nextivity, NGMN Alliance, Node-H, Nokia, Nominet, Nsight Telservices, NTC (National Telecommunications Commission, Philippines), NuRAN Wireless, Nutaq Innovation, Ocado, Oceus Networks, Octasic, Ofcom (Office of Communications, United Kingdom), OnePlus, ONF (Open Networking Foundation), OPPO, Oracle Communications, Panasonic Corporation, Panorama Antennas, Parallel Wireless, Parsec Technologies, Pavlov Media, PCTEL, PCTEST Lab (PCTEST Engineering Laboratory), Pierson Wireless, Pivot Technology Services, Pivotal Commware, Polaris Networks, Potevio, PTA (Pakistan Telecommunication Authority), QuadGen Wireless Solutions, Qualcomm, Quantum Wireless, Qucell, Quectel Wireless Solutions, Qulsar, Quortus, Radisys Corporation, Ranplan Wireless, RATEL (Regulatory Agency for Electronic Communications and Postal Services, Serbia), Raycap, RCI (Rural Cloud Initiative), Realme, Rearden, RED Technologies, Redline Communications, Reliance Industries, RF Connect, RFS (Radio Frequency Systems), Rivada Networks, RKTPL (RK Telesystem Private Limited), Rohde & Schwarz, Ruckus Networks, RuggON Corporation, Saankhya Labs, SAC Wireless, Samsung, Sanjole, SBA Communications Corporation, Select Spectrum, Seowon Intech, Sequans Communications, Sercomm Corporation, SGCC (State Grid Corporation of China), SGS, Shanghai Smawave Technology, Sharp Corporation, Siemens, Sierra Wireless, SIPG (Shanghai International Port Group), Sivers IMA, Small Cell Forum, Smart City Networks, SmarTone, SoftBank Group, SOLiD, Sony Corporation, Sony Mobile Communications, Spectrum Effect, Spirent Communications, Sporton International, SQUAN, SSC (Shared Spectrum Company), Star Solutions, STEP CG, STL (Sterlite Technologies Ltd), Subtel (Subsecretaría de Telecomunicaciones de Chile), Sunwave Communications, SureSite Consulting Group, Suzhou Aquila Solutions (Aquila Wireless), Syniverse Technologies, T&W (Shenzhen Gongjin Electronics), Tait Communications, Tango Networks, Taoglas, Teal Communications, Tecore Networks, Telewave, Teleworld Solutions, Telit Communications, Telrad Networks, Telsasoft, Tessares, TESSCO Technologies, ThinkRF, Tilson, TIM (Telecom Italia Mobile), TLC Solutions, TRA (Telecommunications Regulatory Authority, United Arab Emirates), Traficom (Transport and Communications Agency, Finland), Transit Wireless, Trilogy Networks, TSDSI (Telecommunications Standards Development Society, India), TTA (Telecommunications Technology Association, South Korea), TTC (Telecommunication Technology Committee, Japan), TÜV SÜD, U.S. FCC (Federal Communications Commission), Ubicquia, UKE (Office of Electronic Communications, Poland), UL, Unizyx Holding Corporation, URSYS, Valid8, Vapor IO, Ventev, Verizon Communications, Vertical Bridge, Verveba Telecom, Viavi Solutions, Virtual Network Communications, Vivo, Vodacom Group, Wave Wireless, Wavesight, WBA (Wireless Broadband Alliance), Westell Technologies, WhiteSpace Alliance, Widelity, Wi-Fi Alliance, Wilson Electronics, Wilus, WIN Connectivity (Wireless Information Networks), Winncom Technologies, WInnForum (Wireless Innovation Forum), Wireless Telecom Group, WNC (Wistron NeWeb Corporation), Wytec International, XGP (eXtended Global Platform) Forum, Yangshan Port, Zebra Technologies, ZenFi Networks, Zinwave, Zmtel (Shanghai Zhongmi Communication Technology), ZTE, Zyxel Communications.