Deployments of in-building 5G and at event and public venues will have to wait until at least one year after outdoor 5G deployments begin, says ABI Research. ABI’s in-building 5G revenue forecast is $500 million for 2025 – only 5% of a $10 billion total 5G market. Adding in 5G services, overall 5G system revenues will grow at a 15 percent CAGR and exceed $19 billion by 2025.
The ABI in-building revenue forecast includes active distributed antenna systems (DAS), passive DAS, repeaters and the like.
In-Building 5G Revenue Forecast Drivers
“As 5G nears full specification, mobile network operators will face challenges for indoor mobile coverage, including signal propagation, next-generation fronthaul/backhaul, and massive MIMO,” says ABI Research Director Nick Marshall. “Early 5G deployments indoors and in venues will be a migration building on the features of LTE-Advanced and LTE-Advanced Pro. This will happen technology by technology and frequency by frequency, avoiding costly ‘rip and replace’ style deployments.”
Broadly speaking, 5G is a “hetnet,” or heterogeneous, network architecture, one that incorporates a mix of multiple cell types and access technologies. These need to operate seamlessly in order to deliver the quality of service and capacity wireless broadband carriers need to adequately serve evolving customer needs and surging network traffic volumes.
Software-defined networking (SDN) and network functions virtualization (NFV) loom large in wireless carriers’ emerging 4.5G and 5G network architectures. Using NFV, carriers’ cellular signal processing can migrate to remote telco data centers, ABI explains in a press release.
On the other hand, by implementing MEC (Mobile Edge Computing) architectures, carriers can migrate IT compute and storage functions to the network edge – in buildings or venues to provide low latency wireless broadband services in heavy use cases and applications.
“We believe that future 5G networks will rely on network functions virtualization, or NFV, and mobile edge computing, or MEC, to alter the architecture and topology of the RAN by leveraging telco data centers to virtualize signal processing in the cloud,” Marshall commented.
Leading U.S. wireless broadband carriers have been accelerating their 5G development agendas. AT&T in early February announced several big moves involving 5G wireless, including plans for deployments in Austin and Indianapolis and a new platform dubbed Network 3.0 Indigo that will make use of software defined networking (SDN) and underlie AT&T 5G networks.
AT&T, Verizon and their industry peers are increasingly looking to 5G wireless as a substitute for fiber network access. That said, fixed 5G wireless is not a substitute for wireline broadband, argues telecom engineering and consulting firm Vantage Point Solutions in a technical paper filed with the FCC by NTCA – The Rural Broadband Association.
Broadband delivery methods based on fiber to the premises (FTTP) generally are more economical in rural areas, according to the fiber vs. fixed 5G report. “[E]ven in a fixed context, wireless technologies should be viewed as a complement – a tool in a toolkit – rather than a viable widespread substitute for wireline broadband networks,” the report authors argue.