5G deployments indoors and in venues may be delayed by one year or more when compared to outdoor 5G deployments starting from 2020. ABI Research estimates the global equipment market for in-building wireless, including active distributed antenna systems (DAS), passive DAS and repeaters, for 2025, will reach close to $10 billion. The overall system revenue in 2025, which includes services and equipment, will grow at a CAGR of 15 percent to top $19 billion in 2025. Out of this market, 5G in-building wireless equipment will account for $509 million in 2025.
“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 Nick Marshall, Research Director at ABI Research. “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.”
5G is a multi-technology HetNet, comprised of a combination of different cell types and access technologies to seamlessly adapt to an array of use cases and applications. NFV migrates cellular signal processing to a remote telco data center, while MEC, in a countervailing trend, migrates IT compute and storage to the network edge within the building or venue for low latency use cases and applications. Massive MIMO, a key challenge that 5G will face as it nears full specification, refers to the use of multiple antennas at the base station and mobile device.
“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,” concludes Marshall.
With 5G standards yet to be finalized, many equipment vendors are actively researching and developing 5G equipment with a variety of approaches. These companies include Nokia with its AirFrame/AirScale Radio Access, Ericsson with its ERS, and CommScope with its OneCell.