Microwave Journal
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Market forecast to deploy more than one million Sub-6 GHz licensed backhaul links by 2020

March 30, 2016

The evolution toward 4.5G and 5G will be imminently accompanied by substantial network densification and massive deployments of small cells. The trend will completely transform the backhaul market and create tremendous opportunities for wireless backhaul links. ABI Research, the leader in transformative technology innovation market intelligence, forecasts that the market will deploy more than one million Sub-6 GHz licensed backhaul links by 2020.

As the fastest growing market segment, Sub-6 GHz will challenge microwave and millimeter waves for the largest market share of 35% in 2020. The combined wireless backhaul equipment revenues from Sub-6 GHz links and millimeter waves make up nearly 57% of the total backhaul revenue in 2020.

“Ultimately, operators’ network densification plans continue to grow in order to support demands for higher capacity in metro locations and extend coverage in to the rural and remote areas,” says Ahmed Ali, research analyst at ABI Research. “This accelerated growth will mandate higher capacity links, lower equipment cost, and easier network installation. The development will, in turn, drive further investments in the wireless backhaul market.”

Over the course of 2016, outdoor small cell rollouts will gain momentum. As Wi-Fi and distributed antenna systems (DAS) continue to advance and compete with small cells for the enterprise and in-building connectivity, their impact on the outdoor deployments is imminent.

“MNOs are also exploiting distributed network structures like Cloud-RAN (C-RAN) to cope with the explosive data traffic,” concludes Ali. “Such evolution in the access network technologies and structures dictates the availability of diverse, flexible and interoperable backhaul solutions.”

ABI Research suggests suppliers consider offering professional services, including high-resolution 3D mapping for backhaul link placement. They should also support multiple backhaul technologies and partner with Tangible Asset Monetization Companies (TAMCos), like advertising agencies, cable providers, and tower companies, to offer rights of way, and attach permits for small cell sites. Service providers, on the other hand, should look into leveraging network sharing schemes, unlicensed spectrum, and virtualization technologies in order to lower the cost of expanding backhaul and increase the overall ROI.

These findings are part of ABI Research’s Fronthaul and Backhaul for Next Generation Networks Service, which includes research reports, market data, insights, and competitive assessments.