CBRS network infrastructure set to be $1.5bn opportunity by 2026

The private 5G market is booming across industries of all sizes and types, boosted particularly by the emergence of citizens broadband radio service (CBRS) in the US early in 2020, helping to make new applications possible at an affordable cost, and after years of regulatory, standardisation and technical implementation activities, the three-tiered, hierarchical framework to coordinate shared use of 150 MHz of spectrum in the 3.5 GHz CBRS band has finally become a commercial success, according to research from SNS Telecom & IT.

LTE & 5G NR-based CBRS networks: 2023–2030 – Opportunities, challenges, strategies and forecasts assesses the market for LTE and 5G NR in CBRS spectrum, including the value chain, market drivers, barriers to uptake and enabling technologies.

Its fundamental technological position is that LTE-based CBRS network deployments have gained considerable momentum in recent years and encompass hundreds of thousands of cell sites – operating in both general authorised access and priority access license spectrum tiers – to support use cases as diverse as mobile network densification, fixed wireless access in rural communities, mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) offload, neutral host small cells for in-building coverage enhancement, and private cellular networks in support of industrial internet of things (IIoT), enterprise connectivity, distance learning and smart city initiatives.

The study calculates that annual spending on LTE and 5G NR-based CBRS network infrastructure – which includes radio access network (RAN), mobile core and transport network equipment – will account for more than $1.5bn by the end of 2026.

SNS Telecom & IT estimates that annual investments in LTE and 5G NR-based CBRS RAN mobile core and transport network infrastructure will account for nearly $900m by the end of 2023.

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Complemented by what it calls an expanding selection of 3GPP band 48/n48-compatible end user devices, the market is further expected to grow at a CAGR of approximately 20% between 2023 and 2026. Much of this growth, it says, will be driven by private cellular, neutral host and fixed wireless broadband network deployments, as well as 5G buildouts aimed at improving the economics of the cable operators’ MVNO services.

Although the shared spectrum arrangement is access technology neutral, the analyst said the 3GPP cellular wireless ecosystem is at the forefront of CBRS adoption, with more than half of all active citizens broadband radio service devices based on LTE and 5G NR air interface technologies.

Furthermore, SNS Telecom & IT noted that commercial roll-outs of 5G NR network equipment operating in the CBRS band have also begun, laying the foundation for advanced application scenarios that have more demanding performance requirements in terms of throughput, latency, reliability, availability and connection density – for example, Industry 4.0 applications such as connected production machinery, mobile robotics, automated guided vehicles and augmented reality-assisted troubleshooting.

The report cites a number of examples of 5G NR-based CBRS network installations. These range from luxury automaker BMW Group’s industrial-grade 5G network for autonomous logistics at its Spartanburg plant in South Carolina and the US Navy’s standalone private 5G network at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island to mobile operator Verizon’s planned activation of 5G NR-equipped CBRS small cells to supplement its existing 5G service deployment over C-band and mmWave spectrum.

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