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Network Evolution in Unlicensed and Shared Spectrum

As consumption of mobile data increases at an exponential rate and cellular performance advances, many CSPs seek to densify their networks for capacity. Networks can be densified to handle this traffic by adding more equipment, improving the underlying technology, or by adding more spectrum. In fact, all three tactics will be used to a greater or lesser extent, depending on the CSP business model.

In this report, ABI Research examined the use of the emerging unlicensed and shared spectrum technologies of interest to CSPs for densification. Many CSPs, while initially wary of unlicensed spectrum, are realizing the potential of using unlicensed and shared spectrum as a key enabler of densification for capacity. Driven first by Wi-Fi offload, which offloads cellular traffic onto Wi-Fi, MNOs’ interest in unlicensed and shared spectrum only increased, as they have come to appreciate its flexibility, especially indoors.

In this report, LTE-WLAN Link Aggregation (LWA), LTE WAN Integration with IPsec tunnel (LWIP), LTE-Unlicensed (LTE-U), Licensed Assisted Access (LAA), MulteFire, and the coordinated shared access technologies, i.e., Citizens Broadband Radio System (CBRS) and Licensed Shared Access (LSA) are discussed. All of these are emerging technologies for network densification for capacity.

Table of Contents

  • 1. EXECUTIVE OVERVIEW
  • 2. INTRODUCTION
  • 3. TECHNOLOGIES
    • 3.1. LTE-WLAN LINK Aggregation (LWA)
    • 3.2. LTE WAN Integration With IPsec TUNNEL (LWIP)
    • 3.3. LTE Unlicensed (LTE-U)/Licensed Assisted Access (LAA)
    • 3.4. MulteFire
    • 3.5. Coordinated Shared Spectrum
    • 3.6. Technology Summary
  • 4. DEPLOYMENT ARCHITECTURES
    • 4.1. Standalone
    • 4.2. Interworking With External MNO
    • 4.3. Integrated With External MNO
  • 5. THE ROLE OF UNLICENSED AND SHARED SPECTRUM IN 5G NR
  • 6. USE CASES
    • 6.1. MNO Capacity Offload
    • 6.2. MSO and New Entrant MVNO
    • 6.3. Neutral Hosts
    • 6.4. Private LTE Networks
    • 6.5. Fixed Wireless
  • 7. NETWORK DEPLOYMENTS AND TRIALS
  • 8. MARKET FORECASTS
  • 9. CONCLUSIONS
  • 10. UNLICENSED AND SHARED SPECTRUM ECOSYSTEM
    • 10.1. Baicells
    • 10.2. Casa Systems
    • 10.3. CommScope
    • 10.4. Ericsson
    • 10.5. Federated Wireless
    • 10.6. ip.access
    • 10.7. Nokia
    • 10.8. Ruckus
    • 10.9. SpiderCloud