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Sharing assets is key to making 5G RAN affordable – EXECUTIVE SUMMARY Free Download

Macro network deployment forecast to 2025

In the first stage of 5G deployment, cost containment is the number one priority for many cellular operators. A new survey of operators, out this week from the RAN Research service of Rethink Technology Research, reveals the primary tactics which they are adopting to ensure upfront 5G costs are far lower than they were for 4G.

Every operator is deploying 5G first in non-standalone mode, which works with the LTE core, and they are also reusing other key assets like sites and backhaul. They want to preserve as much of their existing network investment as possible, and the investment in NSA is lower than it would have been if the 5G NR standards had remained as a single set of specs.

However, in future they will migrate to standalone mode and a 5G core, so they need to adopt other cost reduction approaches, to ensure they are not saving money now, but storing up the biggest 5G spending for a few years’ time.

So, the survey shows an increasing tendency for MNOs to share everything from towers to spectrum in order to spread costs across multiple players. And they are introducing totally new base station form factors, notably the ‘mini-macro,’ which looks to be the sweet spot for investment in the early 5G market. This type of base station will enable them to densify the network at lower cost than current options, while preserving full functionality.

This first wave of 5G in effect becomes 4G-plus, but with more sophisticated MIMO antennas, allowing the existing site grid to support improved coverage and cell edge QoS, and higher frequency spectrum. Other trends such as cell site densification, and greater virtualization will come later.

This report is based on a survey of 78 leading global MNOs about the most important decisions they are making to ensure their physical RANs remain cost-effective in the near term (1 to 6 years).

This report examines in detail three ways in which MNOs are looking to make their 5G macro networks efficient and profitable, and to form a strong base for future expansion into newer topologies and markets.

Who should read this report and what should they get out of it?

This report is critical to anyone involved in planning for the introduction of 5G technology to their networks, as well as technology partners, implementers, equipment suppliers, software providers and investors, at C Suite level down to product marketing and product planning. The RAN Research arm of Rethink Technology Research is essential reading for anyone who wants to stay on top of current trends and thinking among MNOs. It’s like being a fly on the wall in their planning meetings and is based on questions MNOs have answered about their planned and future expenditure.

This report will;

• Give you a spreadsheet which will help with Macro Level plans

• Examine three different approaches to build 5G networks at the Macro level

• How MNOs can best leverage 4G assets in the process, such as cell sites and the core

• It will highlight which parts of the network best lend themselves to asset sharing

• And introduces new base station form factors to improve outdoor capacity

• All Ran Research reports helps you better plan your capex.

Pricing Each module of RAN Research costs $2,000 for a single, individual license, and $4,000 for a corporate license for any individual report such as this one. This is the price for ‘Sharing assets is key to making 5G RAN affordable’ and for any previous reports. The entire service can also be purchased as a subscription, which comes with 6 reports each year. Ask for pricing details.

How Do I buy this report?

Please follow the link to our store or email [email protected]

This report has been compiled by our Head of Research, Caroline Gabriel who can also be emailed at [email protected]

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Contents 2

Table of figures 3

Introduction 4

5G is more macro-focused than expected, and earlier 7

In the first phase of 5G, deployment will largely be mapped to the existing 4G grid 11

The non-standalone fast-track has accelerated 5G roll-out 11

Building 5G on the LTE site grid saves upfront costs 12

Other assets can be repurposed to reduce cost further 15

Operators are starting to progress prom passive to active infrastructure sharing to address
5G costs 17

Tower sharing has become the norm 17

Cost pressure will drive MNOs and regulators to overcome hostility to RAN sharing 20

New base station form factors 26

Conclusions 29

Methodology 30

The Rethink RAN Research process summarized 31

RAN Research: Forecasting disruption in wireless 32

Contacts 33


Figure 1. Percentage of MNOs expecting to adopt key tactics for cost-efficiency in 5G outdoor RAN, at launch and in 2-3 years of launch. 7

Figure 2. Forecast new deployments and upgrades of macro (tower) and micro (roof or pole) radio units 2018 to 2025 8

Figure 3. New deployments and upgrades of macro and micro sites, by radio 9

Figure 4. New deployments and upgrades of macro radio units by region 10

Figure 4. New deployments and upgrades of macro radio units by region 10

Figure 6. Percentage of 5G radio units planned to be deployed on existing 4G sites, 2016
survey compared with 2019 survey 11

Figure 7. Forecast deployment and upgrade of macro and micro cells by radio technology.
5G NR NSA deployments on existing 4G sites are split out. 14

Figure 8. Deployments and upgrades by site type 15

Figure 9. Percentage of existing assets which operators expect to use in year 1 and 5 of
commercial 5G roll-out, compared to assets acquired specifically for 5G (average response
across 78 MNOs). 17

Figure 10. Forecast installed base of mobile towers, global 2017-2025 19

Figure 11. Number of radio units on single-occupancy (MNO) and shared towers 2017-2025 20

Figure 12. Installed base of macro radio units by 2025 20

Figure 13. Installed base of micro radio units by 2025 21

Figure 14. New deployments and upgrades of macro and micro radio units, best case
scenario in terms of maximum predicted RAN sharing, by region 22

Figure 16. Deployments and upgrades of mini-macro base stations by region 29

Figure 17. Installed base of mini-macro base stations by region by 2025 29