Demand for Microwave Transmission equipment grew 11 percent year-over-year in the first half of 2021 driven by LTE and 5G. In that same period, microwave revenue from mobile backhaul application grew 16 percent, according to a new report from
“The Microwave Transmission market is recovering from the decline caused by the spread of COVID-19 as evidenced by the strong growth in the first half of 2021,” stated Jimmy Yu, vice president at Dell’Oro Group. “Almost all of the vendors in this industry are benefiting from the improving mobile backhaul market, especially the top vendors. Since demand is rising, each vendor’s performance this year will come down to how well they navigate the supply issues created by the pandemic and semiconductor shortages,” said Yu.
Highlights from the 2Q 2021 Quarterly Report:
All regions contributed to the positive market growth this quarter with the exception of Latin America. Latin America declined year-over-year for a ninth consecutive quarter, shrinking to its lowest quarterly revenue level that we have on record.
The top three vendors in the quarter continued to be Huawei, Ericsson, and Nokia. In 2Q 2021, Huawei regained most of the market share lost in the previous quarter and returned to holding a 10-percentage point lead over Ericsson.
E/V Band revenue growth remained positive for another consecutive quarter and held its double-digit year-over-year growth rate.
Source Dell’Oro Group
With the IoT now enabling practically any asset to be connected to the internet, the need for wide-area, low-power, low-cost connectivity for IoT applications has grown. With this type of connectivity, utilities, Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs), transportation and logistics firms, construction firms and other organizations can deploy smart energy and resource monitoring, smart city infrastructure monitoring, predictive maintenance, mobile asset tracking, and similar IoT applications that allow them to collect, analyze and use asset data to lower costs, offer new services, increase customer engagement, and otherwise transform the way they operate.
At first, proprietary Low Power Wide Area (LPWA) technologies like LoRa and Sigfox emerged to meet some of these organizations need for wide area, low power IoT connectivity. Then, over the past decade, the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) introduced standards for two cellular LPWA technologies – Narrowband IoT (NB-IoT) and LTE-Machine Type Communication (LTE-M). Meanwhile, Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) have built out NB-IoT and LTE-M networks, with at least 156 such networks now in operation around the world today.
While shipments of proprietary and cellular LPWA IoT devices are roughly equal today, over the next decade industry experts expect growth of cellular LPWA devices to outpace propriety LPWA devices. BERG Insight forecasts that annual shipments of 3GPP LPWA (NB-IoT and LTE-M) IoT devices will exceed 300 million units by 2025, while annual shipments of non-3GPP LPWA IoT devices will grow more slowly over this period, to less than 250 million units.
Why will Cellular LPWA Grow Faster than Proprietary LPWA?
The reason why shipments of cellular LPWA device shipments are expected to be higher than propriety LPWA over the coming years is that cellular LPWA offers several advantages over proprietary LPWA. These advantages are leading organizations to increasingly choose cellular LPWA for their monitoring, tracking and other IoT applications.
Cellular LPWA, unlike propriety LPWA, offers organizations:
Separating Cellular LPWA Fact from Fiction
Despite these and other advantages associated with cellular LPWA, some business leaders still think cellular LPWA’s power consumption, data throughput, and coverage or signal penetration capabilities are significantly weaker than proprietary LPWA’s.
However, upon further examination, the facts show that many of these cellular LPWA drawback drawbacks are fiction. For example:
Cellular LPWA Power Consumption is Comparable to Proprietary LPWA: While broadband LTE and 5G NR cellular chipsets do consume more battery power than proprietary LPWA chipsets, cellular LPWA chipsets deliver power performance on par with proprietary LPWA chipsets. Designed for IoT applications, these NB-IoT and LTE-M chipsets have been designed to use very little power when they are in sleep or standby mode. And because cellular LPWA data rates are higher than propriety LPWA data rates, they can connect and then disconnect from the network faster than proprietary LPWA chipsets, allowing them to save additional power by spending more time in sleep or standup mode
LoRa’s Coverage and Signal Penetration Are Not Significantly Better Than Cellular LPWA: LoRa, a proprietary LPWA technology, is perceived as having better coverage and signal penetration than NB-IoT and LTE-M. Yet, the difference in maximum coupling loss (the amount of the wireless channel that can be lost before device is no longer able to connect to network infrastructure’s antenna) between Lora (165db) and cellular LPWA (164db) is only one decibel. In addition, public cellular LPWA networks are denser than LoRa networks – which means, for a given area, cellular LPWA is likely to provide better coverage and signal penetration than LoRa.
Data Throughput Rates for Cellular LPWA Are Higher Than Proprietary LPWA: The latest version of NB-IoT, NB2, offers downlink (DL) speeds of 127 Kilobits Per Second (kbps) and uplink (UL) speeds of 158 kbps, while the latest version of LTE-M, M1, provides DL speeds of 588 kbps and UL speeds of 1119 kbps. These rates and real-world field tests of cellular LPWA and proprietary LPWA devices show cellular LPWA data speeds are higher than proprietary LPWA technologies. Thanks to these higher data rates, in the field FOTA updates that are not possible with proprietary LPWA devices can be completed with cellular LPWA devices. Moreover, because cellular LPWA uses licensed spectrum, quality of service and non-interference is guaranteed both today and tomorrow, further improving performance.
Cellular LPWA Delivers the IoT Connectivity Organizations Need in a Connected Economy
As organizations of all types seek to digitally transform their operations, being able to extract, orchestrate and act on data from widely distributed, battery powered, low-cost IoT sensors and other devices is becoming more important than ever.
Cellular LPWA’s ubiquitous global coverage, robust security, support for FOTA upgrades and guaranteed service meet this need, providing organizations with wide area, inexpensive, low-power connectivity for a wide range of IoT applications. In addition, with power consumption, data throughput rates and coverage that is comparable to or better than proprietary LPWA, and a technology standard supported by MNOs and other wireless industry leaders, these organizations can be confident that cellular LPWA will offer them the connectivity their IoT applications need not just today, but tomorrow as well.
Olivier Amiot is marketing director at Sierra Wireless, where he is responsible for business development and market strategy for IoT solutions in the smart energy and industrial markets.
The June 2021 report from Ericsson projects that 5G mobile subscriptions will exceed 580 million by the end of 2021, driven by an estimated one million new 5G mobile subscriptions every day.
The report, which features in the 20th edition of the Ericsson Mobility Report, predicts that 5G will become the fastest adopted mobile generation. About 3.5 billion 5G subscriptions and 60 percent 5G population coverage are forecast by the end of 2026.
However, the pace of adoption varies widely by region. Europe is off to a slower start and has continued to fall far behind China, the United States Korea, Japan and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) markets in the pace of 5G deployments.
This commercial 5G momentum is expected to continue in coming years, spurred by the enhanced role of connectivity as a key component of post-COVID-19 economic recovery.
North East Asia is expected to account for the largest share of 5G subscriptions by 2026, with an estimated 1.4 billion 5G subscriptions. While North American and GCC markets are expected to account for the highest 5G subscription penetration, with 5G mobile subscriptions comprising 84 percent and 73 percent of all regional mobile subscriptions respectively.
Data traffic continues to grow year on year. One exabyte (EB) comprises 1,000,000,000 (1 billion) gigabytes (GB). Global mobile data traffic – excluding traffic generated by fixed wireless access (FWA) – exceeded 49 EB per month at the end of 2020 and is projected to grow by a factor of close to 5 to reach 237 EB per month in 2026. Smartphones, which currently carry 95 percent of this traffic, are also consuming more data than ever. Globally, the average usage-per-smartphone now exceeds 10 GB/month and is forecast to reach 35 GB/month by the end of 2026.
The COVID-19 pandemic is accelerating digitalization and increasing the importance of – and the need for – reliable, high-speed mobile broadband connectivity. According to the latest report, almost nine out of ten communications service providers (CSPs) that have launched 5G also have a fixed wireless access (FWA) offering (4G and/or 5G), even in markets with high fiber penetration. This is needed to accommodate increasing FWA traffic, which the report forecasts to grow by a factor of seven to reach 64 EB in 2026.
Massive IoT technology (NB-IoT and Cat-M) connections are forecast to increase by almost 80 percent during 2021, reaching almost 330 million connections. In 2026, these technologies are forecast to comprise 46 percent of all cellular IoT connections.
Anterix has taken a step toward facilitating and accelerating the delivery, deployment and application of transformative private broadband for the U.S. electric grid. Anterix has been joined by 37 technology companies to launch the Anterix Active Ecosystem Program. This launch, combined with the 11 FCC-granted experimental licenses at 900 MHz and contracts signed with Ameren and San Diego Gas & Electric, highlight the growing utility industry momentum toward deploying private LTE at 900 MHz.
The Anterix Active Ecosystem Program will foster, strengthen and expand the landscape of 900 MHz devices, services and solutions. Participation from a broad range of technology innovators will bring extensive value to utilities and other critical infrastructure providers that deploy private LTE at 900 MHz. Members will share technical insights, advance solutions for 900 MHz private LTE and collaborate on opportunities to support the utility sector. Those with 900 MHz certified devices and commercial solutions will be recognized with the Anterix Active badge.
“We’ve regularly talked about the scale and scope benefits to the utility sector of collective action at 900 MHz,” said Anterix president and CEO Rob Schwartz. “The launch of this program is key to driving those benefits, and it highlights what we view as momentum toward private LTE throughout the entire utility ecosystem. Our Anterix Active Ecosystem Program will provide members with the collaborative environment needed to further develop secure and resilient private wireless broadband solutions, fully under the utility’s control, to address current and future energy needs.”
The private LTE/5G infrastructure and device market grew over 7 percent last year, despite the uncertainty brought on by the pandemic, according to a new report from Mobile Experts. Joe Madden, company founder and principal analyst, said it was a portent for the future.
“We’re really jazzed up about the private LTE and 5G market because things are starting to change fast,” he said, “and we’ve just jacked up our forecasts because we’re seeing good things happening.”
The Mobile Experts forecast said that private LTE/5G infrastructure and devices will significantly increase their share of the overall private wireless market, growing from 11 percent in 2020 to 25 percent in 2026. The total private LTE/5G market opportunity, including services, will be more than $45 billion over the next six years, according to the report.
Mobile Experts looked at several industries in its report – oil & gas, utilities, manufacturing, transportation, government/public sector and mining – and how private networks are evolving to provide them with new capabilities to enhance productivity and safety.
“We have enterprises that are learning how to deploy private networks because they’re interested in automating some of their operations,” Madden said. “We have a lot of companies that want to use something like augmented-reality inspections, so that people can be more remote. It also allows them to do more of their work in factories from safer locations. So, we are seeing a lot of this kind of automation being accelerated in the market right now.”
Mobile Experts has observed active engagements from key suppliers of private LTE/5G. Mobile network operators and cloud players are bringing pre-packaged and custom Core/RAN/Transport solutions for varying needs across different industries.
“Virtualization is encouraging new players to enter the market and innovate – all that to say, we are seeing the momentum building and we expect this market to begin a strong and lengthy growth phase,” Madden said.
One of the biggest obstacles to the adoption of private LTE/5G has been the dependence upon Wi-Fi and the use of wired systems and a reticence to change. Additionally, spectrum was allocated for private broadband networks.
“So I think that’s just inertia is the single thing that’s held them back the most; plus they could only get a sliver of spectrum from 500 kilohertz to a megahertz wide,” Madden said, “but that began changing quickly when broadband spectrum was made available for these kinds of applications in the Citizens Broadband Radio Service.”
The need for security is another motivating reason behind private LTE/5G, according to Madden. Wi-Fi is not perceived by enterprises as being as secure as LTE or 5G, which have control and user point separation (CUPS). If there’s a camera analyzing welding joints for quality control at automotive chassis facility, the HD video is stored on-premise and never exposed to a hacker.
“With GSM 3G and early LTE, we had no separation of the control plane and user plane, which meant that the data had to be routed through the public cellular network,” Madden said. “One of the things that have changed in the last few years is that now we have control and user plane separation, so that the user plane data never leaves the company facility. That gives the enterprise a better feeling about the security of their data and the control over their own future.”
The Mobile Experts report separates business models into three areas: enterprise-direct, hybrid and private wireless-as-a-service. In enterprise-direct, the company directly buys its own equipment, whether or not it owns or subleases the spectrum. On the other extreme, the private wireless-as-a service uses a managed service provider, such as a mobile network operator using a slice of its network or even a neutral-host operator.
“We are going to have options where, for example, the enterprise might buy the spectrum or even buy their own equipment, but then they might want to use a cloud service for their core network, instead of buying their own software and running it on a server,” Madden said. “So, using the in-between option, you can own some elements and then offload some elements where it’s scalable and easy to do.”
Right now, enterprise-direct is the dominant business model used by railroads, utilities and others for supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) and internet of things (IoT) purposes. But over the next five years, the managed service provider model will grow at a rapid pace, according to Madden.
“We’re seeing a lot of enterprises realizing that deploying private LTE and private 5G is harder to do than they thought. It is not easy like Wi-Fi,” he said. “So private wireless-as-a-service, something offered by an operator, is coming on strong. We do see that growing and becoming a sizeable fraction of the market over the next five years.”