Even though distributed antenna systems (DASs) have become a vital component for in-building cellular coverage, mobile network operators (MNOs) running the legacy version of such systems face challenges in incorporating 5G and increasing the overall capacity of the systems and are starting to transition from traditional in-building DASs to 5G-ready digital distributed radio systems (DRSs), says a study from ABI Research.
MNOs have begun to deploy 5G indoors, targeting high-density venues such as stadiums and music venues. For example, Deutsche Telekom in Germany deployed 5G in Munich’s Allianz Arena. Similarly, Verizon and AT&T in the US are adding 5G to sports venues, mainly NFL and AT&T stadiums. Many of these upgrades involve new DAS infrastructure covering the 5G frequency range.
The key reasons for the transition, says ABI’s application analysis report From DAS to DRS in the 5G era, are technical and financial aspects and a smooth transition to 5G. The study calculates that the shift will result in revenue for DASs to grow by about 2.7 times, from $5.073bn in 2019 to $13.7bn by 2025. Similarly, the consumer and enterprise small cells will generate a revenue growth of 2.6 times, from $975 million in 2029 to $2.6 billion by 2025, it says.
“With the advent of 5G indoors, flexible solutions with advanced features and capabilities like DRS have gained greater participation in the market,” said Johanna Alvarado, senior analyst at ABI Research.“These solutions change the way traditional DASs are designed and implemented due to their simplified and future-proofed architecture.
“The market opportunity for DRSs will grow in the following years, during which the solution is going to be adopted to address 5G upgrades for legacy DASs, as an overlaid 5G system, but also as the main indoor wireless solution for all venue sizes. DRSs will be largely adopted to address various wireless applications in the consumer and enterprise markets.”
ABI noted that two main strategies had been adopted by MNOs to deploy 5G in venues with existing legacy DASs – spectrum re-farming and overlaid 5G systems. It said these techniques will be largely adopted by MNOs to boost 5G coverage in venues of all sizes where there are existing legacy DASs. DRSs will mainly be the overlaid architecture chosen by MNOs, because DRSs effectively deploy more advanced features without significant cost.
ABI also believes that to cope with the pace of the technology changes in the mobile telecommunication industry, mergers and acquisitions have taken off. The study noted that 42% of the suppliers interviewed have new companies in a span of seven years. It cited as examples CommScope acquiring Airvana, TE Connectivity and Ruckus in the last five years, Corning acquiring SpiderCloud in 2017 and Cobham’s purchase of Axell Wireless in 2013.
“It is clear that the DAS market is consolidating, with vendors diversifying its product portfolios and entering new markets by acquiring new companies,” said Alvarado.