Optical Networking Opportunities in 5G Wireless Networks: 2017-2026


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5th Generation wireless systems (5G) are what’s next in the personal mobile communications space and they will eventually replace the currently ubiquitous 4G systems.  The key characteristics of 5G is higher capacity and lower latency which will (1) support a higher density of mobile users as well as provide (2) a comprehensive infrastructure for IoT and M2M communications.

While access to 5G networks will, by definition, be wireless, much of the rest of the infrastructure will use fiber optics.  As CIR sees it, 5G will create considerable new opportunities for the optical networking industry going forward.  However, while optical links have been widely used in the cellular industry for many years, revenue generation from optical networking in the 5G space will require carefully thought through strategies by the optical networking industry as a whole.  5G is poised to dramatically increase the use of fiber optics in some parts of the network, while actually reducing the use of fiber in others:

  • There is a vision of 5G as a converged fiber-wireless network in which short-haul, but very high bandwidth wireless connections will support high data rates, but with fiber almost everywhere else.  5G as it is currently evolving seems more willing than previous generation to make fiber optic deployments a central part of the network and any general standards that emerge.  This makes 5G potentially a huge opportunity for the fiber optics industry – including the makers of modules and components as well as the fiber/cable manufacturers themselves.
  • On the other hand, 5G, with its high data rates, seems to imply fiber could present a significant challenge to long-held assumptions about the need for fiber-to-the-premises.  This suggests that some of the fiber optic opportunities that have been baked into the product/market strategies of many optical networking firms may turn out to be wrong
  • 5G deployment is currently at an early stage.  Nonetheless there is no formal standard for 5G and there are many different visions of what 5G will ultimately look like. The votes are still out on what type of 5G network will ultimately evolve and this will impact the size and growth of the 5G network’s need for fiber optics market accordingly. 

In this highly uncertain environment, this report is designed to provide guidance to the optical networking industry and where and how 5G networks will present new opportunities over the coming decade.  Included in this report are:

  • An assessment of how current visions of 5G networks vary in terms of their impact on optical network products and fiber optics demand.  How will optical links help to support the necessary bandwidth and latency for 5G networks?  And what will the concept of an integrated wireless/fiber network mean in practice?
  • A granular market ten-year market forecast of fiber optics-related opportunities flowing from 5G deployment.  The forecast is provided in both unit shipment and market value terms.  It is also broken out by type of transceiver product, cable type, data rate, network segment, country/region, etc.
  • Discussions and assessments of how leading firms in the module and component space are preparing for 5G deployment and what this says about who the fiber optics-related winners and losers will be
  • An analysis of the type of optical networking products that 5G will require.  In this analysis we cover modules (by MSA, data rate, etc.), components and the types of fiber that would be used in an integrated wireless/fiber network.  The report also takes a look at how interfaces between fiber and base stations/hubs will evolve in the 5G network
  • A discussion of how the deployment of 5G networks will impede the planned use of fiber in the access network.  In particular, the report will take a look at how optical networking firms can readjust their marketing strategies to new product and customer types as the 5G “revolution” takes hold.

Table of Contents

Executive Summary 
E.1 Evolution 5G Networks:  Optical Opportunities 
E.2 What 5G Backhaul Means to the Optical Networking Business 
E.2.1 5G Backhaul and Carrier Ethernet 
E.2.2 5G Backhaul, PONs and FTTH 
E.2.3 WDM, SDM and the Coming Demand for 5G Backhaul 
E.3 Non-Fiber Technology Opportunities for the 5G Market 
E.3.1 5G-related Opportunities in Free Space Optics 
E.3.2 Wireless Backhaul for 5G:  Not Many Opportunities 
E.3.3 A Note on the Impact of Intelligent Self-Optimizing 5G Networks and their Impact on Backhaul Networks 
E.4 Six Companies to Watch in 5G Backhaul 
E.5 Ten-Year Forecast of 5G Backhaul Technologies 

Chapter One:  Introduction 
1.1 Background to this Report 
1.1.1 Casting Bets on 5G Backhaul 
1.1.2 Market and Technology Segmentations
1.2 Objective and Scope of this Report 
1.3 Methodology and Information Sources for this Report 
1.3.1 Forecast Methodology 
1.4 Plan of this Report 

Chapter Two: Evolution of 5G and Related Backhaul Markets 
2.1 Technical Goals and Expectations for 5G Deployment 
2.2 New Applications for 5G Networks:  Caution Needed 
2.3 Network Requirements:  Impact on Infrastructure 
2.4 Emerging 5G Backhaul Infrastructure 
2.4.1 Trend Towards Smarter Backhaul Infrastructure 
2.4.2 5G Backhaul Will Need More Dark Fiber 
2.4.3 Transition to 5G Cells:  Impact on 5G Backhaul 
2.5 Backhaul Technologies for 5G 
2.5.1 Fiber Optics for 5G Backhaul 
2.5.2 A Note on 5G as a Replacement for FTTH 
2.5.3 Free Space Optics 
2.5.4 Wireless Backhaul for 5G 
2.6 Key Points from this Chapter 

Chapter Three: Ten-Year Forecasts of 5G Optical Backhaul 
3.1 Ten-Year Forecasts and Forecasting Methodology 
3.1.1 Subscriber Forecasts 
3.1.2 Issues in Forecasting Methodology for 5G 
3.2 Forecasting Considerations by Countries and Regions 
3.2.1 5G in the United States 
3.2.2 5G Networks in Europe 
3.2.3 5G in the APAC Region 
3.3 Ten-Year Forecast of Investment in 5G Backhaul by Region 
3.4 Investment in 5G Backhaul by Region 
3.5 Ten-Year Investment in Fiber-Based 5G Backhaul by Region 
3.6 Ten-Year Forecast of Investment in Fiber-Based 5G Backhaul by Technology 
3.6.1 Forecast of Carrier Ethernet in 5G Backhaul 
3.6.2 Forecast of PONs for 5G Backhaul 
3.6.3 Forecast of WDM for 5G Backhaul 
3.6.4 Forecast of SDM for 5G Backhaul 
3.7 Ten-Year Forecasts of Fiber Used for 5G Backhaul 
3.7.1 Forecast of Fiber Deployed for 5G Backhaul by Technology 
3.7.2 Forecast of Fiber Deployed for 5G Backhaul by Technology:  Existing Carrier Fiber, Dark Fiber and Newly Deployed Fiber 
3.8 Ten-Year Forecast of the 5G “Backhaul” Market by Network Segment 

Chapter Four:   Supply Structure for 5G Backhaul 
4.1 5G Backhaul Presents a Fragmented Supply Structure 
4.2 Backhaul and the Role of the Mobile Communications Infrastructure Giants 
4.2.1 Adapting Infrastructure Gear to 5G 
4.3 Backhaul and the PON Industry:  Growing Opportunities 
4.3.1 The Verizon Trial and Beyond:  Suppliers to PON-based Backhaul 
4.4 Cable and Fiber for 5G Backhaul 
4.4.1 Cable Opportunity #1: Access and Provisioning 
4.4.2 Cable Opportunity #2:  Novel Types of Fiber Cable 
4.5 mmWave Suppliers and Supply Structure 
4.6 Key Points Made in this Chapter 

Acronyms and Abbreviations Used In this Report 
About the Author

List of Exhibits
Exhibit E-1: Evolution of Applications on Mobile Communications Platforms 
Exhibit E-2: Optical Networking Opportunities from 5G Backhaul 
Exhibit E-3: Six Companies to Watch in the 5G Backhaul Space 
Exhibit E-4: Ten-Year Forecast of Investment in 5G Backhaul Worldwide by Type of Technology 
Exhibit 1-1: Opportunities and Stumbling Blocks for Fiber in 5G Backhaul Networks 11
Exhibit 1-2: 5G Backhaul Network Architecture (1) 
Exhibit 2-1: Generations of Mobile Communications 
Exhibit 2-2: New Applications for 5G Wireless 
Exhibit 2-3: Technology Options for 5G Backhaul 
Exhibit 2-4: Protocols for Fiber Deployment in 5G Backhaul 
Exhibit 3-1: Ten-Year Forecast of New 5G Customers Per Country /Region (Millions) 
Exhibit 3-2: Ten-Year Forecast of Investment in 5G Backhaul Per Region ($Million) 
Exhibit 3-3: Ten-Year Forecast of Investment in 5G Backhaul per New Customer
Per Region ($) 
Exhibit 3-4:  Ten-Year Forecast of Investment in 5G Backhaul Worldwide by Type of Technology 
Exhibit 3-5: Ten-Year Forecast of Investment in 5G Fiber-Based Backhaul by Region ($Millions) 
Exhibit 3-6: Ten-Year Forecast of Worldwide Investment in 5G Fiber-Based Backhaul by Protocol 
Exhibit 3-7: Ten-Year Forecast of Worldwide Investment in 5G Fiber-Based Backhaul Using Carrier Ethernet 
Exhibit 3-8: Ten-Year Forecast of Worldwide Investment in 5G Fiber-Based Backhaul Using PONs 
Exhibit 3-9: Ten-Year Forecast of Worldwide Investment in 5G Fiber-Based Backhaul Using WDM 
Exhibit 3-10: Ten-Year Forecast of Worldwide Investment in 5G Fiber-Based Backhaul Using SDM 
Exhibit 3-11: Ten-Year Forecast of Worldwide Expenditures/Deployment of Fiber in 5G Backhaul by Protocol 
Exhibit 3-12: Ten-Year Forecast of Investment in Fiber for 5G Backhaul by
Region ($Millions) 
Exhibit 3-13: Ten-Year Forecasts Fiber Deployments by Source (000s km) 
Exhibit 3-14: Backhaul Market by Segment 
Exhibit 3-15: Ten-Year Forecasts of Investments in 5G “Backhaul” by Network Segment (000s km) 
Exhibit 4-1: PONs in the Mobile Backhaul Network
Exhibit 4-2: NG-PON2 Equipment Suppliers 
Exhibit 4-3: Component and Subsystem Makers 
Exhibit 4-4: ITU Recommendations for NG-PON2 

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