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Global 5G wireless network infrastructure revenues to double to $4.2b in 2020

(Image credit: Three)

Revenues from fifth-generation (5G) wireless network infrastructure are expected to increase by 89 per cent to $4.2 billion globally in 2020 when compared to $2.2 billion last year as more telecom operators are expected to go live.

In 2021, it is expected to reach $6.8b.

During the same period, the 4G wireless infrastructure revenue is expected to decrease from $20.45b in 2018 to $19.32b in 2019 and further to $18.28b in 2020. Same is the case for 3G and 2G.

Research firm Gartner forecasts that investments in 5G NR (new radio) network infrastructure will account for 6% of the total wireless infrastructure revenue of communications service providers (CSPs) in 2019 and that this figure is expected to reach 12% in 2020.

The 5G NR is developed by the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP), a standards organisation which develops protocols for mobile telephony.

In 2018, 3GPP published the “Phase 1” standardisation for the 5G NR standard, which includes sub-6GHz frequency bands. 3GPP is expected to publish the "Phase 2" of 5G NR, by the end of this year, including frequency bands in the mmWave range (20-60GHz).

Telcos eye enterprises

For 5G deployments in 2019, Sylvain Fabre, senior research director at Gartner, said that CSPs are using non-standalone technology and this enables them to introduce 5G services that run more quickly, as 5G NR equipment can be rolled out alongside existing 4G core network infrastructure.

Non-standalone means beaming 5G over the existing 4G infrastructure while standalone means beaming 5G over the dedicated spectrum and infrastructure.

Services have already begun in the US, South Korea and some European countries, including Switzerland, Finland and the UK.

CSPs in Canada, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Spain, Sweden, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE have announced plans to accelerate 5G network building through 2020.

Even though some countries have launched 5G services commercially, there will be 16 more countries expected to go live by the end of this year and expected to have 10 million 5G connections, according to GSMA Intelligence.

In 2020, Fabre said that CSPs will roll out standalone 5G technology, which will require 5G NR equipment and a 5G core network. This will lower costs for CSPs and improve performance for users.

Although consumers represent the main segment driving 5G development, he said that CSPs will increasingly aim 5G services at enterprises. 

Big boost to economy

“5G networks are expected to expand the mobile ecosystem to cover new industries, such as the smart factory, autonomous transportation, remote healthcare, agriculture and retail sectors, as well as enable private networks for industrial users,” Fabre said.

“It’s still early days for the 5G private-network opportunity, but vendors, regulators and standards bodies have preparations in place,” he said. 

Ericsson aims to deliver solutions via CSPs to build private networks with high levels of reliability and performance and secure communications while Nokia has developed a portfolio to enable large industrial organisations to invest directly in their private networks.

However, he said that national 5G coverage will not occur as quickly as with past generations of wireless infrastructure.

The GSMA Intelligence report said that 5G technologies are expected to contribute $2.2 trillion to the global economy by 2034, 5.3 per cent of GDP, compared to $1.1 trillion of economic value generated from global mobile ecosystem in 2018, with key sectors such as manufacturing, utilities and professional/financial services benefiting the most from the new technology.