Hype is certainly high for 5G, given that the industry is still technically in a pre-standard phase and that standalone 5G systems are still some time off. But the level of interest, and many of the results of ongoing tests and trials, are promising. Here are three indicators that illustrate the amount of momentum in the 5G market as the telecom industry presses forward toward its next technology generation.
5G tests and trials are a major area of focus, while use case strategies are evolving. Nearly every day, new 5G-related testing results are announced, as the industry gets closer to the first official specification. Ericsson’s second annual 5G Readiness survey of operators found that 78% of respondents were involved in 5G trials in 2017, compared to 32% last year – and 28% expect to deploy 5G in 2018. The survey also found that between 2016 and 2017, the focus of 5G business planning shifted from primarily seeing consumers as the opportunity to a broader range of business case drivers. In 2016, 90% of respondents said that their 5G planning was focused on serving consumers directly. In 2017, that had changed to serving specialized industry segments (58%), business users (56%) and consumers (52%).
“The industry is moving faster than maybe we thought we’d be able to,” said Saul Einbinder, VP of venture development for Spirent Communications. 5G, he added, “feels a little bit more real.”
Analysts have rosy expectations. TechNavio has forecast that the global 5G equipment market will see “tremendous growth and will post a staggering [compound annual growth rate] of more than 32%” until 2020. Accenture has estimated that the economic impacts of 5G could be up to $500 billion in Gross Domestic Product growth, including 850,000 direct jobs over seven years of build-out and another 2.2 million indirect jobs across communities.
As far as specific use cases, SNS Research estimates that for the fixed wireless access use case being explored by carriers including Verizon and AT&T, “5G-based FWA subscriptions are expected to account for $1 billion in service revenue by the end of 2019 alone” and grow at a CAGR of 84% between 2019-2025. According to a recent GSMA study, more than 30% of Europe’s mobile connections are expected to be running on 5G networks by 2025 – a forecasted 214 million connections, five years after networks are estimated to be turned up in 2020.
Surveys of 5G awareness and deployment intentions show keen interest. A survey of senior executives at service providers and enterprises commissioned by Ixia earlier this year found that almost 100 percent of the participating organizations intend to leverage “5G” wireless technologies, with plans to evaluate and/or roll out 5G capabilities in the next 12 months — and 13% say they’ve already deployed 5G networks, despite the technology not yet being officially standardized. Asked about their 5G exploration and adoption plans, 96% of the organizations said that they plan to leverage 5G technologies and that 67% of them “have evaluated or will evaluate 5G technologies in the next 12 months” — of that 67%, 40% reported that they had already begun assessing 5G technologies. While 13% reported that they had already deployed 5G networks, another 31% said that they would be deploying a 5G network in the next 12 months. Overall, 34% said that they would be releasing a 5G offering publicly within 12 months.
The Ixia survey found that telecom, tech and financial services were the top three industries behind the interest in 5G, and the top three drivers pushing the interest in 5G were identified as the desire for more flexible and scalable networks, cited by 59% of those surveyed; customer demand (55%) and market leadership (46%). Meanwhile, a CTIA-sponsored survey of more than 500 executives in healthcare, transportation, energy, and manufacturing found that most believe that wireless is increasingly important, with 80% indicating that they think 5G will have a positive impact on their businesses.