August 25, 2016 —
The process of developing a new technology is a complex endeavor. A standard may win because of multiple factors, including technical, political and consumer choice. The 5G standardization process faces the challenges of including broadband cellular and narrowband IoT, while serving the unique needs of enterprises. Experts are weighing in on what a 5G standard will look like and the impact of the myriad 5G agreements aligning carriers and OEMs around the globe.
A new study by Strategy Analytics probes the 5G market and finds that the unified 5G standard will have to be flexible to serve a fragmented market.
5G developments have increased in 2006, including efforts by SK Telecom, KT, China Mobile, Singtel and Telstra in Asia Pacific region. This summer, the big four U.S. carriers jumped into the game. In Europe, however, operators that are still deploying 4G/LTE have only shown interest in the Internet of Things (IoT), vertical markets and underserved markets, according to “5G Progress Review – Fragmentation Likely but Diversification Inevitable.”
“5G network plans have developed well in 2016, driving an ecosystem that will put 7 percent of mobile connections on 5G networks by 2025,” wrote Guang Yang, senior analyst at Strategy Analytics. “China’s 2020 5G launch plans bring it closer to early adopters in the United States, South Korea and Japan, which are speeding up progress to meet the broadband access demands from the Olympic Games and competition of non-traditional players. In contrast, European operators are currently paying more attention to to opportunities in IoT.”
The study concludes that the current goal of a unified 5G standard will need to eventually support a variety of market needs.
“As a result, these different deployment schedules in different markets have created concerns over market fragmentation,” according to Strategy Analytics. “While a unified early 5G standard is important, the ability to meet diverse market requirements in the long term is even more crucial for 5G success in future markets and services.”
Strategy Analytics recommended that the 5G standard give operators a high degree of flexibility within its framework.
Are Enterprises Being Left Out of 5G Trialing?
The flow of agreements between carriers and OEMs to develop pre-standard 5G technology has cascaded like a mountain stream this summer. While these relationships and trials may accelerate technology development, Caroline Gabriel, research director and co-founder, Rethink Technology Research blogged that she is concerned that the resulting 5G technology may leave enterprise customers out in the cold.
“It is very arguable that the investment in 5G, as opposed to 4G enhancement, will only be justified if it serves the needs of a wide range of vertical industries which could transform their processes, given access to the right mobile network,” Gabriel wrote. “But involvement of those industries, such as manufacturing, transport, health and retail, has been minimal compared to that of the mobile operators.”
In addition to their absence from wireless trials and alliances, enterprises are not well represented in the various standards organizations. “[Enterprises] do not have a loud voice in 3GPP; they complain of being sidelined or uninvited in many collaborations; even in EU or government driven projects, they are represented but, insiders say, rarely take the lead,” she wrote.