Subscriber adoption of the fifth generation of wireless communications (5G) has increased significantly, as global wireless 5G connections for the second quarter of 2021 reached 429 million, according to data from Omdia cited by 5G Americas, a wireless industry trade association.
“5G is progressing at a very rapid pace,” said Chris Pearson, president of 5G Americas. “Yet, the pace of subscriber uptake is only the beginning. 5G will be foundational for a new era of technology innovation throughout the world.”
According to Omdia, a statement from 5G Americas reads, the world added 124 million 5G connections between the first and second quarters of 2021, increasing 41 percent from 305 million to 429 million. 5G remains on pace to triple the number of connections in 2020 and is forecast to reach 692 million globally by the end of the calendar year.
Additionally, 10 5G commercial networks went live globally in the second quarter of 2021, bringing the global total up to 182 networks, according to data from TeleGeography. That number is expected to reach 220 by the end of 2021 and 323 by the end of 2023, 5G Americas said.
According to 5G Americas, projections for 5G and 4G LTE from Omdia remain healthy, with estimates of global 5G connections reaching 4.7 billion in 2026. Of that, 512 million is expected to come from North America and 277 million in Latin America and the Caribbean.
By region, Omdia data indicates North America had a total of 44.6 million 5G connections by the end of Q2 2021, which is an addition of 17.9 million 5G connections and 67 percent quarter over quarter growth, 5G Americas said. Additionally, the continent had 501 million LTE connections by the end of second quarter of 2021, which 5G Americas said marks a 0.66 percent quarterly decline in LTE.
“In its first year of commercial availability in Latin America and the Caribbean, 5G connections reached 15,706, which includes 11,655 new additions in the past year,” the 5G Americas statement reads. “LTE remains the dominant wireless cellular technology in the sub-region with 454.8 million connections, an addition of 71 million new LTE subscriptions year over year, representing 18.4 percent annual growth.”
According to Jose Otero, vice president of Caribbean and Latin America for 5G Americas, the ongoing geographic expansion of enhanced mobile broadband networks together with the wider availability of handsets supporting this technology is driving 4G adoption in markets such as Brazil, Colombia, and Mexico.
“However,” Otero said, “at the other end of the spectrum, 2G and 3G continue to lose subscribers as operators start planning their disconnection and prepare for the impending mass-market demand of 5G services, expected to start in 2024.”
Spirent Communications said that it has released a midyear addendum to its annual “5G Report,” based on analysis and takeaways from more than 1,400 global 5G engagements, including more than 400 new engagements during the first half of 2021.
A British multinational telecommunications testing company, Spirent Communications stated that milestones at the 2021 halfway mark show that 5G trends continue to accelerate, with 5G SA Core evaluation, testing and launch activities growing significantly across all geographic regions. “In particular, there is considerable demand for managed solutions and XaaS (anything as a service) offerings, with automation technology providing a proven, practical approach to cumbersome testing in complex, multivendor environments,” a statement from the company reads.
Spirent’s head of market strategy, Steve Douglas, said that at the halfway point in 2021, the dominant 5G trends that were present at the start of the year continue to gather pace, with the need for agility and responsiveness enduring. ”It’s clear that the global 5G movement is back on,” he said.
The mid-year addendum to the 5G report draws on the company’s work with service providers, network equipment manufacturers, governments and device makers worldwide, Spirent said. It said the addendum provides an update to the developments along the journey to global 5G.
The addendum spelled out several key findings.
eographic trends said that the regions of North America, Europe and Asia are aggressively pursuing 5G standalone (SA) core testing and deployments. “North America is driving the demand for customer experience and service assurance solutions,” Spirent said. “Asia Pacific continues its focus on and investment in transport infrastructure, toward the goal of supporting industrial use cases. Europe is starting to accelerate activities after COVID and high-risk vendor delays.”
5G standalone said that new services and differentiation underpin its growth. “5G SA core evaluation, testing and launch continue to grow significantly across all geographic regions,” Spirent said. “Large service providers are looking to use multiple vendors while smaller telcos look for one key partner. Key challenges include supporting high release volumes and managing multi-vendor performance.”
Additonally, with the 5G telco edge cloud, Spirent found that partnerships, early trials and deployments between hyperscalers and service providers are expanding. “Providers are still working to benchmark edge performance and integrate assurance for consistent, deterministic latency,” Spirent said. “Latency looks set to become a key battle ground for the hearts and minds of industry and enterprises.”
pen radio access networks (RANs). “There are 45 ongoing open RAN trials and early deployments across 27 countries,” Spirent said, citing TeckNexus. “Leading 5G service providers are targeting larger scale open RAN non-dense urban rollouts during 2022. Early deployments will focus on rural, indoor, and private coverage. Interoperability, performance, robustness, and system integrator overheads require that service providers continue to test and validate every deployment phase.”
6G vision Spirent said that the industry is beginning to coalesce around some key themes, including THz frequencies, use of intelligent reconfigurable surfaces and metamaterials, open networking and network of networks, which it said include terrestrial cellular, NTN, subsea and Wi-Fi convergence.
Source: Spirent Communications
Forecasts of open RAN radio and baseband projections have been revised upward – with total cumulative open RAN revenue now projected to approach between $10 billion and $15 billion between 2020 and 2025, according to Dell’Oro Group.
“The momentum with both commercial deployments and the broader open RAN movement continued to improve during the first half of 2021, bolstering the thesis that open RAN is here to say,” said Stefan Pongratz, vice president and analyst with the Dell’Oro Group. “We are adjusting the forecast upward to reflect the higher baseline and the improved pipeline.”
According to Dell’Oro Group’s “Open RAN Advanced Research Report,” open RAN revenue is expected to account for more than 10 percent of the RAN market by 2025, reflecting healthy traction in multiple regions with both basic and advanced radios. The report said that open RAN massive MIMO projections have been revised upward to reflect the improved competitive landscape and the improved market sentiment with upper mid-band open RAN.
The shift towards virtualized RAN (V-RAN) is progressing at a slightly slower pace than open RAN, according to the report. Nevetheless, the report said, V-RAN projections remain relatively unchanged, with V-RAN expected to approach $2 billion to $3 billion by 2025.
It is finally coming around to being a bit rarer to see a weekly missive on how 5G is doing, much less two in one week. So, since we are on a roll let us make that three with this column.
Hmmm… there must be something in the wind. Now, there are always news bytes about new 5G deployments, or new test case results, or other news about 5G such as an announcement of a 5G Studio product by Verizon.
Yesterday there was also a dipping of the toes back into the 5G “race” ridiculousness with a title of “Rootmetrics reflects on the U.S. 5G race: It’s a tight one.” Although the only mention of the word was in the title. The rest of the piece just regurgitated Rootmetrics data.
However, last week Light reading penned a piece with the title of “Standalone shaping up to be 5G’s next big flop.” It is a rather lively and somewhat jocular story restating data and opinions but with a bit of a humorous approach. My hat is off to any journalist willing to call out 5G’s weaknesses.
His delivery was reminiscent of the story – The Emperor’s New Clothes by the Danish author Hans Christian Andersen, written in the mid-1830s. As the story goes, the King was a clothes hound but in reality, was always naked, but none of his subjects dared to say anything.
Seems that is the mantra of 5G, it is a bit of a ruse in performance as of now. But occasionally, someone calls the King naked, metaphorically speaking, as did this piece.
What surprised me is it was penned by a “news” editor who has little technical understanding of wireless and the media outlet is also not technical. News editors generally do not call shots like this, especially when they have no technical expertise. However, he took the general performance of 5G and called it like it is as a user – kudos to him.
As big a fan as I am of 5G, what I am not a fan of is the continuous noise that it is such a better platform than 4G and how successful it is. Well, so far it “ain’t”
There are three major issues that 5G currently has. The first is availability. Some locations, such as New York, claim to have at least 50 percent 5G availability. That means that users are more likely to connect to 5G in such places. However, it turns out being 5G connected does not necessarily mean improved performance.
The latest test results from the guardian of wireless speeds, Ookla, say that New York’s 5G median download speed is just about 110 Mbps. While that is certainly an improvement in the typical 4G download speeds of 30 to 50 Mbps, it is not earth-shattering. And if one on 5G only 50 percent of the time that knocks the average download speeds to somewhere around 60 – 70 Mbps, maybe?
The second is latency. Real questions are being raised around how latency less than 10 ms will actually matter to users of mobile networks. Certainly, sub-10-millisecond service might be needed for use cases such as Smart factory/industrial automation, augmented reality (AR)-assisted surgery, smart grids, autonomous vehicles, military (make sure one gets instant feedback as they laser in on a target, right?), and certainly others we have yet to establish. However, these are all specialized applications.
For general consumer mobile broadband (even enhanced) downloading a 4K move to a 4” screen smartphone in five seconds seems way overrated to me.
There is also the argument that, especially with the coming Wi-Fi evolution, many times users would be on Wi-Fi for things like gaming, or when not moving. And with Wi-Fi 7 on the horizon, its specification will challenge 5G’s technical performance.
The third is dynamic network management (aka network slicing). Right now, this is a netherwear. The idea behind this is that everybody pays to get the bandwidth they need. While that sounds good in theory, it will be a while until the technology is ready for prime time and the implementation lives up to the hype of having a dynamic, real-time, on-demand, infinitely variable, programmable systems enabling faster and more agile creation of services and network slices (whew!).
One of the concerns that has been creeping up is about the ubiquity of 5G. While certainly, 5G will need to be ubiquitous for global end-user enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB) success, it is not that guaranteed for other use cases. For example, it may not be as in demand as the telco expect outside of personal communications.
The fact is that organizations are looking to non-telco network options – private networks using Wi-Fi, unlicensed 4G, and 5G, and others. That would dampen the demand for telco-provided 5G services. According to a report from Omdia Research, 20 percent of enterprises plan on using non-telco private networks with nearly twice that many investigating such options.
As well, there is the recent resurrection of net neutrality. It does not matter whether it at the federal level, or the state level, if it does not survive past this administration, it will play into this as well by casting a bit of a shadow on how and what “premium” services will be and how the model of services can be monetized.
Finally, there is the question of getting standalone out there in sufficient density to make a difference for telco-supplied networks. The state of 5G SA is all but nonexistent so far. What we see is non-standalone. If standalone does not offer significant new use cases and performance over what we have now, it will be a hard sell for the telcos.
For the consumer current 4G network performance is quite good in the U.S. So just switching to a 5G SA network without meaningful benefits for the consumer will simply be like improving roads without more lanes and faster speed limits but with the same old vehicles. While it may become more and more available, without something to make it shine it will just be an icon on the user’s smartphone.
And yes, I understand it takes time to build the roads and replace the vehicles. However, we are in a place in the evolution where there few upgraded roads and vehicles. What does exist is simply islands and the user is not seeing much of the glitz and glamour of 5G marketing claims.
The argument I come back to is that 5G will enable new services, use cases, and benefits that have yet to be envisioned. I just hope that happens before the 5G balloon is too deflated.
Ernest Worthman is an executive editor with AGL Media Group.
A report produced by BryceTech says that a record number of satellites were launched into space in 2020, driven by the deployments of LEO broadband constellations, according to the Satellite Industry Association. The report also reveals that global revenue of the satellite industry totaled $271 billion in 2020, which is 73 percent of the space economy.
Other highlights from the report:
The full version of the study includes detail on innovative technology developments delivering new capabilities and continual improvement in affordability and productivity, the surge of SPAC activity in the space industry, and a discussion of the COVID-19 impact on customers of satellite services.