The 5G market is developing much more quickly than the previous generation 4G LTE standard, with a total of 31 5G commercial service launches globally by the end of the second quarter of 2019, new analysis from IHS Markit reveals.
The report finds that the deployment of 5G is now “widespread”, with projects in 17 countries in Asia, Europe, the Middle East and North America. This level of deployment has been achieved just 10 months after the first commercial 5G launches in August 2018.
Elias Aravantinos, senior research analyst, operator strategy, at IHS Markit | Technology, commented, “Although the 4G/LTE standard was finalised in 2009, it wasn’t until 2012 that the pace of launches picked up, and not until the first quarter of 2013 that the total number of launches exceeded 100.
“In contrast, deployments of 5G began just weeks after the standard was completed, setting the stage for the rollout of the technology in locations across the globe in less than a year. We expect the number of 5G deployments to grow exponentially, with possibly hundreds of deployments per quarter during the period from 2020 to 2021, the time when we expect the peak of 5G deployment.”
The analysis finds that enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB) and fixed wireless access (FWA) are the primary use cases for 5G launches. The split between the services varies dramatically by region. A total of 72 percent of 5G launches by European operators in the first half were exclusively for eMBB services, compared to just 50 percent of the 5G launches in the Middle East.
Some operators, mainly in the Middle East, exclusively offer FWA. In Europe and Asia, there are operators that offer both FWA and eMBB services.
A major factor driving the acceleration in the pace of launches is the maturity and experience of wireless operators, according to IHS Markit.
“During the transition from 3G to 4G, wireless operators learned valuable lessons that they are now applying to the 5G rollout,” Aravantinos said. “In terms of knowhow, the operators are ready and able to ramp up 5G services at a tremendous rate. Currently, the only factors preventing operators from starting even more 5G launches are money and the availability of phones and routers.”
One inhibitor to 5G’s growth could be a lack of 5G-compliant devices, as well as delays with routers in UK and Switzerland. The US ban on Huawei buying American parts and components could also have an impact.