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GSA: 5G growth booms but industries must be left to their own devices

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Report finds 461 operators in 137 countries are investing in 5G trials, licences, planning, network trials and soft launches.

The Global mobile Suppliers Association (GSA) has released its latest intelligence on the progress of 5G networking across the world.

According to its report 4G and 5G Devices, Networks, Technologies and Spectrum, 166 operators in 67 countries have launched 3GPP-compliant 5G mobile services, while 63 operators in 34 countries had launched 3GPP-compliant 5G fixed wireless access (FWA) or home broadband services. These figures don’t include five (unnamed) operators that are to run soft launches of their 5G networks to a select audience, GSA said. 

Commercial progress

Thirteen operators have launched commercial public 5G standalone (SA) networks, while 45 others are embarking on 5G SA for public networks. Meanwhile there are 23 operators in the pipeline that are involved in tests and trials. In August ABI Research suggested that mobile operators have missed their opportunity to exploit private 5G networks. 

The industry tracker also reports of 938 announced 5G devices in existence, up by over half (350) the amount reported six months ago, when there were 588 pieces of 5G kit. Of the reported 938 5G devices, 608 are commercially available, is a rise of around 66 per cent in six months. The GSA has identified 450 5G phones available, up from 351 in January 2021.

GSA has given a breakdown of the rise in private 5G networks, with 45 countries reporting that exclusive LTE or 5G broadcasts were enabled by an exclusive network spectrum licence. Now GSA says it is tracking 370 companies across the globe that have taken up the option to ring fence their next generation network.

Of those 370 would be 5G companies, many are still at the stage of exploring how to use their 5G suitable spectrum licences and currently at various stages of planning, testing, trials and pilot schemes. Only in a minority of cases is 5G alone being used and LTE still accounts for the majority of private mobile networks deployments.

The ratio of LTE to 5G is reversing

While LTE is used in 64 per cent of the identified private mobile networks, that is down from 81 per in October 2020. By contrast 5G which is now being deployed (or planned for deployment) in 44 per cent of private mobile networks. In the networks being built 8 per cent are both LTE and 5G.

The manufacturing sector has the most early adopters of local area private mobile networks. This sector, which is an enthusiastic pioneer of the Internet of Things to slash costs and raise productivity, has 79 companies that have either reserved spectrum, run pilot schemes or, in rare cases, actually use private networks now. Mining and shipping ports complete the top three private network pioneers.