3G expected to continue to outdo 5G in 2020

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Mobile analytics company Opensignal says 5G adoption is moving too slowly to overtake 3G in just one year, anywhere in the world.

Gartner also forecasts the revenue communication service providers (CSPs) gain from 3G will be greater than from 5G in 2020.

Opensignal’s own data shows that 27.2% of its global user base has never connected to 4G and instead relies on 3G. And this is not just in emerging markets: the company’s recent analysis in Germany found that up to half of users don't connect to 4G networks.

Getting serious

Peter Boyland, senior analyst at Opensignal, said, “In the world of telecoms, 2019 will probably be remembered as the year 5G got serious, going from a few initial test networks to reach millions of users in dozens of markets worldwide.

"So what can we expect from the next generation, and the rest of the mobile world, in 2020? We’ve had a look into our crystal ball to bring you our top predictions for the coming year.”

Further 2020 predictions from Opensignal include:

Using 5G to ease congestion on 4G networks will become a key operator use case: As data demand continues to rise, we are seeing signs of increased congestion on 4G networks in mature markets, leading to dropping speeds — particularly at busy times of the day.

As 5G networks become more ubiquitous and devices more widespread, operators are expected to move their heavy data users onto 5G, to improve the mobile network experience on 4G.

5G will mean more fixed broadband

Operators need new revenue streams to justify 5G deployment costs and offering fixed wireless access (FWA) broadband will prove a tempting revenue opportunity, according to Boyland.

However, he adds that operators will need to assess where there is spare wireless capacity that is not needed to support smartphone users, or the mobile experience of their main customers will suffer if fixed services take over too much.

Germany: Fourth 5G operator will show its hand, leading to network-sharing deals

This year's German 5G auction saw a potential new entrant, United Internet's 1&1 Drillisch, gain spectrum.

The new player, which currently has a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) deal with O2, plans to launch its own 5G network and is in talks with potential 3G and 4G roaming partners — opening up the possibility of 5G roaming or even a network-sharing deal.

5G will not be a uniform experience

The 5G experience will depend on the type of spectrum used. Consumers connecting to 5G on low-band spectrum — like 600 MHz or 700 MHz — will not have a dramatically better experience than 4G, but consumers will still see 5G in their phone’s status bar, Boyland notes.

He says that those using mmWave will see extremely fast speeds, but very little coverage. Those using mid-band spectrum will see higher speeds than 4G and wider coverage than mmWave “but all kinds of network experience will be called 5G”.

Spectrum availability will have a huge impact on the 5G experience: Boyland argues that unless both mid-band spectrum and mmWave spectrum are available, the 5G experience will be “incomplete”.