The first 5G smartphones were shipped in 2019 and, according to Counterpoint Research, are estimated to have sold 5 million units worldwide (expected to grow to 1.5 billion by 2025).
These are encouraging numbers but so far it’s hard to pin down compelling use cases that will prompt consumers to upgrade. Rather it’s the Internet of Things that is expected to catch the 5G wave.
We asked some of the top 5G thinkers how they saw the new network progressing in the year ahead. Here’s what they said…
As 2019 ends, you cannot escape how much carriers have raced out their 5G network go-lives with everyone wanting to claim a 5G first from first 5G village to 5G city to 5G shopping centre.
But, let’s be honest that all this techno sound and fury is a game of retaining and winning those super-nerd customers. Bundles that offer 5G some of the time in some places may dislodge or cement high spending innovator-class customers but aren’t going to pay for the huge costs of 5G deployment. The job of articulating why 5G matters to masses hasn’t got off the ground much yet and this will have to change in 2020 to pay for the high upfront costs of both 5G and maintaining the legacy services and infrastructure.
5G will not matter to CMOs. Unless you’re a CMO at a telecom equipment company or a telco, you should not spend time thinking about 5G in the consumer space. Yes, it will matter for industrial players but to consumers, 5G in 2020 will feel like 3G in 2004 or 4G in 2010; even urban areas in early 5G-rollout countries such as Finland, Sweden, and Switzerland will get an undifferentiated experience. And Apple’s launch of its 5G smartphone in Q3 of 2020 won’t change the game.
2020 will see mobile operators focus on taking ownership of the indoor environment to deliver seamless 5G connectivity indoors and out. They state that while some 80% of mobile data is consumed indoors, only around 2% of buildings currently have dedicated cellular networks as operators rely on outdoor macro cells for coverage. As higher frequency 5G signals struggle to penetrate walls and circumvent structures, the drive is on to design and deploy small cell or DAS networks in buildings and urban environments: hotels, shopping malls, offices, stadiums and campuses.
Operators have traditionally owned the outdoor spaces and let the indoor environment take care of itself. This will have to change if operators want to deliver a seamless user experience, as by 2030 we expect 10% of buildings worldwide to have 5G connectivity. This will require wider adoption of the new generation of indoor and outdoor wireless network planning tools.”
5G will see new, disruptive players entering the market in smart cities, IoT devices and private networks. All these new players will also require spectrum, driving innovation in regulation and allocation.
Multiple countries, including the USA, Japan, Germany and the UK are already regulating bands of spectrums to be available through shared and priority access, and to be dedicated to enterprise applications. But in 2020, as 5G begins to takes hold, this will encourage innovation, disruption, and competition in that market. Traditional CSPs will evolve to open cloud networks, network sharing, network slicing and new spectrum to attain the cost structures, agility and innovation to compete in 5G.
2020 will be (another) 5G-focused year; we’ll see more 5G roaming trials, fuelled by both consumer and business use cases, enabling next generation connectivity to go global. During the summer this year, we reported that data roaming traffic across Asia had surged by 245% over the 12 months to June; an uplift driven in large part by increased adoption of roaming, new tariffs plans, travel SIMs and IoT devices across the continent.
This isn’t limited to Asia; we also found that Q1 2019 outbound roaming traffic from Asia to Europe and the Middle East increased by 88% compared to Q1 2018; and inbound roaming volumes from the same regions grew by 81%. As 5G adoption increases, 5G roaming traffic will follow a similar pattern, and surge on an international scale.
We expect 5G’s true potential to be initially legitimized by game publishers and gamers —
the early adopters of the mobile economy — before expanding to support industrial
applications like agriculture and logistics through the development of driverless cars and
connected devices or the Internet of Things (IoT).
Publishers should act now to ensure future versions of their apps can take advantage of faster 5G connections, while looking into version updates to see which of their competitors are doing the same.
We see 2020 as a major 5G coverage and capacity build year. Not only will 5G require upgrading the macro-sites, but will require densification of metro cells and beefing up in-buildings systems.
More spectrum will become available in various regions of the world through auctions or allocation with every passing year. In 2020 we will see the launch of shared spectrum and the potential to prove it can work.
We’ve heard about the promise of 5G for years – how it will be faster and more efficient – and we believe 2020 will be the kickoff to a more connected future. While consumers will continue to hear about 5G and the benefits it will offer, we believe that this will be the year that network operators put the pieces into place to deliver the 5G promise and we will watch as the lines between wireless and wireline continue to blur.