Worldwide 5G trials in full swing, with 12% of operators to roll out commercially by year’s end

Eighty-two percent of mobile operators participating in a 5G study conducted by business information provider IHS Markit  are busy testing the technology, mainly in North America and Asia, with 12 percent — all from North America — planning commercial 5G rollouts by year’s end.

“Get ready, 5G is around the corner,” said Stéphane Téral, executive research director, mobile infrastructure and carrier economics, IHS Markit. “5G is going live in North America by the end of 2018, and then in South Korea in 2019. Most operators in Europe, however, aren’t planning to deploy 5G until 2021 or later.”

Eighty-two percent of operators polled for the study, entitled “Evolution from 4G to 5G: Service Provider Survey,” rated ultra-low latency (ULL) the chief technical driver for 5G, followed by decreased cost per bit (76 percent) and increased network capacity (71 percent). “Every technical aspect that’s related to substantial improvement in network performance — lower latency, higher capacity, higher bandwidth, higher throughput — while decreasing the cost per bit continues to receive high ratings in our survey,” Téral said. “This is logical because it’s the foundation of the 5G definition.”

Meanwhile, the most challenging network development item on the 5G agenda is radio, according to the study. Fifty-three percent of operator respondents said radio is the area of the network that will require the biggest development effort to make 5G happen, followed by transport (24 percent) and management (14 percent).

Extreme mobile broadband (eMBB) was the highest-rated 5G use case driver among survey respondents, followed by real-time gaming. As real-time gaming requires a super-fast network with low latency, it cannot occur in the absence of eMBB; the same applies to high-definition (HD) and ultra-high-definition (UHD) video services and tactile low-latency touch and steer. Even so, respondents expect fixed-wireless access (FWA) to be ready for commercial deployment first.

“The bottom line is early 5G will be an extension of what we know best: broadband, whether in FWA or eMBB form,” Téral said. “Don’t expect factory automation, tactile low-latency touch and steer, or autonomous driving to be ready on 5G anytime soon despite being touted as the chief 5G use cases.”

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