5G: A transformation in progress

The global 5G Services Market size is expected to grow from USD 53.0 billion in 2020 to USD 249.2 billion by 2026, at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 29.4% during the forecast period. The transformation to the 5G ecosystem is expected to witness a 3–4 times faster growth rate than other connectivity transformations. This is primarily due to the rapid innovation in virtualization in the networking domain, coupled with the growing numbers of applications, which require a latent-free connection. The above factors have resulted in to expect rapid adoption of 5G services, followed by a quick rollout of 5G services by other developing economies. Countries expected to launch 5G services at the earliest include the US, China, South Korea, Japan, the UK, and Germany. Countries with a strong 4G infrastructure are expected to be the early deployers. Countries with agile connectivity platforms in IoT are also expected to quickly transform their services into 5G, probably by 2020 Q1.

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected every segment of society, including individuals and businesses. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the telecom sector is playing a vital role across the globe to support the digital infrastructure of countries. Every individual and government, irrespective of federal, state, central, local, and provinces, has been in constant touch with one other in the society to provide and get real-time information on COVID-19. Currently, healthcare, telecommunication, media and entertainment, utilities, and government institutes are functioning day and night to stabilize the condition and facilitate prerequisite services to every individual.

Market Dynamics

Driver:  The need to transform the mobile broadband experience

5G networks deliver an enhanced broadband experience of up to 1 Gbps and <10ms and provide the platform for cloud and AI-based services. Various data-intensive applications, both individual as well as Business 2 Business (B2B), are emerging, such as AR, VR, and video applications. Industries, such as IT and telecom, retail, healthcare, automotive, media and entertainment, BFSI, and agriculture, have different types of service requirements, including high bandwidth, low power, ultra-low latency, and high speed. To cope with the increasing demand for mobile broadband services, the network capacity needs to be increased by using a new spectrum, which would lead to the wide adoption of the 5G core to deploy 5G technology for enhanced mobile broadband services.

Restraint: High costs required for deployment of 5G network

The transition from 4G to 5G technology would result in huge investments. The costs of the 5G infrastructure depend heavily on the required throughput density, periodic interest rate, and base station price. The reduction of these costs is important for effective and ultra-dense small cell deployments. The challenge for CSPs in transitioning to 5G is to justify the multibillion dollars of investments in new network equipment required to transform their network to a virtualized infrastructure; move services from 3G and 4G to 5G; all while protecting their business against the ever-increasing risks of disruptions and cyber threats. The transition to a standalone model is essential for Telcos to capitalize on the full range of benefits that 5G offers. Their ability to successfully capture enterprise customers with low latency applications will require a distributed, standalone network with an edge compute platform, network slicing, and control/user plane separation. The current standalone deployments have helped Telcos get off the ground quickly with their 5G rollouts that are focused on delivering fixed and mobile broadband services to consumers.

Opportunity: Unleashing massive IoT ecosystem and critical communication services

The growing popularity of IoT use cases in various sectors relying on connectivity spanning large areas, and the need to handle a huge number of connections, has driven up the demand for massive IoT technologies. Today massive IoT is emerging as a new focal point for IoT connectivity technologies. Massive IoT is an attractive opportunity for 5G, but Telco still relies on current cellular IoT standards, such as NB-IoT in the early 5G era. 5G networks are expected to support the massive rollout of intelligent IoT nodes for a multitude of scenarios. It will also provide a competent platform to support the widespread adoption of critical communications services. mMTC has already been developed as part of 3GPP Release 13/14 Low Power Wide Area Network (LPWAN) technologies, which includes NB-IoT. These are expected to meet most 5G mMTC requirements. The widespread adoption of IoT and continuous advancements in Machine-to-Machine (M2M) communication networks are transforming various verticals by connecting all types of devices, appliances, systems, and services.

Challenge: Delay in spectrum harmonization across geographies

Harmonizing the use of spectrum bands across geographies is important in achieving improved market conditions that enable cost-efficient and competitive industrial devices. Hardware devices designed for 5G services in different regions can be reused, resulting in reusability and mass production of devices. This, in turn, would reduce the cost of devices and make it easier for consumers to adopt them. Various countries have already begun to assign a spectrum for 5G wide-area cellular networks and quick regulatory actions. Some countries have also begun to consider licensed spectrum as part of industrial digitalization and industrial applications. For instance, Germany allocated local licensed spectrum in 3700–3800 MHz band range to industries for their applications in 2019, while Japan announced the allocation of the 28 GHz band. These diverse allocations lead to challenges for building a device ecosystem for industrial applications. Device chipsets need to be supported not only by an ecosystem of traditional Mobile Broadband (MBB) devices but also by an ecosystem that includes industrial devices of varying complexity on different spectrum bands. However, these ecosystems are still under formation and thus pose a challenge for the 5G services market.

Among end-users, enterprises segment to grow at the highest CAGR during the forecast period

Under the end-user segment, the enterprise’s segment is expected to grow at the highest growth rate during the forecast period. The most significant value of 5G will not come from connecting people, but from its ability to provide seamless connectivity to infrastructures, machines, and things. 5G is set to become the foundation platform for several new applications in verticals, such as manufacturing, transportation, and healthcare. However, the capabilities and standards required to unlock a new world of enterprise services are still under development. Consequently, commercial 5G enterprise applications, such as Industry 4.0 factories, autonomous driving cars, and robotic surgeries, are already in the execution phase. Latency-dependent and time-sensitive applications, such as automated vehicle driving and telerobotics, will especially benefit from edge computing in combination with 5G network slicing.

Among enterprises, the manufacturing segment is expected to dominate the market during the forecast period

Based on enterprises, the manufacturing segment of the 5G services market is projected to hold a larger market size during the forecast period. Industry 4.0 is expected to be fueled by cyber-physical systems and IoT, which will require the support of 5G networks. This will enable the efficient, connected, flexible factories of the future. Inside factories, 5G will facilitate manufacturing procedures, including more efficient production lines (with machine vision, and high definition video for managing processes), AGVs in factories (autonomous transportation), and machine control, with a latency of less than 5ms using URLLC.


APAC to account for the largest market size during the forecast period

APAC is estimated to hold the largest market share in 2020. The region is transforming dynamically with respect to the adoption of new technologies across various sectors. The infrastructural growth in APAC, especially in Japan, South Korea, Australia, Singapore, China, and India, and the increasing deployment of 4G and 5G networks present huge opportunities for the implementation of the 5G services. Due to a massive mobile subscriber base, enterprises in this region are becoming more competitive and focusing on offering better customer service. The region is set to dominate 5G, edge computing, blockchain, and 5G core technology, due to its size, diversity, and the strategic lead taken by countries, including Singapore, South Korea, China, Australia, and Japan.

Recent Developments:

  • In January 2021, AT&T launched its 5G+ services in some popular areas and venues across Tampa, such as Channel District, Raymond James stadium, and Tampa International Airport in the US.
  • In January 2021, Nokia partnered with China Mobile for the successful trialing of AI-powered RANs to predict bandwidth traffic and detect network anomalies to advance the 5G-RAN architecture.
  • In January 2021, T-Mobile together with Ericsson and Nokia signed a five-year, multi-billion-dollar agreements to continue advancing and expanding the country’s largest 5G network.
  • In February 2021, Verizon Business and Deloitte unveiled a 5G and MEC retail industry digital platform, which is designed to give retailers the ability to store data with near real-time analytics to improve customer engagement, inventory efficiency, and associate productivity.
  • In November 2020,Orange S.A. launched 3.5 GHz 5G network in 15 French municipalities and announced to cover than 160 municipalities by the end of 2020. This new service allowed individuals and businesses to benefit from unprecedented quality of service and helped them develop new use.
  • In September 2020,T-Mobile and American Tower have signed a new long-term agreement, which enhances T-Mobile’s access to American Tower’s US sites. This new agreement ensured T-Mobile can serve Americans’ wireless needs for years to come, enabling T-Mobile to increase momentum on its rapid 5G deployment.

When will 5G be available in India?

India’s government has just auctioned off a new radio spectrum, and the country’s mobile networks are racing to be the first to roll out 5G services with support from partners around the world.

5G phones are already available in India but building the 5G networks they will work with is going to take time: The network operators must test the technology, acquire the necessary radio spectrum from India’s government in an auction, then invest in and build out the network infrastructure before they’re ready to offer service.

Three network operators to a step closer to that goal in March 2021, when the Indian government auctioned off new radio spectrum allocations to Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel, and Vodafone Idea.

Here’s everything you need to know about 5G in India: what it is, how Indian network operators are preparing for 5G, when the government held its spectrum auction, and finally when 5G services will effectively roll out in India.

What are 5G networks?

When 5G mobile networks come to India, they will use a new radio technology and a different network architecture to deliver higher bandwidth and lower latency than 4G (LTE) and 3G networks we have today. 5G promises peak data speeds of up to 10 Gbps — up to 100 times faster than the 100 Mbps of 4G. Latency, a measure of the time it takes data to travel from the phone to the distant server, could be less than a millisecond in 5G networks, or 60-120 times better than 4G.

To make the most of this high bandwidth and low latency will require computing resources close to the mobile device, so 5G could also be a contributing factor to the growth of the edge computing market. The ability of private 5G networks to coexist alongside private ones — or for public networks to be “sliced” into multiple virtual private networks — also makes the technology attractive in an enterprise context.

How are Indian operators preparing for 5G?

To explore how 5G networks will perform in the real world, and to gain experience in building and operating them, India’s network operators are working with different equipment vendors on government-authorized field trials. They are also enhancing their network cores to prepare for the additional traffic loads that 5G radio interfaces will carry.

Reliance Jio launched its 4G service in 2016, skipping over the 2G and 3G technologies offered by rivals Airtel, Vodafone Idea, and BSNL. Now it’s counting on its modern network infrastructure to make it one of the first to offer 5G service. In September 2019, strategy head Anshuman Thakur said Jio had the necessary network and backhaul infrastructure in place, needing only to invest in spectrum and equipment. Jio is also the only operator with an all-IP network, an important requirement for launching 5G services. It will conduct 5G trials with Samsung, the supplier of its 4G network, and has said it will extend its partnerships for 5G trials to include Huawei, Ericsson, and Nokia.

In July 2020, Google said it would invest ₹337 billion ($4.5 billion) in Jio to support the operator’s upgrade. Jio also has support from Qualcomm and Intel for its 5G plan. The latter two are Jio’s hardware enablers: Chipmaker Qualcomm is expected to offer deep technology know-how and insights to drive the 5G vision. Intel has advanced edge computing offering across processors and access to this technology can help Jio pace the 5G rollout. Google and Jio have come to a commercial agreement, where they would work together on an entry-level Android smartphone with 4G and possibly 5G capabilities.

Jio has designed its end-to-end 5G solutions from scratch using homegrown technologies. While it hasn’t given out details of its 5G solution, it expects to position itself to be an exporter of 5G systems as complete managed services in the near future.

Airtel has said it will work with Huawei, ZTE, Ericsson, and Nokia on its trials. It has deployed 100 hops of 5G technology transmission equipment supplied by Huawei, improving its backhaul capacity by a factor of four, and has struck deals with Cisco and Ericsson to speed up its core network in readiness for 5G service.

Vodafone Idea will conduct its trials with Huawei, ZTE, Ericsson, and Nokia, and is already using 5G AI technology from Huawei to boost the capabilities of its 4G network.

What spectrum will 5G use in India?

Network operators around the world will deliver 5G service in a number of frequency bands: under 1 GHz, offering a longer range from the cell tower and speeds of 50-250 Mbps; mid-band up to about 6 GHz, offering a similar range to 4G with a speed of 100-900 Mbps, and so-called millimeter-wave offering the very highest speeds at shorter ranges in frequency bands at 20 GHz or higher. Governments control the rights to use these frequencies, and typically auction licenses for them to the highest bidders. In India, only low and mid-band frequencies are available for 5G for now.

In March 2021 the government auctioned spectrum in seven bands: 700MHz, 800MHz, 900MHz, 1,800MHz, 2,100MHz, 2,300MHz, and 2,500MHz, including some renewals of existing licenses.

The frequencies are not exclusively reserved for 5G use: according to the rules of the auction, operators can use them immediately for existing technologies such as GSM, WCDMA, or LTE and must provide one year’s notice if they wish to use them for a newer technology, which must be based on international standards.

Just as in a similar auction in 2016, there were no takers for spectrum in the 700MHz band. The 2500Mhz band also had no bidders. The auction raised ₹778 billion, far less than the ₹3.92 trillion the government had hoped for, and only three companies took part. India’s fourth mobile operator, BSNL, sat out this round.

A lack of competition is one possible explanation for why only one-third of the spectrum was sold. Another is the high reserve price asked by the government.

As expected, Reliance Jio, the wealthiest of the three operators, bought the biggest share of the spectrum. It spent a total of ₹571 billion on 133.75MHz of spectrum in the 800MHz band, 74.60MHz in the 1800MHz band, and 280MHz in the 2300MHz band. With this, the company has increased its spectrum footprint by 55% to 1,717MHz. Reliance Jio is expected to use the spectrum for 5G transition when it’s time.

Bharti Airtel acquired a 355.45MHz spectrum for ₹187 billion, while Vodafone Idea spent ₹19.9 billion for 11.80MHz of the spectrum.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has recommended that additional spectrum be made available for 5G services from 3.3 to 3.4GHz and 3.425 to 3.6GHz. (The Indian Space Research Organization, ISRO, uses the spectrum from 3.4 to 3.425GHz.) However, the Ministry of Defence currently uses the 3,300-3,400MHz band, leaving the only 175MHz for network operators, which they say is inadequate.

In the 3GHz band, the government may have to review its prices, as the 5G spectrum in other countries is far cheaper. TRAI has set reserve prices for the 5G airwaves it plans to auction, but according to CLSA, a brokerage and investment group, the base price per MHz for spectrum in the 3400-3800MHz band is $70 million in India as compared to $26 million in Italy, $18 million in South Korea, $10 million in the UK and $5 million in Australia.

When will 5G services be available in India?

For Indians to benefit from 5G services, they will need access to 5G-enabled phones or other devices, and their network operators will need 5G radio spectrum and 5G network equipment.

There are 5G phones a-plenty. The recently released Oppo F19 Pro+ is the latest smartphone to join the 5G club in India, and the OnePlus Nord, Realme X7 Pro, Mi 10T, Vivo V20 Pro, and Moto G 5G are also 5G compatible. All cost under ₹30,000. The cheapest 5G smartphone currently available in India is the Narzo 30 Pro while, at the other end of the scale, Apple had also announced its plan to produce its 5G-ready iPhone 12 smartphone in India for local customers.

5G networks were once expected to be launched in India by late 2020 or early 2021, but both of those deadlines have been missed. Ericsson, a network equipment vendor based in Sweden, has said 5G service is likely to be available in India only from 2022.

Jio has said it plans to launch 5G later in 2021, it now looks quite unlikely that 5G will see a huge customer base this year. Airtel, meanwhile, has said it believes that 5G will take a couple of years more to be launched with the expected success.

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